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2015 Virginia Rural Health Association Annual Conference

2015 VRHA Conference
October 13 & 14
Staunton, VA

Welcome to the 2015 VRHA Conference website!

“Turn Up the Volume”

For twenty years, the Virginia Rural Health Association has served as "The Voice for Rural Health in Virginia."  Now we are asking you to help us turn up the volume on that voice!  Rural hospitals, clinics, providers and students are under greater pressure than ever to provide services in an increasingly challenging environment.  For our 20th Anniversary, we are asking all rural health stakeholders to raise their voice with us and help call attention to the needs of Virginia's rural citizens.

The Annual Conference of the Virginia Rural Health Association is an opportunity for the people and organizations that serve Virginia’s rural population from across the Commonwealth to meet.  The event is filled with workshops, keynote speakers, networking and an Exhibit Hall.  The people who attend the event are as diverse as the VRHA membership: hospital executives, academic faculty, clinic staff, government officials, health professions students and more.

Bringing the people who care about rural Virginia together provides an opportunity to discuss how we can ensure the sustainability of rural Virginia through policy, access, economics, education and more.

Join us!


(click the "about our sessions" link on the main conference page to see session descriptions)

Tuesday, October 13

8:30 am Welcome

9:00 am Featured Speaker:
 Alan Morgan - CEO, National Rural Health Association

10:30 am Breakout Sessions 

12:00 pm Awards Luncheon & Annual Meeting
Featured Speaker: Gina Capra - Director, Office of Rural Health; Veterans Health Administration

2:00 pm Breakout Sessions

3:30 pm Poster Presentations

5:00 pm Reception

Wednesday, October 14

9:00 am Featured Speaker: Health and Human Resources Secretary William A. "Bill" Hazel Jr.

10:00 am Featured Speaker: Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam (invited)

About Our Sessions 

(jump to breakout sessions)

Featured Speaker: Gina Capra - Director, Office of Rural Health; Veterans Health Administration
As the Director of Rural Health for VHA, Ms. Capra promotes increased access to quality health care services for Veterans in rural and highly rural locations. She manages an annual budget for funding awards to partnering VISNs, Medical Centers and national program offices to explore innovative projects intended to reduce barriers to care for rural Veterans and their providers via the use of technology, targeted training and evaluation methods. The ORH Veterans Rural Health Resource Centers (VRHRC), based in Florida, Iowa and Utah, provide technical assistance and expertise in specialized rural health issues. A national cadre of Rural Consultants (VRCs) located in each VISN provide regional coordination and rural project support. ORH serves as the lead VHA coordinator for the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Indian Health Service (IHS). The MOU supports inter-agency collaborative efforts to serve Native American/Alaska Native Veterans in their tribal and/or rural communities. ORH also staffs the Veterans Rural Health Advisory Committee (VRHAC) consisting of 16-members appointed by the Secretary to provide recommendations on issues pertaining to rural Veterans. 

Featured Speaker: Alan Morgan - CEO, National Rural Health Association
Alan Morgan has more than 25 years experience in health policy development at the state and federal level.  He served as staff for former US Congressman Dick Nichols and former Kansas Governor Mike Hayden. Additionally, his experience includes tenures with the American Society of Clinical Pathologists and with the Heart Rhythm Society where he established a Washington, DC based government affairs office. Prior to joining NRHA, he served as a federal lobbyist for VHA Inc.

Mr. Morgan’s health policy articles have been published in: The American Journal of Clinical Medicine, The Journal of Rural Health, The Journal of Cardiovascular Management, The Journal of Pacing and Clinical Electrophysiology, Cardiac Electrophysiology Review, and in Laboratory Medicine.  He also served as a co-author for the publication, “Policy & Politics in Nursing and Health Care,” and for the publication, “Rural Populations and Health.” In 2014, he was selected by readers of Modern Healthcare Magazine as being among the top 100 most influential people in healthcare.

Featured Speaker: Health and Human Resources Secretary William A. "Bill" Hazel Jr.
As Secretary, Dr. Hazel oversees 11 state agencies with over 16,000 employees including such diverse programs as Medicaid, Behavioral Health, Social Services, as well as Aging and Rehabilitation. These combined agencies spend approximately one-third of Virginia's budget.

During his first term as Secretary, he led the Virginia Health Reform Initiative and helped establish the Virginia Center for Health Innovation. He served as the Founding Chair of ConnectVirginia, Virginia's health information exchange. He negotiated an agreement with the Department of Justice to improve services to individuals with Intellectual and developmental disabilities. He has become nationally recognized for leading an enterprise Information technology transformation in Health and Human Resources. He has devoted significant energy towards improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the HHR agencies. 
Dr. Hazel grew up on the family farm in Fauquier County.

Featured Speaker: Sean Connaughton, President - Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association
This session will discuss role of association as voice for health policy in Virginia and policy challenges confronting Virginia’s healthcare system in the 2016 General Assembly session; efforts to strengthen and support rural healthcare providers; and new efforts to build public understanding of challenges facing Virginia’s hospitals.

Small Hospital Workshop:  CAH Cost Report oppotunities
Eric Shell, Stroudwater Associates 

The seminar will provide a brief overview of the cost report from a structural perspective and then discuss opportunities for improving reimbursement by improving the accuracy of the cost report.

The presentation is designed for CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CAH Fiscal Managers, Department Managers Supervisors, Senior  Management, Billing and Coding Managers and will feature common opportunities seen in cost reports throughout the country. In addition, this presentation will include a substantial question and answer session where Virginia CAHs can share their experiences.          
with others.

Breakout sessions

Advocacy 101
Beth O'Connor, M Ed - Virginia Rural Health Association
One person can make a difference. A coordinated group of people have a voice. Join the VRHA Executive Director for a hands-on  workshop where you will learn how to be a successful rural health care advocate. Learn invaluable tips for communicating with your elected officials and become skilled in how to advance your legislative goals in Congress. 
SNEAK PEEK! Starting in 2016, VRHA will be offering this educational opportunity for $250/group.  This is your chance to preview the session and see if it is the right fit for your board of directors, advocacy group or other entity.  Participation in this session will be included in your conference registration fees at no additional charge - this is your chance!

Class Act: How Rural is Labeling its Residents and Resources 
Wendy Welch, PhD – SWVA Graduate Medical Education Consortium
What’s the difference between “underserved” and “not up to speed” when it comes to labeling population groups? How does being rural, poor and white affect expectations of blame, shaming and resource allocation?  What is the best practice for rural health advocates within these parameters?  Join this interactive discussion to find out.

AgrAbility Virginia
Kim L. Niewolny, Ph.D. and Kirk Ballin - AgrAbility Virginia
Agriculture is a major part of the rural landscape, the rural culture, and the rural economy. But the reach and impact of agriculture goes well beyond the rural communities. Agriculture affects the lives of all Virginians; from the food we eat to the health of the Commonwealth’s economy.  Agriculture continues to be Virginia’s number one economic generator.   Farmers are at the heart of our subsistence. They are an independent, proud, and resourceful group of Virginians, who define their lives by what they do. Sometimes farmers sustain injuries, or illnesses, or have a disability that impedes their ability to work safely, effectively, and productively. AgrAbility Virginia is here to help these farmers be able to continue to work in their chosen profession and to continue to live the lives that define who they are.  This session will focus on an overview of AgrAbility Virginia and the kinds of services and educational opportunities  we offer to support rural Virginia stay healthy and productive.  Come learn how you can connect people in your community to AgrAbility Virginia!

The 50th Anniversary of the Health Center Movement
Nancy Stern - Eastern Shore Rural Health System, Inc. & Rod Manifold - Central Virginia Health Services 
Community Health Centers started out as a small pilot program. Fifty years later, health centers have not just survived, but have expanded into the largest system of primary care that serves 23 million people. Why? Because they are good at what they do. Come learn about the history of the CHC program, what’s available in Virginia, and how people can connect with their local CHC.

Balanced Living with Diabetes:  An efficacious lifestyle intervention program for improved blood glucose control
Kathy Hosig, PhD, MPH, RD & Eleanor Schlenker, PhD, RD - Virginia Tech

Adult onset diabetes is a prevalent and increasing health issue.  Rural communities of Virginia are disproportionately suffering from the morbidity, mortality, and social and financial costs associated with this disease.  In recognition of the impact of this relatively preventable disease on the productivity and quality of the lives of rural Virginia residents and the gap in diabetes education in rural counties, a lifestyle intervention program specific for diabetes has been developed for Virginia.  The Balanced Living with Diabetes program is grounded in social cognitive theory and incorporates the components of effective lifestyle intervention programs including behavior modeling.  It was developed through an iterative process of testing and modification in Virginia and has shown efficacy to modify dietary and physical activity behaviors that result in improved indicators of glucose control (hemoglobin A1c).  A presentation describing the development of the Balanced Living with Diabetes program, evidence for efficacy, and implementation in Virginia to date is proposed.

Telehealth, HIT, and mHealth: Beyond “Bright Shiny Objects”
Rebecca Gwilt - Healthcare Solutions Connection
Every day, we hear news of the latest telehealth technology, the most advanced HIT system, and the mHealth app that will make all the difference for engaging our patients. But which - if any - of these technologies are the right fit for your organization? This session will examine how to think about technology tools and solutions as part of your overall strategic plan.  We will discuss how to determine whether a technology tool or solution really aligns with your strategic imperatives and how to evaluate technology vendors by asking the right questions from the outset.



Registration fees for the full event is $245 for VRHA members and $295 for the general public.  

Click here to register.

STUDENTS: If you are a current VRHA member, you are eligible for a discounted rate.$120 for the full conference, $80 for Tuesday only and $40 for Wednesday only.  

Event registration fees include 2016 VRHA membership dues.

Sponsor & Exhibitor Information 

Take this opportunity to tell our members and guests about your organization by being a part of this event.

This event creates unique networking opportunities and we will have an opportunity to discuss how we can strengthen the healthcare safety net through collaboration, share best practices and best utilize community resources. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Target Audience
The conference is attended by about 150 people, which includes facility executives, academic faculty, clinic staff, government officials, health professions students and more.

Won’t you add your organization to the list?

Download the Sponsor Packet for details. 

For further information about the conference, sponsorship and becoming an exhibitor contact:
Beth O’Connor
Executive Director

Lodging and Area Information

The 2015 VRHA Conference will be held at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center in Staunton, VA

Nestled in Historic Downtown Staunton in the heart of the picturesque Shenandoah Valley, this 124-room hotel captures the spirit, history and charm of the old South. Originally built in 1924 and a member of Historic Hotels of America, this modern yet refined Virginia gem underwent a complete top to bottom renovation in 2005 and has been lovingly restored to it's original grandeur. Staunton was recently named as one of the top 20 Small Towns in America by Smithsonian Magazine.

Rooms are set aside at the discounted (government) rate of $89/night (+ tax, fees & parking) for the conference. You must reserve by September 12th to ensure a room at this rate.

Reserve a room online or call 540-885-4848 and ask for the VRHA Conference rate.

The Stonewall Jackson Hotel & Conference Center is located at:
24 S Market Street
Staunton, VA  24401
Phone: 540-885-4848 

The hotel is conveniently located at the crossroads of I-81 & I-64, 30 minutes from Charlottesville in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, 90 minutes from Richmond, and two hours from Washington, DC.
Click here for directions

You can also visit the hotel website for additional information.

What to see and do?  Where to dine?  Find area information here.


Congratulations to our scholarship winners:

  • Alison Hess - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Seth Wood - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Cory Caldwell - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Mackenzie Dunn - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Lindsey Kennedy - University of Virginia School of Nursing
  • Abigail Thomforde - James Madison University
  • David Carter - Virginia Commonwealth University
  • Christopher J. McLaughlin - Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine

2015 VRHA Awards

All Virginia Rural Health Association members and member organizations are invited to submit nominations for the 2015 Virginia Rural Health Association Awards.  Nominees are not required to be members of the association.  Commitment and service to the advancement of rural health in Virginia may be in the form of direct provision of health care services, governmental or educational advocacy, activities or research that improves the health of communities or populations.

Awards Categories:

Lawmaker of the Year
Lawmaker of the Year is designed to give special recognition to an elected official at any level who has demonstrated support for improving health in rural Virginia.
The Charles Crowder, Jr. Award
This award is given annually by the Virginia Rural Health Association to recognize outstanding individual commitment and service to the advancement of rural health in Virginia.
The Best Practices in Rural Health Award
This award is given annually by the Virginia Rural Health Association to recognize a program or institution that exemplifies commitment and service to the advancement of rural health in Virginia.
The Ken Studer Friend of the Association Award
This award is given to recognize a program, institution or individual that has advocated for or aided the Association in support of the Association’s mission.

Click here to download the nomination form.

Nomination Deadline: September 4, 2015

Awards Presentation: Honorees will be recognized during the Awards Luncheon on October 13th, 2015 at the VRHA Conference in Staunton, Virginia.

You can also read about past honorees.

Poster Presentations

New for 2015!  Judging & Awards!

VRHA is now accepting applications for Poster Presentations at the conference. A maximum of 14 applications will be approved for display and presentation.

Posters will be on display October 13 with presentations made from 3:30-5:00 that day.  

The Poster Presentations provide participants with the ideal opportunity to disseminate information to other rural health stakeholders. Poster Presentations may include research projects, case studies, clinical evaluations, case presentations, observations, unusual or uncommon situations and other topics as they relate to rural health.  Both students and professionals are encouraged to submit applications for consideration.

Submission information and general instructions: 

  1. ‚ÄčIncomplete submissions will not be reviewed by the planning committee. 
  2. Submission deadline is August 28, 2015. Notifications of acceptance will be e-mailed out by September 9, 2015. 
  3. Presenters may not use posters to market products or services; exhibit space is available for that purpose. 
  4. If accepted, presenters must register for the conference.  In addition, no honoraria or travel expense reimbursement will be provided.  Presenters will have the option of registering for a single day instead of the full event.
  5. The presenter is responsible for having the poster printed and bringing a display easel to the event.

Categories & Judging:
Presentations will fall into 2 categories; student and professional.  Student submissions will be reviewed and judged with a Certificate of Excellence issued to the poster with the highest score.  Professional posters are for display only and will not be judged.  If both students and professionals collaborate to develop a poster, the poster will be placed in the category that fits the lead author.  Posters will be judged by the following criteria:

  • Rural relevance (30 points)
  • Presenter – enthusiastic, professional, well-prepared (20 points)
  • Interpretation of data (10 points)
  • Abstract or summary of findings (10 points)
  • Proper reference/citations (10 points)
  • Background & Rationale (10 points)
  • General overview/layout of the poster (10 points)

Click here to submit a poster presentation application.  Membership in VRHA is not required to submit a presentation for consideration.

Thanks to our Sponsors!

The conference would not be possible without the generosity of our sponsors. When you attend the event, please extend your gratitude to:











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