It is always great to attend the National Rural Health Association conference to connect with colleagues and learn about the amazing work they are doing to support high quality accessible care in our nation’s rural and frontier communities. This year was particularly impressive, as rural providers are now showing real successes in adapting to a rapidly changing healthcare landscape. Almost by nature rural communities need to be more adaptive and often serve as mini laboratories for change, but many were concerned how rural systems would fare in this environment. The progress being made in adopting the Accountable Care Organization model was particularly impressive, as this was often thought to work best in more urban settings but also requires the types of collaboration that often characterize rural health care. Of course, the conference also highlighted some growing areas of concern including a looking wave of rural hospital closures already accelerating, along with the challenges of opiate addiction and some troubling statistics on rising mortality rates. That said, the NRHA is clearly working hard on many of these fronts, including educating legislators about some key changes that could help in these areas. I was pleased to present, along with Kim Mohan, Executive Director of the New England Rural Health Roundtable, the results of our Rural Data for Action report covering the 6 state region, which also served highlight the successes and challenges of maintaining a functional but fragile rural health infrastructure.
JSI was once again honored to partner with the NRHA in offering scholarships to two incredible medical students that have already embodied the best principles of rural health care and who show such great promise in their coming careers. The Student Leadership Award was given to Hallie Foster – studying medicine in Toledo while also serving as the medical education liaison to NRHA’s student constituency group and participating in a rural preceptorship program. The Student Achievement Award was presented to Matt Workman who is working on a combined MD/MPH in east Tennessee., while also participating in NRHA student leadership, leading students working at a local free clinic for the underserved, conducting research, and promoting rural care to fellow students. I really like how the NRHA conference team incorporates personal videos of all of their award recipients during the awards ceremony. You can watch them HERE – it’s inspiring to see the spectrum of awardees; from the NRHA/JSI student recipients who are just starting out, through the most accomplished practitioners and researchers having made lifelong contributions in the field of rural health.
Thanks to the NRHA for putting on a great event. The strength of rural health was on full display.