Member Spotlight

May 2018

i May 17th No Comments by

Lara Brooks
Oklahoma Office of Rural Health
Rural Health Analyst
NOSORH Member Since 2015

What I’m working on right now: Community Health Needs Assessments

Last place I traveled to: New Orleans, LA, for the Annual NRHA Conference

Best advice I ever received: “Make yourself a resource to others.”

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: My background is Agricultural Economics,
and I feel that working for the OK SORH allows me to continue in my chosen field and
niche of rural and community development.

3 great things about rural health in my state: The people, the people, the people-
Truly those involved in rural health in Oklahoma are the best people you will ever meet.

If I weren’t doing this, I would…probably be in finance or banking.

Favorite quote: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi


April 2018

i Apr 19th No Comments by

Heather Anderson
Virginia State Office of Rural Health
Division Director of Primary Care & Rural Health
NOSORH Member Since 2015

What I’m working on right now: The Flex funding extension and hiring a Flex coordinator.

My Top 3 Goals for 2018: Survive my son’s wedding, travel somewhere awesome for my 30th wedding anniversary, and keep a cleaner desk at home and work!

Best advice I ever received: Don’t let the sun go down on your anger.

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: The people. Everyone is so interesting and committed to making their world a better place.

3 great things about rural health in my state: There are pockets of greatness everywhere. Our CAHs are pretty awesome, we have great providers that work hard to make a difference in their communities, and traveling to meet with everyone takes me to breathtakingly beautiful places!

If I weren’t doing this, I would…probably be running an AHEC Program or promoting my husband’s art work full time.

What I’m currently reading: I wish I were reading something. Instead, I am working on projects for my son’s wedding in August. I’m gathering family recipes for a cookbook and putting together a slide show.

People would be surprised if they knew: I used to sing in a quartet and sang the national anthem at a baseball game on the 4th of July.

March 2018

i Mar 16th No Comments by

Julie Casper
Illinois Center for Rural Health
NOSORH Member Since 1996

What I’m working on right now: Today I am working on a mental health conference that is March 20th, an opioid conference on June 27th, and a new competitive SLRP grant.

Who inspires you? My friends and family, including my NOSORH family.

Favorite quote: “The way you do one thing, is how you do everything.”

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Every day is different in our SORH. Kind of like a box of candy. I never know what the flavor of the day will be.

3 great things about rural health in my state: The people with whom I work, the communities I am able to serve, and the mission I can promote to increase access in rural.

If I weren’t doing this, I would be… outside as much as possible! Probably walking, gardening and playing with my dogs.

Last place I traveled to: Carefree, Arizona

People would be surprised if they knew: I used to have a Harley and still have my motorcycle license.

February 2018

i Feb 23rd No Comments by

Robert Duehmig
Oregon Office of Rural Health
Deputy Director
NOSORH Member for 12 Years

What I’m working on right now: My SORH grant

Who inspires you? My kids

What I’m currently reading: White Trash:The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Opportunity to visit rural Oregon

Best advice I ever received: Just relax

If I weren’t doing this, I would be: Teaching

Last place I traveled to: Etlan, Virginia

Favorite Quote: “The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has limits.”- Albert Einstein

People would be surprised if they knew: I am a really nice guy

What’s your secret talent? If only……

January 2018

i Feb 23rd No Comments by

Bonnie Burlingham
Washington State Office of Rural Health
SORH Grant Manager

What I’m working on right now:

  1. Improving quality in Rural Health Clinics through mock survey, TA site visits, and developing short educational videos to help demystify the federal RHC regulations. We completed our first video on Annual Evaluation last summer and a video on Policy and Procedure development will be released soon.
  2. Palliative Care integration in rural areas. Led by our SORH director, we are developing resources to increase palliative care capacity in 7 rural communities. I’m specifically working on the telehealth aspect of the project. We are starting with a provider-to-provider case consultation 6 month pilot, all done via videoconference.
  3. Increasing rural EMS volunteers. We’ve seen a decline in rural EMS staff, particularly volunteers. We are working in partnership with Washington OneNet on an educational video series to bring community leader awareness to the topic and to help rural health leaders convene conversations in their communities about the problem and potential solutions. We are creating several more videos diving deeper into the stories of the people featured in our first short video in order to demonstrate that anyone can volunteer in rural EMS.

What I’m currently reading: Thinking in an Emergency by Elaine Scarry

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: I love working with rural community members and supporting health service development in rural areas. I also love that the SORH work changes as population health, policies, and priorities change so the work always stays interesting.

Favorite quote: “It’s not the critic who counts…” -Theodore Roosevelt.
When I was 9, my dad hung the entire quote up in our bathroom, so every time we were in there we read it. To this day, I have it memorized and it rings true so often in our SORH work. It’s easy to criticize others’ work or find all the reasons we can’t do something. It’s much harder to actually accomplish something and facilitate positive change, and that’s the work that matters in the end.

If I weren’t doing this, I would be… At the park with my kids!

3 great things about rural health in Washington:

  1. Every community is unique in population, assets, and geography. We have mountains, ocean, desert, plains and rainforest all in our rural areas, and each one has unique characteristics of the communities living there.
  2. There are some very geographically isolated areas with one road in and one road out, with thriving and creative communities living in the middle of them.
  3. We have some great rural health leadership across the state!

December 2017

i Feb 23rd No Comments by
Melinda Merrell
South Carolina Office of Rural Health
Senior Program Director

NOSORH Member Since: 2010

What I’m working on right now: My dissertation! If all goes as planned, I will graduate with my PhD in Public Health from the University of South Carolina in the next year.

My Top 3 Goals for 2018: I love setting New Year’s Resolutions! For 2018, I’m going to have one big personal goal, which is to complete a 52 Hike Challenge (one hike per week for the whole year).

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Hands down the people we work with in our rural communities. As a bonus, we have a great state and national partners and friends too!

Favorite quote: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” -Theodore Roosevelt

People would be surprised if they knew: I got a tattoo this past summer honoring my grandmothers, both of whom gave me a love of rural (among other things).

3 great things about rural health in South Carolina:

  1. The diversity of people and places which make for a rich culture
  2. The ability to leave my house in Columbia and drive to any rural community in the state in 3 hours or less
  3. The food (seriously!)

September 2017

i Feb 22nd No Comments by

Kirby Lecy
Massachusetts Office of Rural Health
Outreach & Communications Coordinator
NOSORH Member Since: 2014
NOSORH Leadership Institute Graduate in 2013

What I’m working on right now: Supporting a new rural health network, National Rural Health Day plans and some health workforce initiatives.

My Top 3 Goals for 2017:
1. Getting my physical self back in line with my mental self through running.
2. Taking more time to reach out and appreciate people around me who are important to me, impact me, and inspire me.
3. Less procrastination- time pressure does not actually make me “work better”, despite all the excuses my brain tells me.

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Variety! Every day is a new topic to learn about, challenge to overcome and inspiration to receive. I have never been surrounded by such passion,
knowledge and motivation both in my state and through all our national colleagues and partners.

If I weren’t doing this, I would be…saving the world through agricultural empowerment -AKA farming!

Best advice I ever received: A stranger once changed the course of my life with a few simple
statements. The paraphrased version: “That only we have the power to create the world we live in. Take the time to build intention in your life, even if it is just how you choose to view the day or a circumstance. Those small actions radiate in ways you never thought possible.” The simple act
of re-framing small things in my world has opened up doors and happiness I never thought possible!

People would be surprised if they knew: Prior to my public health work, I was a swim lesson instructor and Aquatics Director.

3 great things about rural health in Massachusetts: The 52% of landmass in my state that is rural is home to the most collaborative and innovative people and organizations. Despite inequities,
they find ways to take care of one another using incredible partnerships that span public, private and non profit entities. Nothing pleases me more than when an urban area wants to learn more about these innovative models happening in rural because they are astounded by the work happening!

August 2017

i Feb 22nd No Comments by

Ernie Scott
Kentucky Office of Rural Health
NOSORH Member Since: 2012

What I’m working on right now: I am currently quite involved with the Flex Supplemental funding. We have 9 hospitals participating, which is almost like having a second Flex program!

What I’m currently reading: If I Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face? By: Alan Alda

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: There are no two days just alike. Each day is a new adventure! I appreciate the freedom to think outside of the box.

Secret talent: I bake some pretty good biscuits!

Favorite quote: “The only thing worse than training employees and losing them is to not train them and keep them.”

People would be surprised if they knew: I am a licensed and registered Radiologic Technologist.

3 great things about rural health in Kentucky:
1. Kentucky has an established cross-sector network of rural focused individuals who really understand rural.
2. There is a strong sense of camaraderie among rural health agencies.
3. The fact that our SORH is physically located in a rural community says
so much!

June 2017

i Feb 22nd No Comments by

Sharla Allen
Wyoming State Office of Rural Health
SORH Manager, NOSORH President
NOSORH Member Since: 1997

What I’m working on right now: What am I not working on? An RFP to get USAC subsidies to our public health nursing offices, develop MCH genetics clinics via telehealth, contract for our weeklong summer health career camps at the University of Wyoming…lots of fun stuff!

What I’m currently reading: The Grid: The Fraying Wires between Americans and Our Energy Future

Favorite thing about working at a SORH: Making the best friends in other SORHs!

Best advice I ever received: “Give ’em hell” from my Dad. I was in college and missed home and would call him. He’s always end the conversation with “give ’em hell”, meaning I’m capable of anything. Thanks, Dad!

Last place I traveled to: San Diego for NRHA annual meeting. Tagged on a couple of vacation
days 🙂

3 great things about rural health in Wyoming: We have some great minds working on new initiatives for access with telehealth; staff from four Critical Access Hospitals (CAH) are attending
the Western Regional Flex Conference with our Flex Coordinator and will bring back a plan to share with other CAHs; and Wyoming is one of five states that have been invited to the National Conference of State Legislatures’ Challenges and Innovations in Rural Health Policy, which brings together rural health experts and legislators to improve access to care in rural areas.

Margaret Brockman – February 2017

i Feb 17th No Comments by

Margaret Brockman
Nebraska Office of Rural Health


How did you get to where you are now with the Nebraska SORH?
Most of my career has been in nursing. I started out doing hospital work and taught nursing courses at the University of Nebraska at Kearney and the University of Texas at Tyler. I was then a rehabilitation consultant and started my own company doing consulting work for insurance companies. When I first went into business, case management was in its infancy. I developed a lot of nurses in that role and did a lot of speaking on it. I’ve gone between teaching and consulting work for several years and still occasionally teach case management and nursing administration classes at Nebraska Wesleyan. I started at the Nebraska Office of Rural Health 3 ½ years ago under Dave Palm and moved into the position of administrator for the Office when he left. The entrepreneur in me has been perfect for my role at the SORH because I have been able to develop pilot programs and come up with new ideas to try in the state. That’s the part I love!

What is the most important thing you are working on right now?
We are working hard on integrated care, which includes building patient-centered medical homes, dental and oral care, and the mental health aspect of it. Because we are a large state with 64 CAHs and over 140 RHCs, we must rely on telemedicine because we just don’t have the number of providers needed in the state. This includes the recruitment and retention of healthcare providers.

It’s also important to know what’s going on nationally. The opioid crisis hasn’t hit Nebraska as strong as other areas, but it doesn’t mean we must wait until it gets here. How do we keep ahead of it? Being involved in national organizations helps me do that. Our Department recently applied for a SAMHSA grant we have been part of and we have started on a pilot project where we will have a rural hospital be the hub for opioid patients. I’ve been working with our prescription drug monitoring program as they have been identifying where our “hotspots” are. Communities can send patients to this hub with a provider and nurses on staff who are trained to care for those individuals, supplementing with telehealth. What I hope to do is use swing beds if patients need to go through withdrawal. We will be bringing these parties together and using a facilitator to help build the infrastructure. Right now, I have momentum with the behavioral health providers and a payor on board who are willing to participate. It will take all of us.

What is the biggest challenge facing SORH leaders today?
As a newer SORH Director, my challenge has been to get myself out there so people know what’s available through our Office and how we can assist them. How do you build those collaborations and include everyone, especially in a large, mostly rural state? How do I let those hospitals know that they don’t have to do things all by themselves? I am trying to make our website more current and interactive so people are aware of what we have to offer and can easily access our resources. We’re also working on moving from paper to electronic applications and resources.

What are you doing to ensure you continue to grow and develop as a SORH leader?
I’m always making sure my team has the ability to attend classes and conferences to increase their knowledge of current issues. I want to give them opportunities to grow and develop in areas they want. I challenge them to take on new things and look at how we can do things differently. If it sounds crazy, that’s okay! I have a lot of crazy ideas, but I’m willing to try them. I hope as a leader that I lead by example; that they see me come up with these ideas and actually get them up and running.