Rural Health Fellows roster
Each year, NRHA selects 10 to 15 highly motivated individuals who have proven their dedication to improving the health of rural Americans through their educational or professional experience to participate in the association's Rural Health Fellows Program.
2023 Rural Health Fellows roster
Cynthia Calixte, MD, MPH
Cynthia serves the eastern shore of Maryland as deputy health officer of Wicomico County Health Department, physician deputy for Somerset County, and a family physician. Calixte graduated from SUNY Downstate Medical College and completed her residency at the University of Maryland Medical Center. After residency, she obtained her Master of Public Health from CUNY School of Public Health and Health Policy. As a provider, she addresses health inequities and understands the importance of preventive care and health education. She is committed to educating her rural community on healthy lifestyles and chronic disease management.
Jeff is CEO of OffSite Care, a telemedicine company that brings critical care services to rural hospital ICUs that lack clinical services locally. Dunbar has a degree in English literature but has spent his entire career in health care, starting with a local HMO serving rural counties in Northern California. He helped start OffSite Care in 2006 and has been running the organization since 2010. He loves providing solutions to rural communities in the form of education and clinical services. Dunbar is a board member of the California State Rural Health Association, delivering monthly educational podcasts with a focus on rural health issues and solutions.
Michelle Fortune, MBA, BSN
Michelle is CEO of St. Luke’s Hospital, a locally and independently owned 25-bed critical access hospital in Columbus, N.C. St. Luke’s also operates two rural health clinics and multiple free-standing specialty clinics. Fortune has been a registered nurse for more than 30 years and has served in leadership roles in a variety of settings. She is a fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives, holds lean health care certification from Auburn University, and has been trained in disruptive strategy at Harvard Business School. Her goal is to expand access to specialty care in rural communities.
Michael Hassell, FACHE, MBA
Michael is a seasoned health care executive committed to strengthening the community through robust and reliable access to medical care. He is a fellow with ACHE, holds an MBA, and has a passion for rural health. Hassell was recently appointed CEO of Melissa Memorial Hospital in Holyoke, Colo. This critical access hospital houses 15 beds, a 24/7 ER, an outpatient clinic, and multiple specialty service lines and initiatives. MMH was recently recognized for its outstanding quality scores, and their RHC has been instrumental in developing a pilot community outreach program fighting diabetes.
Kevin Lambing, MBA
Kevin serves as senior program officer for health at the T.L.L. Temple Foundation in Lufkin, Texas. The foundation works alongside rural communities to build a thriving East Texas and alleviate poverty, creating access and opportunity for all. In this role, he helps ensure East Texas children, adults, and families access quality health care. Lambing’s 30-plus-year career in the Air Force Medical Service culminated in his service as senior advisor to the Air Force surgeon general, executing health care policy in support of 45,000 personnel around the globe. He has a bachelor of science from Wayland Baptist University and an MBA from Webster University.
Shakeerah McCoy, MSN, RN
Shakeerah is director of Rural Health Innovation for the North Carolina Healthcare Foundation, a nonprofit affiliate of North Carolina Healthcare Association. She is responsible for the planning, development, and implementation of rural programs and services that provide technical assistance to North Carolina’s critical access and small rural hospitals through the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility and Small Rural Hospital Improvement grant programs. McCoy has more than 16 years of nursing experience. She earned a BA from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in African and African-American diaspora studies; BSN from Barton College; and an MS in nursing from East Carolina University.
Nitika Moibi, MPP
Nitika directs Minnesota’s Health Workforce Analysis program, which collects and analyzes workforce data within the Office of Rural Health and Primary Care at the Minnesota Department of Health. The program serves as an objective, credible resource for regulators, policymakers, educators, and researchers to better understand health care workforce access, distribution, and pipeline challenges. Moibi’s interests include rural health policy and strategy, applying research to praxis, and developing strategies to impact health access. She earned a BA from the University of Minnesota Duluth and a Master of Public Policy from the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota.
Jenny Niblock, APRN, MBA
Jenny is chief clinical officer for Citizens Health in Colby, Kan. She oversees all patient care areas including a CAH, RHC, and long-term care/skilled care unit, and she has previously worked as a nurse practitioner. Niblock loves mentoring others to bring positive change to health care organizations. She is an active part of many federal grant projects, including the Kansas Clinical Improvement Collaborative and the Diabetes Quality of Care Project, and she serves on the Kansas Healthcare Collaborative Board of Directors, Kansas Governor’s Palliative Care Council, and Kansas Hospital Association Committee on Policy and Advocacy. She holds a Doctorate of Nursing as well as an MBA.
Lex Pierre, IV, DDS
As director of dentistry for OmniPoint Health, Lex is responsible for overseeing all operations within the dental department. He has been committed to providing superior dental care to underserved areas since graduating from dental school. His focus remains on addressing rural oral health disparities by increasing and promoting oral health access. Pierre earned a bachelor of science from Alabama State University and his Doctor of Dental Surgery from Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center School of Dentistry. He is currently pursuing fellowships within the Academy of General Dentistry and the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.
Abigail Radcliffe, MA
Abby currently serves as senior director of the Small and Rural Hospital Constituency Section at the Illinois Health and Hospital Association. She has worked with rural hospitals at IHA for more than15 years and has worked on several grant initiatives. Radcliffe graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a major in speech communication and a double minor in business administration and public relations. In 2005 she graduated from Miami University with an MA in speech communication. She has also worked in state government and development.
Lisa is executive director of Hilo Medical Center Foundation, which also serves as the Hawaii Island Area Health Education Center and facilitates health career recruitment across the workforce pipeline, from K-12 through graduate medical education. Rantz also serves as president of the Hawaii State Rural Health Association and was appointed by the governor of Hawaii to the Hawaii Medical Education Council. In January 2023, Rantz joined NRHA’s Board of Trustees as the State Association Council chair. She has more than 15 years of facilitation and focus group experience in education and health care.
Amah Riley, MPH, RDH
Amah is a program manager in the Division of Population Oral Health at the James B. Edwards College of Dental Medicine, Medical University of South Carolina. She provides leadership and guidance for many oral health initiatives working to strengthen the dental safety net, bridge gaps in rural oral health inequities, and address barriers to oral health care for school-aged children and early childhood populations. Riley is a registered dental hygienist. She earned a BA from Coker College and Master in Public Health from A.T. Still University. She is expected to complete her Doctorate of Health Science from Campbell University in summer 2024.
Carrie Shaver, DHA, IHC
Carrie is an assistant professor within the Department of Public Health Sciences at New Mexico State University. Shaver previously worked in the social service sector, administering disease prevention, treatment and health and wellness programs. Shaver’s administrative academic work includes undergraduate and graduate program development. Her research is systems-thinking based and focuses on international rural health care and equity, especially in frontier communities along the US-Mexico border. She teaches health care management, administration, and policy courses to graduate students.
Andrea Stephenson Royster, MHS, MBA, FACHE
Andrea serves as CEO of the Lake Okeechobee Rural Health Network, which is one of nine networks that focus on health-related issues in rural southeast Florida. Royster concurrently serves as CEO of the Health Council of Southeast Florida, one of 11 local health planning councils also established by the Florida state legislature. With a BA in sociology, Master of Health Science, and MBA from the University of Florida, Royster has nearly three decades of experience in health care and human services. She has devoted her career to increasing health care access and promoting health equity for vulnerable populations.
Nicole Thill, MPH, CHES
Nicole is executive director of the North Central Wisconsin AHEC. She oversees education and training programs designed to increase the diversity and distribution of the primary health care workforce and enhance rural health care quality and delivery. North Central AHEC is a member of the National AHEC Organization, a network of more than 300 AHECs across the country. Thill holds a Master of Public Health and a BS in community health education from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse. She has also been a certified health education specialist through the National Commission for Health Education Credentialing since 2011.
Jonathan Updike, MD, MPH
Jonathan is a first-year child and adolescent psychiatry fellow in the community track at Stanford Health Care. Originally from Wyoming, Updike’s interests include youth empowerment, integrated mental health, and advocating for rural people and places.
Lauren Wood, MPH
Lauren is program manager at the Appalachian Regional Commission, an economic development partnership agency of the federal government and 13 state governments across the Appalachian region. She oversees all of ARC’s health portfolio, as well as their INSPIRE SUD Recovery to Work initiative. She previously worked at the National Governers Association analyzing substance and opioid use policies and as a case manager at a FQHC in Colorado. She holds a BS in family studies and human development from the University of Arizona, a BS in nutrition and dietetics from Metro State University of Denver, and a Master of Public Health from University of Arizona.
2022 Rural Health Fellows roster
Leah Bouchard, ABD, AM
Leah is a PhD Candidate at Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work and the Director of Research & Data Management at the NC Rural Center. A social justice researcher by trade, Bouchard’s scholarship and training is focused specifically on the etiology and criminalization of adolescent substance use situated in the social, cultural, and geographic context of rural communities. Her research explores how substance use and its consequences are differently experienced by marginalized groups, specifically rural LGBTQ+ youth. In her role at the NC Rural Center, Bouchard oversees and conducts research that supports the Center’s leadership, engagement, small-business development, and policy programs. Bouchard received her Bachelor of Social Work from Appalachian State University in Boone, NC and received a Master of Arts in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago’s Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. She will receive her PhD from Virginia Commonwealth University’s School of Social Work in April 2022.
Jeremy Cannon, RN
Jeremy is the Chief Nursing Officer at Kalkaska Memorial Health Center in Kalkaska, Michigan, a critical access hospital affiliated with the Munson Healthcare system. He has demonstrated a commitment to improving the health and quality of life for the community we serve. Jeremy was born and raised in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and holds a BSN from Northern Michigan University. He has also been earned an MSN and MBA from Ferris State University. Jeremy serves as Board President for Addiction Treatment Services, a nonprofit located in Traverse City committed to improving overall health, wellness, and recovery of those impacted by substance use disorder. A recent graduate of the first NRHA CNO Certification course, he recognizes how important the delivery of healthcare in the rural setting is to the overall health of our country.
Nicole Carritt, MPH
Nikki is the Director of Rural Health Initiatives at the University of Nebraska Medical Center and the Assistant Director of Community Outreach and Engagement for the Fred and Pamela Buffett Cancer Center in Omaha, NE. Nikki serves as the president of the Nebraska Rural Health Association and a member of her rural county's Board of Health. Nikki has a background in public health administration, higher education, and non-profit management in the public health space.
Jeanne Edevold Larson, MS
Jeanne is a lifelong resident of rural, northwest Minnesota and is the founding and current director of Northern Dental Access Center, an organization providing access to a dental home for thousands of low-income children and families. Jeanne has a Master’s Degree in Organizational Development from Bemidji State University and over 35 years of management experience in the nonprofit sector. She was a founding director of the Minnesota Oral Health Coalition and has served on multiple state task forces to address oral health access. With a commitment to community collaboration and cultural empathy, Jeanne works to encourage rural systems and organizations to reframe challenges so that we can leverage the resiliency and assets of our rural communities.
Isela Garcia, MPH
Isela has a Master of Public Health in Community Health Education from New Mexico State University. As a graduate student at NMSU, Isela started working in community outreach in her native border area, delivering cancer prevention education to the border community in both English and Spanish, and trained as bilingual health educator for the experimental arm of the clinical trial of the culturally adapted Conexiones program. Ms. Garcia is currently the Program Manager for the NCI funded Cancer Outreach Core at NMSU, serving the state of New Mexico and the southwest border region. Isela manages the implementation of evidence-based based cancer prevention programs in English and Spanish, specifically for colorectal and cervical cancer. Isela is a member of the New Mexico Cancer Council and serves as the Co-Chair of the Rural Health Equity Workgroup. Isela’s interests include health disparities in underserved populations, cultural adaptation of evidence-based programs, border health issues, and rural health equity.
Elizabeth Hall-Lipsy, JD, MPH
Elizabeth is an Assistant Professor of Practice and the Director of the PharmD Forward Program and Professional Certificate in Health Disparities Program at the R. Ken Coit College of Pharmacy at the University of Arizona. As director of the PharmD Forward Program, she seeks to create unique learning opportunities across professional curriculums including the health sciences, law, and business. She also coordinates The University of Arizona of Arizona College of Pharmacy’s Professional Certificate in Health Disparities where she recruits and mentors over a hundred PharmD students each year to engage with rural and underserved communities in Arizona to address workforce shortages and health disparities.
David Jordan, MPA
David is the President of the United Methodist Health Ministry Fund (Health Fund). David leads the statewide health foundation’s grantmaking, relationship building, policy development, and advocacy. David represents the Health Fund on local, state, and national boards and committees, serving as a member of the Governor’s Commission on Racial Equity and Justice, Kansas’ Vaccine Equity Commission, and Kansas’ Healthy 2030 Committee. Before joining the Health Fund, David served as the executive director of the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, a coalition of over 100 organizations working to improve health and access to health care in Kansas. David joined the Alliance after spending nearly seven years at Community Catalyst, where he led a national campaign to expand access to dental care by initiating and supporting state campaigns to establish the practice of dental therapists. David holds a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Kansas and Bachelor of Science in Speech Communication from Emerson College.
Alyssa Meller, MA
Alyssa is responsible for overseeing program operations related to the organization’s mission including finance, technology, and human resources. She has over 10 years of Managed Care Medicaid and Medicare experience. This experience includes care coordination, program development, quality improvement and collaboration with local and state partners. In addition, to overseeing operations at The Center, Alyssa works with rural communities to understand the critical components of care coordination and community collaboration, and how they are essential parts of the new value-based payment models. Alyssa received a Master of Administration in Management with a concentration in Organizational Development from the College of St. Scholastica, and a double major in Psychology and Sociology.
Andrea Mitchell, MPH
Andrea is a program manager with the SC Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare. She manages partnerships and seeks new opportunities to implement innovative models of care to improve health outcomes in rural communities. In her previous role, Andrea provided technical assistance to community-based care networks that aligned health services with resources addressing social determinants of health for the state's uninsured residents. She holds a master's in public health from the University of South Carolina and a Bachelor of Science in biology from Claflin University.
Quinyatta Mumford, MPH
Quinyatta is the Chief Informatics Officer for the New Mexico Department of Health where she is leading the data modernization efforts. In this role, she has committed to breaking silos and creating bridges that maximize the utilization of data across the New Mexico Department of Health enterprise. Quinyatta is also the founder of Mumford and Associates, a public health consulting firm committed to bridging the health education gap of rural communities by providing health education and promotion programs at the community, individual, and group levels. Quinyatta holds a Master of Public Health from Walden University and undergraduate degrees in Biology and Chemistry. She is a DrPH candidate at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences where she is studying the integration of Community Health Workers to End the HIV Epidemic with a special focus on rural communities. Quinyatta also serves as a Health Equity and Climate Change advocate by serving on multiple state boards committed to positive change.
Hunter Nostrant, FACHE, RHCEOC
As the CEO of Helen Newberry Joy Hospital & Healthcare Center, Hunter provides leadership for the 25-bed critical access hospital, attached 39 bed Long Term Care facility and three Rural Health Clinics, soon to be expanding to four, located in middle of the Eastern Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Prior to his promotion to CEO, he was the COO/CFO and responsible for a multitude of areas focusing on the ongoing day-to-day internal operations, financial strategies, and a strategic partner to the CEO. He earned his Bachelors Degree in public accounting from Hope College in Holland, MI, and a Master of Healthcare Administration. Hunter Nostrant also is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives and earned a Rural Hospital CEO Certification through the National Rural Healthcare Association, amongst other credentials.
Victoria Reid, LMSW
Victoria serves as the Executive Director of the Ellenville Regional Rural Health Network, at Ellenville Regional Hospital, and is responsible for leading the hospitals Population Health Department, overseeing collaborative community health programing. She earned a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Concentration in Community Organization and Policy Development from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelors in Sociology from Moravian University.
Joseph Robare, DrPH, MS, RDN
Joseph is an Associate Professor and MPH Program Director in the Department of Public Health and Social Work at Slippery Rock University, located in Slippery Rock, PA. Dr. Robare is presently the Vice President of the Pennsylvania Rural Health Association, prior president from 2017-2021. Before joining Slippery Rock University in 2015 he worked as a Social Science Research Analyst/Project Officer for the United States Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service, Office of Policy Support. Additionally, Dr. Robare has been mentoring doctoral students at Walden University, College of Health Professions since 2009.
Michael is the Director of Provider Services for Docs Who Care, an organization committed to pairing compassionate physicians and advanced practice providers with rural hospitals in need. He’s a past president and current board member of the Kansas Rural Health Association. Michael previously served as Vice President of Physician Relations with the Kansas City Medical Society as well as Vice President of the Health Policy Institute and Director of Community Affairs and Grant Development for Kansas City University of Medicine & Biosciences (KCUMB). Before working for KCUMB, Michael was a consultant to health-related clients and registered lobbyist for Seward & Associates.
Thad Shunkwiler, LMFT, LPCC, ACS, CCMHC
Thad is a licensed behavioral health provider and works as an Assistant Professor in the College of Allied Health and Nursing at Minnesota State University, Mankato. In addition to his clinical and academic work, he is the founder and director of the Center for Rural Behavioral Health at Minnesota State University, Mankato. As a US Army veteran himself, he is committed to ensuring behavioral health access to veterans residing in rural Minnesota.
Sarah Brill Thach, MPH
Sarah is Assistant Director of the UNC Gillings School’s Master of Public Health Program in Asheville (a joint UNC Gillings and UNC Asheville program), Concentration Lead for Place-Based Health, and Assistant Professor with the Public Health Leadership Program at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, where she teaches and develops service learning opportunities for MPH students. Previously, she promoted rural healthcare workforce pipeline development, training, recruitment, and retention of physicians in underserved rural Western North Carolina (WNC); developed models to help primary care physicians care for geriatric patients; trained WNC health educators and broad-based health partnerships in assessing and addressing community health needs; coordinated rural clinical training for health profession students and created faculty development for community-based physician-teachers; and developed school-based health centers in a statewide initiative in West Virginia. She received her Master’s in Public Health in health behavior & health education from UNC – Chapel Hill and her bachelor’s degree in anthropology and women’s studies from Harvard University.
Jacy Warrell, MPA
Jacy’s start in public health began with Dr. Arthur Agatston, cardiologist, and creator of South Beach Diet on a school-based nutrition and physical activity study. This study operated in both urban and rural areas in Florida, Mississippi, and New York. The research was published widely and led to school health policy reforms with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Currently, Jacy is the Chief Executive Officer of Rural Health Association of Tennessee a 501(c)3 non-profit established to “lead the way for a health tomorrow throughout rural Tennessee” through partnerships, advocacy, education, and resources. In this role, Jacy has committed to advocating for members who include rural hospitals and clinics, school health directors, and others who care about rural health. Her goal is to bring groups together to deliver services that improve health locally, promote peer-to-peer learning and resource sharing, and to elevate rural voices at the Tennessee legislature as well as nationally. Jacy has a Master of Public Administration from Villanova University and undergraduate degrees in Communication Studies and Public Administration from Western Kentucky University.
2021 Rural Health Fellows roster
Brady Beecham, M.D.
Brady is a family doctor in Lexington, Neb., offering full spectrum care including obstetrics in a diverse rural community of 10,000. She is also the medical director for the local board of health. Dr. Beecham is committed to innovative and science-based care for patients and communities.
Julie Bosak, Dr.P.Hc.
Julie has been a women’s health provider for over twenty years in a variety of settings, recently focused on rural health care delivery for perinatal and parenting women with substance use disorder. This has led to regional quality improvement efforts, state appointed task forces, and program development consulting. Focused most recently on working with Dartmouth Hitchcock’s perinatal SUD team and completing her dissertation on service co-design with women with SUD for a doctorate degree from Boston University School of Public Health. She is currently a research fellow on the implementation science core for the NIH/NIDA-funded Massachusetts HEALing communities study through Boston Medical Center.
Trent Bourland, M.S.
Trent is the CEO of Coal County Healthcare Authority located in Coalgate, Ok., which operates a 20-bed critical access hospital, three rural health clinics, and a 75-bed long-term care facility. He is a veteran of the United States Air Force and has a master's degree in business from Southern Nazarene University.
Kelly A. Braun, R.D.H.
Kelly serves as the dental delivery systems coordinator for the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health. A registered dental hygienist, Kelly is responsible for the office’s work on oral health integration. Kelly also works with Pennsylvania’s rural health clinics.
Vicki Brooks, D.N.P.
Vicki has worked in rural health care for the past 30 years, starting as a paramedic, RN and family nurse practitioner. Dr. Brooks is currently in clinical practice in a rural urgent care and an assistant professor at Texas Christian University for the family nurse practitioner program. Dr. Brooks graduated from Texas Christian University’s BSN program, University of Texas at Arlington MSN, family nurse practitioner program, and Texas Woman’s University DNP program. Dr. Brooks is a first-generation college graduate and enjoys reading and audiobooks, biking/hiking, and outdoor adventure travel.
Courtney Burgin, F.N.P.-B.C.
Courtney is a family nurse practitioner from a small rural town in East Tennessee where she works in pediatrics. Courtney is currently enrolled in the doctorate of nursing program at East Tennessee State University. Courtney notes: “As a native to the Appalachian Mountains, my heart will always belong to the rural mountain people of my area in which I have dedicated my life to serving.”
Alison Coates, Ph.D.(c)
Alison's current pursuit of a rural-focused doctorate in health systems management at University of Ottawa is inspired by her prior work as a senior manager in two rural New York health systems. As a New York State Association for Rural Health board member, she serves as the secretary and chair of the diversity, equity, and inclusion committee. Ali weaves her interests in rural health research and policy with her other role as an accidental rancher in Potsdam, N.Y.
Janessa Graves, Ph.D.
Janessa is an associate professor at the Washington State University College of Nursing in Spokane, Wash. Dr. Graves is a health services researcher whose work centers on the development of innovative approaches to improve access to health services for children and adolescents in rural and remote communities. Her current work focuses on partnerships with public schools to improve access to mental health services for youth.
Jed Hansen, Ph.D.(c)
Jed is a Ph.D. candidate and rural researcher at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, focusing on access to health care. In addition to the research role, Jed is an emergency department R.N. and is actively pursuing certification as a family nurse practitioner. As a "40 Under 40" Nurse in Nebraska, he was recognized for his role in connecting many of his state's rural hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies to a centralized medical record system.
Brenda Mack, D.S.W.
Brenda is an assistant professor and the director of field education in the social work department at Bemidji State University (BSU), located in Bemidji, Minn. Before joining the faculty at BSU, she worked for twenty years as a program manager, outpatient and in-home therapist, and mobile behavioral health crisis responder for a rural community mental health center. Dr. Mack’s research and scholarship addresses stress, burnout, mental health, wellness, self-care, and resiliency-building among individuals, families, and helping professionals living in rural communities. She was born and raised in a farming family and is currently married to a fourth-generation small crop farmer.
Alanti McGill, M.P.H.
Alanti is the program manager for the S.C. Center for Rural and Primary Healthcare in Columbia, S.C. She is responsible for ensuring seamless project management and delivery in alignment with the center’s priorities and strategies. She has worked in the public and non-profit sectors on several public and community health initiatives. Alanti holds a master’s in public health from Georgia State University and a B.A. in biological sciences from Clemson University.
Bryan is a research assistant for community outreach with the University of Virginia Cancer Center. Bryan is responsible for the development, delivery, administration and evaluation of cancer and obesity-related initiatives across Southside Virginia. A native of Danville, Va., and currently residing in South Boston, Va., Bryan studied statistics, mathematics and computer science at Virginia Tech.
Elizabeth Ruen, M.P.H.
Elizabeth is a program officer with The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust’s rural health care program. In this role, she oversees a portfolio of workforce, health care delivery, cancer care, and technology grants focused on increasing access and improving health outcomes in rural communities. Elizabeth holds master of public health and master of science degrees in administration from the University of South Dakota.
Wade Swenson, M.D.
Originally from Minnesota, Wade has worked as a medical oncologist and hematologist in a rural cancer center in west-central Minnesota for over fifteen years. Dr. Swenson is a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of North Dakota and enjoys the outdoors, hiking, podcasts, and travel.
Heather Whetsell, M.B.A.
Heather is the founding administrative director for Southern Illinois University School of Medicine’s Department of Population Science and Policy, a social mission driven academic medical department dedicated to improving rural health outcomes. She is a Dec. 2020 graduate from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville with a master of science degree in health care informatics, serves on the NRHA Rural Health Congress Hospital and Community Health Systems Constituency Group, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network Rural Fellowship Advisory Committee, and local United Way Education Vision Council. She resides in Taylorville, Ill., with her husband, Aaron, and daughters, Mallory and Macey.
Whitney Zahnd, Ph.D.
Whitney is currently a research assistant professor at the Rural & Minority Health Research Center at the University of South Carolina but will be transitioning to a tenure-track assistant professor position in the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Iowa in April 2021. Her research focuses on characterizing rural and racial/ethnic disparities in cancer across the continuum and in evaluating access to health care services using spatial methods. She is excited to participate in the NRHA Rural Health Fellows program to become an effective advocate for important rural health policy issues and to network with other rural health professionals across the country.
2020 Rural Health Fellows roster
Crystal Barter, M.S.A.
Crystal has over 11 years of experience working in rural health. She currently is the director of performance improvement at the Michigan Center for Rural Health where she manages a large and diverse portfolio of programming with the ultimate goal of improving the health of Michigan’s rural residents.
Sarah works at Stratis Health where she serves as program manager and quality improvement specialist with a focus on rural providers and advancing health equity. As a certified professional in health care quality, Sarah works with a variety of health care settings in Minnesota and across the country, assisting them in understanding their respective quality reporting programs, making sense of their quality data, identifying opportunities for improvement, and implementing improvement strategies.
Jonnathan Busko, M.D.
Jonnathan is an emergency physician and the emergency department medical director at St. Joseph Hospital in Bangor, Maine. With over 25 years of experience in EMS and rural and frontier care, his passion is assuring health care access in rural communities through the use of telemedicine and EMS physician extension.
Catherine uerves as associate director of rural health in Augusta University’s Institute of Public and Preventive Health. Catherine also currently serves as the project coordinator on a HRSA funded grant, which provides a combination of community-based and provider education/training, expansion of services within the FQHC clinics including screening and brief intervention services, primary-care based behavioral therapy and medication-assisted treatment, and the development of peer-led recovery communities to addressing SUD/OUD in 22 HRSA-designated rural counties in East Central Georgia. Catherine received her undergraduate degree from the University of Georgia and her law degree from Georgia State University.
Lindsay is a compassionate health care leader and strong advocate for sustainability and access in rural health care. Lindsay has assisted rural and community hospitals and clinics across the country to improve operational and financial performance. Her experience as a health care administrator gives her a unique perspective on practice operations, customer service, and patient-centered care.
Rosalie is the director of policy and development at Southeastern Minnesota Center for Independent Living. Rosalie oversees strategic initiatives, advocacy efforts, and community partnerships to address systemic and stigmatic issues impacting people with disabilities.
Christopher J. McLaughlin, M.D.
Chris is a general surgery resident physician at Penn State Health in Hershey, Pa. He received his M.D. from Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine in Roanoke, Va., and graduated from Boston College with a B.S. in biochemistry. His professional interests include trauma systems and pre-hospital care, critical care surgery, and economic determinants of health in rural communities.
Melinda Merrell, Ph.D.
Melinda is a research assistant professor at the Rural and Minority Health Research Center in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina. Prior to joining the Center, she spent over a decade working in public health in rural South Carolina communities. Melinda holds a Ph.D. in health services policy and management from the University of South Carolina and a master’s in public health from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Stacie Pace, M.H.A.
Stacie is the director for Oklahoma State University’s Rural Oklahoma Network, a P.B.R.N., and an executive of the Rural Health Network of Oklahoma, a private non-profit community-based health network. Ms. Pace has a master’s in health administration and is located in rural Oklahoma. Stacie has been appointed to the National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services beginning in 2021. Stacie is very passionate about rural health and making health care accessible for everyone.
Carolyn is currently working as a project director for medication assisted treatment and behavioral health workforce grants at One Health, a health center system based in Eastern Montana. Her experiences working for the Montana Office of Rural Health and Area Health Education Center during college inspired her to pursue a career focused on rural health. She completed her master’s in health administration at Montana State University.
Olivia is the outreach, engagement, and population health manager at the Montana Primary Care Association. She leads MPCA’s work to identify and impact the social needs of patients served at health centers. Olivia joined MPCA in 2013 and worked extensively on outreach, enrollment, and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and Montana’s Medicaid expansion.
In her free time, Olivia is a graduate student at the University of Montana and likes to get outside as much as possible. She lives in Missoula, Mont., with her partner and son.
Eric Schlidt, M.B.A.
Eric is currently the director of IMPACT Casper, the University of Wyoming business incubator in Casper, Wyo. He has bachelor degrees from the University of Wyoming as well as a master of business administration and a master of science in health service administration. His background is in assisted living, reproductive health, business development, and mineral extraction/exploration.
Jordan Tenenbaum, M.H.A.
Jordan serves as president of Allevant Solutions, a joint venture between Mayo Clinic & Select Medical helping rural hospitals by developing clinical programs that expand access to care, improve the health of the community, and have a positive financial benefit. As an executive with extensive health care experience in the for-profit, non-profit, and academic-based sectors, Jordan received a bachelor's degree in kinesiology at the University of Wisconsin Madison, a master's degree in hospital administration from Washington University in St. Louis, and a fellowship in hospital administration from Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. Jordan has a strong passion and interest in rural health innovation and his policy focus during the 2020 Rural Health Fellows Program was on rural health preparedness.
Bree Watzak, Pharm.D.
Bree has been with the Texas A&M Health Science Center since 2011. As director of technical assistance for the Center for Optimizing Rural Health, Bree spends her time working with rural communities to maintain access to care and address the challenges unique to rural hospitals and the communities they serve. Following her fellowship year, Dr. Watzak was elected for a 2-year term as a Research and Education Constituency Group representative in NRHA's Rural Health Congress.
Cody Wilkinson, M.H.A.
Cody serves as the director of clinic operations for St. Mary’s & Clearwater Valley Hospitals and Clinics in North-Central Idaho. He also serves as a grant/project manager and as a diagnostic medical sonographer. He earned his bachelor of sciences degree in radiographic sciences from Boise State University, as well as a master’s degree in health care administration from Colorado State University. A native Idahoan, Cody spends his leisure time with his family in the great outdoors where they enjoy backpacking, foraging, and hours around a campfire. His favorite pastime is picnicking with his family on an unnamed beach or ridge.