Why We Do What We Do

As rural health professionals and stakeholders, we have a profound impact on those we serve. This conference is an opportunity for everyone to again find their focus and connect with others in rural health care – providers, students, administrators, educators, policy makers, agencies and vendors. I will draw on my experience as a rural physician working with an underserved and often misunderstood population and why service is important. All too often the stresses of the health care field make us forget why we went into health care in the first place.

Arne Vainio

Arne Vainio, MD
Family Physician, Min No Aya Win Human Services Center

Dr. Vainio was born in Chisholm and is an enrolled member of the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe. He entered the University of Minnesota Medical School – Duluth and graduated in 1994. Dr. Vainio completed his Family Practice Residency Program in Seattle, Washington and has been employed as a Family Practice Physician at the Min No Aya Win Human Services Center on the Fond du Lac Ojibwe Reservation in Cloquet, Minnesota since September of 1997. He is a member of the Association of American Family Physicians and the Association of American Indian Physicians. Dr. Vainio is the recipient of the following awards: National Indian Health Service Director’s Award, National Diabetes Physician’s Recognition Award, the Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Early Distinguished Career Award, and the 2016 Virginia McKnight Binger Unsung Hero Award. He is featured in the 2009 Emmy-nominated American Indian health documentary film, “Walking Into The Unknown”. He is also a columnist for the national News From Indian Country and Indianz.com newspapers and is featured in WDSE’s Native Report’s “Health Matters” segment.

The Triple Aim of Health Equity: Dispatches from Rural Minnesota

Healthy equity goes beyond addressing specific health disparities – it seeks to achieve conditions in which all people have the opportunity to attain their highest possible level of health. Join Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger, MD, MSPH, as he facilitates a panel of presentations on how rural Minnesotans are working toward health equity in their communities. Each speaker will cover a part of the Triple Aim of Health Equity in action: expanding the understanding of what creates health, strengthening community capacity, and implementing “health in all policies”.

  • Daisey Sanchez, HealthFinders Collaborative 
  • Naomi Carlson, Headwaters Regional Development Commission
  • Meghann Levitt, Healthy Northland Regional SHIP

Edward Ehlinger

Edward Ehlinger, MD, MSPH
Minnesota Commissioner of Health

Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton appointed Edward Ehlinger, MD, MSPH, to serve as Minnesota Commissioner of Health in January, 2011. Dr. Ehlinger directs the work of the Minnesota Department of Health, the state’s lead public health agency, which is responsible for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of all Minnesotans. Commissioner Ehlinger was director and chief health officer for Boynton Health Service at the University of Minnesota (1995-2011). He has also served as an adjunct professor in the Division of Epidemiology and Community Health at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health and director of Personal Health Services for the Minneapolis Health Department.

Rural Approaches to Improving Health: Implementing and Sustaining Local Solutions

This presentation highlights rural community success stories to address local health priorities. Hear how rural communities nationwide are creating opportunities to improve health outcomes, enhance economic viability and create cultures of health. These models exemplify how ingenuity coupled with local leadership and community commitment can make a sustained positive difference in the health and well-being of rural communities.  

Alana D. Knudson

Alana D. Knudson, PhD, EdM
Program Area Director and Co-Director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis

Alana D. Knudson serves as a Program Area Director and is the Co-Director of the NORC Walsh Center for Rural Health Analysis. Knudson’s expertise includes 20 years of experience in rural health research, public health systems research, health services research and evaluation projects. She has conducted numerous health services and health policy studies and public health projects funded by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Agency for International Development, and The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Her project findings have informed state, tribal, and federal health policy. Prior to joining NORC, Knudson was the associate director for Research at the Center for Rural Health at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Knudson also served as the senior director for Public Health Information and Infrastructure Policy at the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials.

Federal Rural Health Policy Update

This session will provide an update on policy and legislative issues that impact rural communities and their providers of care. Emphasis will concentrate on opportunities for rural providers and communities to improve access and quality while sustaining financial viability during our transition to population health.

Brock Slabach

Brock Slabach, MPH, FACHE
Sr. Vice-President, Member Services, National Rural Health Association (NRHA)

Brock Slabach joined NRHA in 2008. He has administrative responsibility for all areas of member services, including membership, communications and meetings/exhibitions. He also coordinates the Healthcare Quality Technical Assistance center. He was a rural hospital administrator for more than 21 years. He has been on the board of the National Rural Health Association and the regional policy board of the American Hospital Association, as well as many regional and state boards involving rural health. Brock earned a master of public health degree in health administration from the University of Oklahoma and a B.S. degree in biology from Oklahoma Baptist University. He is a fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives.