Sanford to Convene Summit on the Future of Rural Health Care

Sanford Health is bringing together policymakers, national health leaders and industry experts for a national summit on the future of rural health care. The event will include panel 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 on August 23rd at the Sanford Barn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It will also be streamed live for journalists and the public to join. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. in the Center.

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

Roundtables in the health sector

A health 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, MD, JD, MPH, MBA, of the American Medical Association, and Jim Weinstein, MD, of Microsoft Health. David Shulkin, MD, ninth secretary of the US Department of Veterans Affairs, will moderate the panel.

Dodd has spent 30 years working to improve patient outcomes in the pharmaceutical, medical technology and public health sectors and is an advocate for helping patients manage chronic health conditions. Prior to Medtronic, he spent 13 years at Johnson & Johnson and five years at the World Health Organization. He has 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 clinical experience of healthcare in rural settings and beyond,” says Dodd. “The time is right to build the foundation for a differentiated approach, particularly around patient engagement and healthcare delivery.”

Dr. Suk is a leader on public health issues, including the role and importance of organized medicine, physician well-being and wellness, social determinants of health, and many other public health concerns. In 1994, he became the first medical student and the first Asian-American elected to the Board of Trustees of the American Medical Association and was re-elected in 2019, where he currently serves as Secretary of the Board. Dr. Suk also serves on the Board of the Joint Commission and serves as the system-wide chairman of the Geisinger Musculoskeletal Institute and Professor of Orthopedic 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.

“Large rural areas struggle disproportionately to care for the sickest patients; experiencing a shortage of primary care professionals; and endure disruptive financial challenges that jeopardize patient access to care,” said Dr. Suk. “To meet the health needs of rural populations, AMA has long championed teams of physician-led care and telehealth as critical to the effective, efficient, and equitable delivery of high-quality health care. Taking steps to ensure that 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 the shortage of doctors”.

Dr. Weinstein serves as senior vice president of Microsoft Health, where he leads health strategy, innovation and equity, including precision population health efforts to forge new paths to end racial and ethnic disparities. It is a pioneer in the provision of care at a distance, establishing one of the first telemedicine programs and remote sensing technologies. 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, President Obama appointed Dr. Weinstein 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 future health,” said Dr. Weinstein. “Approaches that include partnering for actionable policies and long-term commitments from community-based leadership are essential to driving real change so that where you are born does not have to dictate your future health status. The vibrant diversity of rural America is uniquely positioned to lead digital transformation, providing critical learnings and driving significant improvement in population health globally.”

Health policy debates

US Senator John Thune (RSD) will join Jerry Penso, MD, President and CEO of the American Medical Group Association for a discussion focused on how policy advances in telehealth, broadband access and mental health they are fundamental to improving health care in rural areas for future generations.

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

Erica DeBoer, chief nursing officer at Sanford Health, will moderate a conversation with Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Salesforce. Dr. Nayyar is a nationally recognized leader in healthcare information technology, a physician executive, public speaker and author.

“The accelerated digital transformation ushered in by the pandemic helps provide the access and scale that many rural communities currently lack,” said Dr Nayyar. “The world is now at an inflection point where it can increase health literacy and education in rural America through more reliable communication and technology. As a medical professional currently living in an era where misinformation and misinformation is rampant, I am excited to join with others to transform the way 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, digital health solutions focused in the patient and value-based models will shape the future of care delivery.

LaShawn McIver, MD, MPH, Director, CMS Office of Minority Health, will join Jeremy Cauwels, MD, FACP, FHM, Chief Medical Officer at Sanford Health for a virtual fireside chat to discuss the connection between the 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 advancing health initiatives and successful public policy efforts to promote health equity, improve health outcomes, increase access to care, and promote health system reform. Before joining CMS, Dr. McIver led Government Affairs and Advocacy (GA&A) efforts at the American Diabetes Association as vice president of public policy and strategic alliances and later as senior vice president of all GA&A.

Innovative virtual attention center

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

An opening of the Sanford Virtual Care Center is scheduled in conjunction with this national summit on August 23rd in Sioux Falls.

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Join virtually: Journalists unable to attend the summit in person can join a live stream on the day of the summit at

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

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