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2016 Virginia Rural Health Association Annual Conference

2016 VRHA  Conference
October 19 & 20
Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center
Abingdon, VA

Welcome to the 2016 VRHA Conference website!

“The Future of Rural Health”

For over twenty years, the Virginia Rural Health Association has served as "The Voice for Rural Health in Virginia."  Rural Health is DIFFERENT.  Rural Americans face a unique combination of factors that create disparities in health care not found in urban areas. Economic factors, cultural and social differences, educational differences, lack of recognition by legislators and the isolation of living in remote rural areas all conspire to impede rural Americans in their struggle to lead a normal, healthy life.

Our health care system is undergoing dramatic changes. Providers have become increasingly aware that the current rural safety net programs are not structured for success in this new environment. While it is critically important to sustain the rural safety net providers during this time of change and uncertainty, it is equally important to outline a meaningful phased and non-destructive transition strategy that successfully links today’s payment and patient care delivery structures to the health care systems of the future.

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. 

Looking for the Virginia Rural Health Telecommunications Consortium Kick-Off Meeting?  Click here.

Looking for the Rural Health Coding & Billing Specialist (RH-CBS) Training and Certification Prep Class?  Click here.


2016 Annual Conference

Tuesday, October 18

Pre-conference Rural Health Coding & Billing Specialist (RH-CBS) Training and Certification Prep Class
Click here for info.

Pre-conference Virginia Rural Health Telecommunication Consortium Kick-Off Meeting.
Click here for info.

Wednesday October 19

8:00-9:00 Registration, Exhibit Set Up, Continental Breakfast

9:00 – 9:15          Opening Remarks

9:15 – 9:45          Nikki King: Systematic Poverty and the Rural Health Safety Net

9:45 – 10:15        Brock Slabach: The Future of Rural Health

10:45 – 12:00      Breakout Sessions

12:00 – 2:00        Awards Luncheon

2:00 – 3:15          Breakout Sessions

3:30 – 4:45          Breakout Sessions

     (see the "about our sessions" tab for detailed session descriptions)

Thursday October 20

9:15 - 10:00        Derek Kitts, Democratic Candidate for Virginia's 9th Congressional District

10:00 – 11:00      Marissa Levine, MD: Virginia’s Plan for Well-Being

11:00 – 11:45     Representative Morgan Griffith, Republican Candidate for Virginia's 9th Congressional District


About Our Sessions 


Plenary Sessions

Keynote Presentation - Systematic Poverty and the Rural Health Safety Net
          - Nikki King, Margaret Mary Health
An account of growing up in the Central Appalachian coalfields during the rise of the opioid epidemic and the fall of the coal industry. Highlights issues of drug abuse, economic depression, broken families, and the damage these issues have inflicted on the culture of the area. Emphasizes the role the coalfields played in the development of America and the critical role of healthcare organizations in creating a brighter future.

Featured Presentation - The Future of Rural Health
          - Brock Slabach, National Rural Health Association

Health care is undergoing rapid change which presents significant opportunities and challenges for rural providers and the communities they serve. This session will review federal policy from a rural lens and present effective strategies for leaders to consider in response.

Featured Presentation - Virginia's Plan for Well-Being
          - Marissa Levine, MD, Virginia Health Commissioner

Dr. Levine will describe Virginia’s health status and focus on all the factors that affect health.  In this session, she will outline an approach to population health improvement and introduce the Virginia Plan for Well-Being, a tool to align our efforts for more intentional health improvement.  Dr. Levine seeks to engage the group in further discussion of opportunities to build on efforts already underway in many parts of the Commonwealth with the goal of enhancing opportunity for health and well-being for all people living in rural Virginia


Breakout Sessions

The Appalachian Regional Commission: Historical and Contemporary Politics of Appalachia’s Federal/State/Local Government Agency
  - Theresa Burriss, Radford University Chair of Appalachian Studies and Director of the Appalachian Regional & Rural Studies Center
Participants in this breakout session will learn about the ARC’s origination in the 1960s, when John F. Kennedy first recognized the region’s economic challenges and Lyndon B. Johnson then took up the torch to wage a War on Poverty. For over fifty years now, the ARC, under various leadership, has worked to build the region’s infrastructure and combat persistent poverty with noted successes yet continued challenges. We will discuss Appalachia’s political economy over these fifty years and how it has determined much of what the ARC has and has not been able to accomplish. Lastly, participants will review the ARC’s 2016-2020 strategic plan, “Investing in Appalachia’s Future,” which was just released in spring 2016, to understand the agency’s five strategic investment goals.

How Do We Pay for Telehealth? 
 - Matt Underwood, USDA Community Development Specialist
USDA Rural Development will provide information about its Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grant. The DLT Grant, which has a $500,000 maximum, helps rural communities use unique telecommunications capabilities to connect with each other and to the world, overcoming the effects of remoteness and low population density. The grants, which are awarded through a competitive process, may be used to fund Telecommunications enabled information, audio and video equipment, and related advanced technologies that extend educational and medical applications into rural areas.

Specialty Care in Rural Communities
 - Wendy Welch, Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium Executive Director 
A review of national best practices on recruiting specialists into rural communities followed by a roundtable discussion on how people in rural areas can gain access to specialists.  

To Be or Not to Be….. a Rural Health Clinic
- Moderator: Portia Brown Page Memorial Hospital/Valley Health; Panelists: Travis Clark, Phillip Graybeal, Denise Dale, Valley Health
 This session will provide a brief overview of the fundamental concepts of a Rural Health Clinic (RHC), designation qualifications for Rural Health Clinic status, required documents for application, state survey content, and ongoing maintenance of a RHC.  The benefits of a RHC will be described as well as the unique differences from a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC).  Learn more about the recently developed Virginia Rural Health Coalition supporting the work of fourteen rural health clinics and communities. The presentation is designed for CEOs, CFOs, COOs, CAH Fiscal Managers, Department Managers and Supervisors, and Senior Managers.In addition, this presentation will include panel discussion with question and answer opportunity from a critical access hospital president, vice president of finance, and regional operations manager of six rural health clinics. 

Recruitment & Retention: Paying for it all
 - Olivette Burroughs, Virginia Department of Health
The VDH Office of Health Equity will provide information about Virginia’s Primary Care Office programs.  Virginia’s Primary Care Office administers or provides technical support for a variety of federally-funded recruitment and retention and shortage designation programs, including: National Health Service Corps (NHSC) Loan Repayment & Scholarship Programs, NHSC Site Approval, Recruiting providers using the NHSC Jobs Center, NURSE Corps, Virginia State Loan Repayment, The J-1 Visa Program, Health Professional Shortage Area Designations, and Medically Underserved Areas/Populations Designations.

You Are the Key to HPV Cancer Prevention
 - Debbie Bridwell, VDH Comprehensive Cancer Control Coordinator
This breakout session will address the importance of HPV immunization as an effective prevention measure against HPV related cancers. Following a brief presentation with objectives of understanding the facts about HPV immunization, appropriate recommendations and guidelines for HPV immunization, and current VA immunization rates, participants will have the opportunity to discuss concerns, challenges and strategies to increase HPV immunization rates in rural Virginia.  

What Do We Really Know About the Health of Communities in Coal-Country?
 - Susan Meacham, PhD, RD, Professor of Nutrition/Preventive Medicine, Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine – Virginia Campus
 The workshop will share the initial findings of VCOM studies of chronic disease in southwest Virginia compared to other underserved regions in Virginia.  Fifty year trends in mortality prevalence rates vary from condition to condition and vary from region to region.  What can we learn from the improvements seen in heart disease mortality in rural Virginia?  How can we thwart the rise in diabetes mellitus? The rise in lung disease in women? The escalating rise in deaths due to injuries? 

Cultural competency
 - Ronna New, DO, FACOFP, Program Director, Family Medicine Residency Program, Johnston Memorial Hospital & Wendy Welch, PhD, Excutive Director, Southwest Virginia Graduate Medical Education Consortium
Participate in an interactive workshop discussing what cultural competency and humility look like when they’re in the clinical setting. Family medicine physician and geriatrician, Dr. Ronna New tells stories from her training and clinical experiences to illustrate points made by Wendy Welch, PhD in Ethnography, on how rural areas and patients differ from urban teaching center expectations, and how that can be gently overcome with kindness and a sense of humor.

Opioid Abuse in Rural Appalachia
 - Robert Pack, PhD, MPH, Professor & Associate Dean, ETSU College of Public Health & Director, ETSU Center for Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention and Treatment
This seminar will focus on the problem of prescription and other opioid abuse in Appalachia.  Topics include epidemiology of the problem, a model for understanding the scope and complexity of the problem and key lessons learned in Tennessee.  The presentation will conclude with a discussion of current efforts to address the problem by groups in the NE Tennessee and SW Virginia region.



  • For registration, click here.
  • VRHA Student Members are eligible for the student rate of $100 for the full event or $75 for the first day and $30 for the second
  • Some entities will be eligible for free registration, contact Beth O'Connor for details.

Member rate is $230; non-member $275. 

DON'T FORGET: Registration for the Virginia Rural Health Telecommunications Consortium kick-off meeting is separate!  Click here for more information.

Event registration fees at all levels include 2017 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.

The VRHA Annual Conference creates unique networking opportunities and a forum 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?

Won’t you add your organization to the list?

Download the Sponsor packet for details.

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

Lodging and Area Information

The 2016 VRHA Annual Conference will be held at the Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center.  

The Southwest Virginia Higher Education Center (Higher Education Center), located in Abingdon, Virginia, is the first multi-college and university institution of higher education in the Commonwealth.  

Lodging is available nearby at the Comfort Suites
Rooms are set aside at the discounted (government) rate of $98/night (+ tax & fees) for the conference. You must reserve by September 17th to ensure a room at this rate.

To reserve your room: call (276) 698-3040 and ask for the VRHA rate.

Comfort Suites - Abingdon is located at:
1093 Ole Berry Drive   
Abingdon, VA 24210   

The Higher Education Center is located at:
One Partnership Circle
Abingdon, VA 24212
(276) 619-4300 

The Higher Education Center and hotel are easy to access from I-81
Click here for the hotel website

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

And look at what's showing at the historic Barter Theatre!


The scholarship application period has closed.

2016 VRHA Awards

All Virginia Rural Health Association members and member organizations are invited to submit nominations for the 2016 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 2, 2016

Awards Presentation: Honorees will be recognized during the Awards Luncheon on October 19th, 2016 at the VRHA Conference in Abingdon, Virginia.

You can also read about past honorees.

Poster Presentations

VRHA is now accepting applications for Poster Presentations from health professions students at the conference. A maximum of 15 applications will be approved for display and presentation.

Posters will be on display October 19 with presentations made from 10:45 - 12:00 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.  All types of health professions students are encouraged to submit applications for consideration.  Posters co-authored by professionals are acceptable as long as the student is the lead author and presenter

Submission information and general instructions: 

  1. ‚ÄčIncomplete submissions will not be reviewed by the planning committee. 
  2. Submission deadline is October 7, 2016. 
  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 be reviewed and judged with a Certificate of Excellence issued to the poster with the highest score.  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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