Friday, February 18, 2011

482 People Head to the Desert

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of serving as moderator for the Health Forum’s National Rural Health Leadership Conference in Phoenix. With a record attendance and stellar presentations, the meeting was a smashing success. Laura Woodburn, executive director of education for Health Forum, and her team hit another one out of the park this year.
We started with an amazing keynote from Dr. David Auerbach regarding his experience in Haiti immediately following the devastating earthquake. His courage, resilience, skill, and compassion saved thousands of lives as he led the effort to re-establish the hospital in Port-au-Prince. It set the tone for the conference by reminding us all what a privilege it is to serve others, even in the most trying of times.

We ended the conference with Robert and Rebecca Bluestone. Their wonderful story, “Woven Harmony,” tells how the arts can help to create an optimal healing environment. Her truly extraordinary silk weaving and his masterful classical guitar playing left us all with a sense of renewed passion and creativity in returning to our hospitals to advance our mission of service. Tom Atchison, Dr. Clint McKinney, Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Tom Morris, Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, Jamie Orlikoff, and Dr. David Blumenthal rounded out our keynote speakers

During the conference, participants did a lot of heavy lifting. We discussed what healthcare reform really means for rural hospitals. What is an Accountable Care Organization and will it work in our rural communities? What about physician integration? What’s new in Washington, D.C., and what does the National Advisory Committee for Rural Health and Human Services do to support our activities back home? We also heard several presentations about “meaningful use.” Sessions on governance were also popular since more than half of the conference participants were hospital trustees.

Although the weather in Phoenix was unseasonably cold, the high temps for the day were actually record-setting it was that cold for Phoenix, it beat the extreme cold and blizzard-like weather elsewhere. Check out the ice on the fountain in the courtyard of the hotel… icicles should not be in the desert! One of the largest winter storms in history disrupted travel home for many of the participants, and a few even got an extra day or two in the desert.

Despite the chilly temperatures, the speakers and the conference were a great educational opportunity. We headed home with new information and ideas to meet the challenges ahead for our mission to healthcare for rural communities.

If you are a rural healthcare trustee, administrator, physician, or vendor and have not yet experienced this conference, I highly recommend it. The venue, sponsors, speakers, and interaction with others make this a worthwhile and great event. It would be fun to have over 500 next year. Save the dates, February 5-8, 2012, on your calendars and plan to join us!

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