John Cullen, MD

Immediate Past President 
American Academy of Family Physicians

John Cullen, MD, the immediate past president of the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), practices full-scope family medicine in the frontier community of Valdez, Alaska. He has been delivering babies and caring for families there for 25 years. He has served on the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services for the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), where he toured the country evaluating critical access hospitals (CAHs) and rural health systems and served on the Alaska State Medical Board before being elected to the AAFP Board of Directors.

As president of the AAFP, Dr. Cullen represented over 134,000 family physicians, residents, and medical students. The AAFP is a strong advocate for the reduction of racial and geographic disparities in maternal and infant mortality and has recently convened a task force on this important subject. John Cullen is as comfortable working to deliver babies in his small frontier town as he is delivering talks on health care policy on Capitol Hill. He enjoys speaking and advocating for patients on the national stage almost as much as he enjoys his adventurous life with his wife Michelle Cullen over the past 30 years. 

Charting a Course for Rural Health During a Time of Change

Monday Opening Keynote
Lake Superior Ballroom
11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

Rural medicine in the United States is undergoing rapid change as a result of societal trends and technological innovation. Many of these changes such as telemedicine have increased the medical capabilities of smaller rural facilities. These changes have also contributed to medical deserts in the United States, led to increases in maternal and infant mortality, and created financial distress in rural communities. Despite this, the future of rural health is bright and there are strategies that work. This will be a 50-minute presentation with discussion based on experiences as immediate past president of the AAFP and 26 years practicing full scope rural family medicine in a frontier community in Alaska.

Michelle Rathman

Impact! Communications, Inc.

Michelle founded Impact! Communications, Inc. in 1989, a leader in health care strategy and communications. Impact’s focus includes academic, for-profit, critical access and rural hospitals, clinics, primary and specialty care provider practices, as well as organizations and associations serving the health care sector. Their work across the U.S. includes strengthening hospital identity and brand, engaging community stakeholders and strategic partners, identifying opportunities to decrease outmigration, improving internal culture, communications, and customer service across service lines and practices, as well as providing transformative professional development that inspires positive change.

Over the years, she and her team have logged hundreds of hours conducting front-line observations to give executives straightforward insight and a window into the unconscious behaviors (however unintentional) that drive complaints and concerns. Michelle’s unique facilitated process introduces a variety of innovative tools and approaches to help hospitals gain market share across the payer mix spectrum and community support when it is needed most; particularly in the ballot box or the court of public opinion. Michelle is the author of The Saybook, a customer service handbook for hospitals, and The Art of Stakeholder Engagement, a topic she frequently speaks about at health industry conferences. To date, she has facilitated over 5,000 hours of leadership, staff, board, group retreats, and education sessions in every region of the country. She and her team have won several awards for a variety of their community and staff engagement campaigns and programs. In 2009, Michelle wrote and produced an educational documentary about CAHs and the vital role they play in our nation’s health care delivery system, and, she was a contributor to HRSA’s Critical Access Hospital Replacement Manual on the subjects of staff, community, and media engagement. Michelle and her team are also thought-partners engaged with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH), the member organization for the 50 State Offices of Rural Health, providing strategy and structure aimed at transforming National Rural Health Day into a sustainable movement.

Professional experience aside, Michelle is a cancer survivor. Her experience as a patient was the catalyst for shifting her company’s focus from publishing and public relations to health care in 1997. Improving health care culture and communication for both caregivers and receivers is her calling and passion. She hopes to provide health care leaders and their teams with new and valuable insight into the patient’s perspective and explore what can be done to ensure that no other person will experience what she endured on an operating room table.

Engaging Rural Stakeholders in the Wave of Change

Tuesday Closing Keynote
Lake Superior Ballroom
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.

Health care experiences more tidal waves of uncertainty and change than any other. With stakeholders, rural health providers can prepare for and meet the challenges. Stakeholders may include businesses, partners in health care, city and county officials, and schools as well as payers, state agencies, affiliated providers, and educators outside the community. Many rural health organizations are operating on the edge, fighting to maintain market share, let alone make gains. For some, recruiting and retaining new providers, and achieving the highest level of quality and safety is an ongoing battle between policy and practicality. In all the chaos, one thing that never changes is the need for meaningful stakeholder engagement—the confidence of knowing that you have people committed and onboard with your purpose. 

Michelle helps participants understand the differences between one-sided outreach and strategic efforts that lead to the first stages of long-term commitment. Participants explore holistic and practical approaches to tackling the subjects of outmigration, conditions that result in growth, and the assumptions many health professionals make about consumers and their expectations. Michelle shares examples of strategic community, leader, and staff engagement models for successful change. She thoughtfully unpacks the reasons behind trust and market share loss, while also providing tangible how-to's on strategy, communication, and sustainable services for rural health care.

Jan Malcolm

Minnesota Department of Health

Jan Malcolm was appointed in January 2018 as commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health. Prior to being appointed commissioner, Malcolm was an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, where she co-directed a national research and leadership development program funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Earlier she also helped develop initiatives to strengthen the nation’s public health system as a senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Malcolm previously served as CEO of the Courage Center and as President of the Courage Kenny Foundation following the merger of Courage Center and the Sister Kenny Rehabilitation Institute. She has also worked as Vice President of Public Affairs and Philanthropy at Allina Health. From 1999 to 2003, Malcolm served as Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health. Throughout her career, Malcolm has been active in state and national health care, public health associations, and government commissions on health care access and quality.

Address from MDH Commissioner of Health
Lake Superior Ballroom
9:15 - 10:00 a.m.