Michelle Rathman, nationally known rural health and community engagement strategist, speaker, and writer, is the new host of Rural Matters, effective September 1, 2018. Her debut episode will release on September 10 and feature guest Alan Morgan, President of the National Rural Health Association.

Rathman replaces Mara Casey Tieken who has been a superb host and an invaluable contributor to Rural Matters, helping the program become the leading podcast in the country focused on expanding the dialogue among stakeholders in the areas of education, health and business in rural communities. Since launching in September 2017, the podcast has reached nearly 5,000 downloads, and has attracted national sponsors such as the American Association of School Administrators (The School Superintendents Association) and the National Rural Education Association, along with marketing partners that include the National Rural Education Association; Center for Rural Affairs; Ohio Small and Rural Collaborative; Foundation for Rural Service; NTCA—The Rural Broadband Association; Harvard Graduate School of Education Rural Educators Alliance; Community Hospital Corporation; and Journal of Research in Rural Education. Rural Matters is available on iTunes. Google Play, and Stitcher.

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Rural Tourism with Liz Carey, Amanda MacDonald, and Kristopher Larsen

Listen to Rural Tourism with Liz Carey, Amanda MacDonald, and Kristopher Larsen

Michelle chats with Liz Carey, podcaster and freelance writer for Daily Yonder; Amanda MacDonald, festival co-ordinator for Frozen Dead Guys Days in Nederland, CO; and Kristopher Larsen, mayor of Nederland. Frozen Dead Guy Days started with a celebration of the cryogenic disposition of a local citizen and the running of hearse races almost two decades ago. It has now expanded to a wide assortment of exciting events, including a frozen T-shirt contest, and an attendance of between 20,000 and 25,000 for the weekend, according to MacDonald. The event is really at capacity at this point, notes MacDonald, who purchased the event from the local chamber of commerce. There are plusses and minuses of this event and other similar events, such as Synchronis Butterflies Day, according to Carey, who has written an outstanding piece on rural tourism for Daily Yonder. There is a definite economic boom for the town, which charges the festival for additional police and support and derives a benefit in terms of tourists spending money during the weekend and who also visit the town at other times because, well, it is the home of Frozen Dead Guy Days. But the festival is also taxing for the local police department and presents logistical concerns for both attendees and local residents, including backups on the highways.  Carey notes that the festival is extremely well organized, with specific instructions on how to best enjoy the festival.  Larsen notes that the event takes almost a year to plan, with challenges for the town of only 1,500 people, and includes outreach to citizens and local and state police and the fire and sheriff’s departments to ensure the safety and enjoyment of visitors. The event, which takes place in the second week of March, does offer opportunities for local businesses, explains Larsen. According to an informal survey he has taken, there is a doubling or tripling of their business during Frozen Dead Guy Days, compared to an immediate prior or post-event weekend. Finally, he notes, the event has produced a definite international notoriety, including from, you guessed it, the Netherlands. This episode was sponsored by Talem Health, www.talemhealth.com and 3RNet, www.3rnet.com

“The Providers” with Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin

Listen to “The Providers” with Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin

Michelle chats with the Laura Green and Anna Moot-Levin, award-winning filmmakers of the new feature documentary, The Providers, which recently aired on PBS, about the challenges and opportunities in health care in rural America.  The filmmakers spent almost three years in rural New Mexico building long-term relationships with those in the film. It’s clear from the film that the profiled health care professionals provided life-saving services to patients in rural America. According to Green and Moot-Levin, the documentary is now being used by rural organizations to help recruit health care professionals. The film has great potential to influence and educate lawmakers about the current situation that rural decision-makers face when it comes to health issues, including recruitment and retention and the shortage of medical practitioners familiar with dealing with substance abuse issues, including opioids. It’s very important to try to funding for wraparound care and cutting-edge initiatives in rural health, Green and Moot-Levin assert. This episode was sponsored by Talem Health, www.talemhealth.com and 3RNet, www.3rnet.com

Health Profession Shortages with Mike Shimmens and Joyce Grayson

Listen to Health Profession Shortages with Mike Shimmens and Joyce Grayson

Michelle chats with Mike Shimmens, executive director of 3RNet (National Rural & Retention Network), a nonprofit network that has had a health care job board for more than two decades, and Joyce  Grayson, a member of Kansas Recruitment and Retention Center, which works with 3RNet.  3RNet works in the “safety net” space, involved with several kinds of health care entities, such as local health clinics, who do not always have robust recruitment networks. Grayson, who is also chair of the 3RNet Board of Directors, notes that 3RNet seeks health care providers for rural communities who are in “for the long haul.” She talks about recently recruiting a psychiatric nurse to Kansas, which helped surrounding communities with critical behavioral health needs. Often, as was the case in this situation, the recruitment efforts involve working with the spouse of the health care provider. 3RNet is a “navigator” for providers by working with them on loan forgiveness or reduction, notes. Grayson. Shimmens says that the recruitment of health care providers for hospitals and clinics can have more than a $1 million impact on local rural communities. While there are certainly many challenges in recruiting health care providers into rural communities, it is also extremely challenging to retain these providers. The key to success is to try to have the provider and partner engaged in their new community and to work with them on achieving work-life balance. It’s also important for retention to make sure that the new employer’s culture, as well as the new community, is supportive of the health care professional who was recruited. This episode was sponsored by 3RNet, www.3rnet.com        

Angel Flight East’s Inspirational Transportation with Jess Ames and Greg Vallino

Listen to Angel Flight East’s Inspirational Transportation with Jess Ames and Greg Vallino

Michelle chats Jess Ames, director of outreach at Angel Flight East, an organization that provides free flights for patients who need medical treatment at a substantial distance from their home, and Greg Vallino, an optometrist who is a pilot for Angel Flight. Medically stable patients are eligible for the flight, for which there is absolutely no charge, according to Ames. For example, if a patient needs care that is best provided at a hospital, such as Shriner’s in Philadelphia, which specializes in particular diseases, air travel can be provided. In addition, Angel Flight East provides transportation services for patients who are so sick that they are not able to fly commercially as well as compassionate travel. The pilots for Angel Flight need 300 hours of actual flight time, notes Ames. Vallino speaks poignantly about the gratification he get from his service as a pilot. Under a program in its second year, Rural and Rare Outreach, Angel Flight East has established an initiative targeted to rural areas. This episode was sponsored by Angel Flight East, www.angelflighteast.org; Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, https://www.expandkancare.com; 3RNet, www.3Rnet.org; and Butler County ESC, www.bcesc.org.

Continuing Medical Education with Barbara Yawn and Eric Van Stone

Listen to Continuing Medical Education with Barbara Yawn and Eric Van Stone

Michelle chats with Barbara Yawn (“Dr. Barbara”), family physician and clinical researcher in the rural space and Eric Van Stone, founder and principal of Rural Medical Education Collaborative, a divisions of Talem Health, about the challenges facing rural health care providers today, including delivering care to patients without immediate access to care, particularly specialty care. Providers need to learn how to deliver care in a way they may not be used to, Yawn points out. That might include how to provide more with less, for example, through telehealth. One of the ways to engage busy rural primary clinicians about what’s happening today in health care is to make sure the information provided is practical and useful for both them and their patients, says Yawn. In general, Van Stone and Yawn notes, rural residents have higher rates of chronic diseases, including COPD, oncology, and diabetes, and mental illness than their urban counterparts. That requires a different population health approach, she says. For example, the environmental factors affecting rural patients might be quite different than those affecting urban patients. It’s critically important Yawn to provide preventative care in the rural setting. Finally, Van Stone notes, all the medical education his collaborative provides on a complimentary basis. This episode was sponsored by Angel Flight East, www.angelflighteast.org, the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, https://www.expandkancare.com/, and 3RNet, www.3Rnet.org.