2021 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.

2021 Rural Health Fellows roster


Brady Beecham, M.D.
Brady Beecham 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 Bosak 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 Bourland 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 Braun 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 Brooks 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 Burgin 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 Coates’ 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 M. Graves 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 Hansen 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 Mack 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 McGill 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 Price
Bryan Price 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 Ruen 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 Swenson 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 Whetsell 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 Zahnd 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 Barter 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 Brinkman
Sarah Brinkman 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 Busko 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 Clary
Catherine Clary serves 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 Corcoran
Lindsay Corcoran 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 Eisenreich
Rosalie Eisenreich 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 McLaughlin 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 A. Merrell 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 Pace 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 Pollari
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 Riutta
Olivia Riutta 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 Schlidt 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 Tenenbaum 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 Watzak 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 Wilkinson 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.