Lara Brooks serves as a Rural Health Analyst with the Oklahoma Office of Rural Health, and Dr. Brian Whitacre is a Professor and Extension Economist in Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University. Lara and Brian have been working together since 2008 on increasing community and hospital engagement in rural areas. They focus on things like funding and grants, quality of life and technological advancements.
“I like to think of leadership as the x-factor and it’s something that’s not necessarily tangible, it’s not equipment that you can purchase or hardware or software. But it’s the x-factor that can really make the best of an organization, business or even government.”
Lara primarily works with Oklahoma Critical Access Hospitals within the Flex program, the Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant program. Brian generally works in the area of rural economic development, and also teaches an undergraduate class on rural development. Together they both work to help improve the quality of quality of life for people in rural America.
Brian Bauer is an attorney for Hall, Render, Killian, Heath and Lyman, PLLC, and works extensively in rural health. He has been an attorney practicing in the rural health field for around 25 years. He has served as general counsel to a number of hospitals, advising them on a wide range of legal, business and ethical issues. He also has experience in addressing medical staff, credentialing and peer review issues, including medical staff disciplinary actions and corrective action hearings.
“A thing that a lot of people especially in more urban areas don’t fully understand is that rural hospitals have all the same legal issues, all the same challenges, all the same need that a large system has without the resources.”
Brian earned his law degree from Valparaiso University School of Law in 1987. He has worked with over 40 ACOs and CINs across the country. The ACO/CIN clients include very large single system CINs that consist of medical centers and their physician groups, as well as ACOs that consist of a combination of hospitals, independent physician groups, federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics.
Michelle Mills serves as the Chief Executive Officer of the Colorado Rural Health Center, which is the State Office of Rural Health and Rural Health Association in Colorado. Colorado is a state that expanded Medicaid and has not had any rural hospital closures.
Michelle has a passion for quality improvement and collaboration, and won the Patient Safety Leadership Award in 2009. The Colorado Rural Health Center is set up as a non-profit, giving the organization flexibility in allocating resources and manpower to reach rural populations with education and tools for better health. Through her organization, Michelle and her team conduct healthy clinic assessments, which help rural health clinics to ensure they are foundationally sound.
“If you have a healthy foundation, then you’re able to build upon that foundation by adding in things like quality improvement and population health.”
Michelle is also a graduate of NORSORH’s Leadership Institute. Additionally, she serves in a number of advisory boards, including the NRHA Board of Trustees, NRHA Rural Health Congress and the RHC Consistency Group.
Tim Size has been the Executive Director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative since helping found the organization in 1979. The Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative is owned and operated by forty rural acute, medical-surgical hospitals with the twin mission of shared services and advocacy. The organization focuses on building a collaborative network among freestanding hospitals and system affiliated rural hospitals, distinguishing it from other programs that utilize alternative approaches. Tim works to advocate for rural people and emphasizes the importance of good physician to population relationships.
“Rural Health is as important to the economy and the development of the local community as any other major economic sector.”
In addition to serving as the Executive Director of the Rural Wisconsin Health Cooperative, Tim is also co-chair of the National Health Association Foundation. Prior to his current roles, Tim worked in administration at both the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and the Hospital Metodista in La Paz, Bolivia.