Sanford to convene national rural health care summit

Summit will feature nationally recognized health care experts and policymakers

Sanford to convene national rural health care summit

Sanford Health is bringing together policymakers, national health care leaders and industry experts for a national Summit on the Future of Rural Health Care. The event will include roundtable discussions and fireside chats focused on opportunities to expand access, reduce costs, close disparities and improve health outcomes in rural America.

The summit takes place Aug. 23 at the Sanford Barn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It will also be livestreamed for journalists and the public to join. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. Central.

Watch the summit recap: Sanford Health reimagines rural health delivery

“Rural America faces unique challenges when it comes to health care, and we are committed to bringing the best and brightest together to launch bold ideas that improve our patients’ lives and make our communities healthier places to live,” said Bill Gassen, president and CEO of Sanford Health. “The nationally recognized experts taking part in this summit are committed to making real change in how care is delivered for generations to come.”

Health industry roundtables

A health care industry panel will explore how innovations in technology and other areas can serve as a catalyst to transform care in rural America. Confirmed panelists include Sheri Dodd, vice president and general manager of Medtronic Care Management Services, Michael Suk, M.D., JD, MPH, MBA, from the American Medical Association and Jim Weinstein, M.D., of Microsoft Health. David Shulkin, M.D., Ninth Secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, will moderate the panel.

Dodd has spent 30 years working to improve patient outcomes across the pharmaceutical, medical technology, and public health sectors and is an advocate for helping patients manage chronic health conditions. Prior to Medtronic, she spent 13 years at Johnson & Johnson and five years at the World Health Organization. She holds a Master’s degree in Health Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics.

“Envisioning, developing, implementing and sustaining virtual care programs will be a game-changer for the patient and the clinical healthcare experience in rural settings and beyond,” says Dodd. “The time is right to build the foundation for a differentiated approach, especially around patient engagement and health care delivery.”

Dr. Suk is a vocal leader on public health issues, including the role and importance of organized medicine, physician wellness and wellbeing, social determinants of health and numerous other public health concerns. In 1994, he became the first medical student and first Asian-American elected to the American Medical Association Board of Trustees and was re-elected in 2019 where he currently serves as Board Secretary. Dr. Suk is also on the Board of The Joint Commission and serves as the systemwide chair of Geisinger’s Musculoskeletal Institute and professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Geisinger Commonwealth School of Medicine. He was selected as a White House Fellow under President George W. Bush in 2003 and as a Baldrige Executive Fellow in 2017.

“Vast rural areas disproportionately struggle to care for the sickest of patients; experience a dearth of primary care professionals; and endure disruptive financial challenges that jeopardize patients’ access to care,” said Dr. Suk. “To meet the health needs of rural populations, the AMA has long advocated for physician-led care teams and telehealth as critical to the effective, efficient, and equitable delivery of high-quality health care. Taking steps to ensure rural communities can rely on telehealth and internet-enabled digital health services and have access to physician-led care teams will increase continuity of care, provide around-the clock access, and help overcome clinician shortages.”

Dr. Weinstein serves as senior vice president of Microsoft Health where he leads strategy, innovation and health equity, including precision population health efforts to forge new paths to end racial and ethnic disparities. He is a pioneer in remote care delivery, establishing one of the first telemedicine and remote sensor technologies programs. An accomplished author, he has published more than 325 peer-reviewed articles and served as Editor-in-Chief of Spine for three decades. In 2015, Dr. Weinstein was appointed by President Obama to the Special Medical Advisory Group for the Veterans Administration where he served three secretaries.

“It’s time to move beyond the ‘Geography is Destiny’ construct that has served to predict an individual’s health future,” said Dr. Weinstein. “Approaches that include partnership for actionable policies and long-term commitments from community-based leadership are essential to drive real change so that where you are born does not have to dictate your future health state. Rural America’s vibrant diversity is uniquely positioned to lead digital transformation, bringing critical learnings and driving meaningful improvement in population health globally.”

Health policy discussions

U.S. Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) will join Jerry Penso, M.D., president and CEO of the American Medical Group Association for a discussion focused on how policy advancements in telehealth, broadband access and mental health are critical for improving health care in rural areas for generations to come.

“No matter where you call home, access to high quality health care services is critical. South Dakotans have been longtime beneficiaries of telehealth, and our providers continue to lead and innovate,” said Thune. “As a lawmaker, I’m committed to ensuring rural America is represented in conversations about the direction of health policy and highlighting the success we have seen in our state.”

A fireside chat with Geeta Nayyar, M.D., MBA, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Salesforce, will be moderated by Erica DeBoer, Sanford Health’s chief nursing officer. Dr. Nayyar is a nationally recognized leader in health care information technology, a physician executive, public speaker and author.

“The accelerated digital transformation ushered in by the pandemic helps provide the access and scale currently missing in many rural communities,” said Dr. Nayyar. “The world is now at a turning point where it can elevate health literacy and education within rural America through more trusted communication and technology. As a medical professional currently living in an era where misinformation and disinformation run rampant, I’m happy to unite with others in transforming how care is delivered within these communities.”

Eric Larsen, president, The Advisory Board Company, and Aneesh Chopra, co-founder and president, CareJourney, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer, will explore how innovation, patient-centered digital health solutions and value-based models will shape the future of care delivery.

LaShawn McIver, M.D., MPH, Director, CMS Office of Minority Health, will join Jeremy Cauwels, M.D., FACP, FHM, Chief Physician, Sanford Health for a virtual fireside chat to discuss the connection between health care quality and equity and CMS’ strategy to “rethink rural health” and drive system-wide change.

Dr. McIver is a proven public health leader with experience in driving successful health initiatives and public policy efforts aimed at promoting health equity, improving health outcomes, increasing access to care and promoting health system reform. Before joining CMS, Dr. McIver led Government Affairs & Advocacy (GA&A) efforts at the American Diabetes Association as its Vice President of Public Policy & Strategic Alliances and later as its Senior Vice President of all GA&A.

Virtual Care Center groundbreaking

Sanford Health announced a landmark $350 million virtual care initiative in 2021 to transform health care for rural and underserved communities across the Midwest by significantly improving access to convenient, high-quality health care. The vision is to bring affordable, comprehensive, and seamless medical care to people regardless of their ZIP code.

A groundbreaking is scheduled for the Sanford Virtual Care Center in conjunction with this national Summit on Aug. 23 in Sioux Falls.

For more information, visit Summit on the Future of Rural Health Care.

Join virtually: Reporters unable to attend the Summit in person can join a livestream on the day of the Summit at

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Posted In Company News, Leadership in Health Care, News, Rural Health, Sioux Falls, Virtual Care