Natalie Claiborne, MPH, is the Assistant Director of the Montana Office of Rural Health. In addition, she is the co-chair of the NOSORH Educational Exchange Committee.

What have you learned (and what could others learn) from being on the NOSORH Educational Exchange Committee?  

I have been the Co-chair for the Educational Exchange Committee (EEC) for two years. I have very much enjoyed my experience and learned a lot from being a part of it. We liken the EEC to a “gateway committee”—it’s a great committee to join (especially if you’re new) to learn about NOSORH, other State Offices and to find out about all the opportunities available through NOSORH! Right now the Committee is in need of another representative from Region A—we try to make sure that all regions are represented on the committee.


What does the EE Committee do—and why is it important?

The EEC can provide a lot of information that is current and meaningful to State Offices. The EEC has really worked hard to align the educational offerings with current topics and issues in rural America and to make sure the educational opportunities align with the NOSORH Strategic Plan. Not only has NOSORH been able to provide more webinars (thanks in large part to Stephanie’s hard work), but there has also been an increase in NOSORH webinar attendance.

In addition, in the last few years there has been an increase in SORHs who utilize the NOSORH Travel Scholarship opportunity, which helps fund peer-to-peer exchanges (also known as “educational exchanges,” or “EE” for short). I think this is one of the most beneficial offerings NOSORH has to offer, as it allows SORHs to meet with other SORHs to develop or enhance their expertise or knowledge, leadership skills, adoption of a promising practice, or improve effectiveness of program management, strategic planning and implementation. We all know how many skilled and lovely people are part of NOSORH, and it’s a wonderful way to tap into that knowledge.


Is there a typical (peer-to-peer)“educational exchange”? What are some of the most requested topics? And how does a SORH apply for one?

SORHs have worked on a broad range of topics in recent years: health information exchanges, recruitment and retention, strategic planning, etc. A while back some stand-alone (non-university or government-based) SORHs got together in an EE as a group to see how their needs are different than other SORHs. Often a SORH will request an EE when someone is new to the SORH, to teach him/her how to get going in that position.  SORHs will ask a leader to help them rethink how to do daily work, and to look at the structure of their office. They can choose what areas they want to focus on.

Melinda (my EEC co-chair) and I approve the applications.  The EE was under-utilized for a time, but we’ve been getting a fair amount of requests for it in the last couple of years. It’s such a positive thing, if people are getting the education they need, we don’t mind if we are busy!