The Missouri Rural Health Association (MRHA) 2022 Rural Health Conference, Aug. 9-10, will highlight issues affecting rural health and provide attendees opportunities to network with fellow changemakers. Throughout the two-day conference, held at the Lodge at Old Kinderhook, industry experts will share best practices, host interactive breakout sessions, and showcase innovative solutions and products.

The conference is the result of a years-long collaborative partnership between MRHA, Missouri Department of Health (Office of Rural Health and Primary Care), Missouri Primary Care Association (MPCA), and Missouri Hospital Association (MHA). According to MRHA Executive Director Melissa Van Dyne, working with these partners for the last three years has allowed the group to develop a strong groundwork for the annual joint conference to ensure they reach target audiences with well-rounded discussion topics.

Expected audiences consist of hospitals, providers, federally qualified health centers (FQHCs), health departments, front-line workers, community and social agencies, policymakers, insurance and investment brokers, health law attorneys, and more professionals with an interest in rural health. “If you have a stake in rural health, then you should be at our conference because there will be something there for you,” Van Dyne said.

Although the conference focuses primarily on rural health, the goal of the event is to spark conversation and collaboration between communities statewide. Solutions that are effective in rural areas may not work as-is in urban or suburban communities. However, sharing different perspectives, challenges, and best practices may illuminate new approaches to existing problems.

What to Expect

The conference will feature presentations and interactive panel discussions from industry experts on a wide range of topics affecting multiple aspects of health and social care delivery statewide. Van Dyne and MRHA President Patty Miller will kick off the event with a keynote presentation on workforce development.

“There are some great long-term responses out there, but in the short term, what can we do right now to get the workforce back up to where it needs to be?” she said. According to Van Dyne, workforce recruitment, retention, and development is a hot-button issue right now, and she looks forward to addressing “the elephant in the room” right off the bat.

MRHA’s Mary Gordon and Sandra Morris will also present, hosting a breakout session highlighting the Mobility Management Certificate Program. This MRHA program educates trainees on rural transportation efforts as well as helps to develop a commitment to advocacy, diversity, and equity. Trainees will be able to not only identify but engage with local transportation stakeholders and organizations to meet their communities’ unique transit needs.

Other breakout session topics include mental health, broadband, current research, transportation, among others. Breakout sessions will include 15-20 minutes following the presentation to allow for a Q&A, discussion, and opportunity to network with session presenters and attendees. Conference attendees will choose which breakout session to attend from a set of topics each hour, allowing individuals to customize their event experience.

Additional Conference Events

Throughout the conference, there will be several additional events and social networking opportunities. Prior to the start of the conference will be special interest group meetings for critical access hospitals participating in the FLEX program as well as multiple sessions for Rural Community Opioid Response Program (RCORP) grantees.

On Tuesday from 1-5 p.m., there will be a Mobile Integrated Healthcare (MIH) Summit; though the summit is in conjunction with the conference, registration is separate. The event is sponsored by the Missouri EMS Association and Mobile Integrated Healthcare Network and will explore the possibility of community paramedics as front-line providers delivering healthcare. “We have populations out there that, due to transportation issues, may have problems accessing healthcare — why not bring healthcare to them?” Van Dyne said.

 The intention of MIH is to train emergency service individuals to deliver health care services, such as A1C checks and vaccinations, eliminating the need for patients to travel to a facility. Ideas for expansion include determining how to make this care reimbursable as well as training paramedics to be community health workers. “If you are in a community where people have problems getting into a healthcare provider, I would definitely check that out,” Van Dyne said.

Beginning Tuesday, vendors will set up for an exhibition that will be available to visit throughout the remainder of the conference. Attendees are encouraged to visit the vendor hall during free time, including during refreshment breaks, to meet vendors and learn about the innovative products and solutions they have to offer.

Along with a social hour Tuesday evening, conference attendees will have time to network during meal and refreshment breaks and in between presentations. Attendees are strongly encouraged to mingle with other attendees, vendors, sponsors, and staff throughout the event to build relationships to last beyond the conference.

Van Dyne recommends conference newcomers find an MRHA staff member for help navigating the conference and making connections. “I always encourage people to sit by people you don’t know,” she said. “We will help introduce you to people, you can sit with us!”

Keep the Conversation Going

The MRHA 2022 Rural Health Conference aims to address existing gaps in rural health care by connecting experts across communities to collaborate on potential solutions. Though there will be plenty of interactive discussions and networking opportunities, Van Dyne hopes these conversations continue after the conference has ended. The goal of the conference is to link people to work together to identify and implement sustainable solutions in their communities.

In addition to receiving a discount on registration, MRHA members receive access to an online community platform where these conversations can continue and be expanded upon. Following the conference, members will have access to a community for 2022 conference registrants to share resources and maintain connections with other attendees.

“Being able to talk about those innovative solutions that are happening across the state and being able to potentially tweak those and implement them in your community to help break down barriers to health care – that’s my goal, being able to provide the platform and the opportunity to find those solutions,” Van Dyne said.

In addition to the online community, members are provided advocacy opportunities, access to the HealthTran transportation program, telehealth assistance, and more member services. “In terms of being an MRHA member, we offer opportunities to really get engaged,” Van Dyne said.

MRHA is currently expanding member services as well, hoping to implement more over the next few years. Beverly Stafford, MRHA’s new director of programs and member services, will be working to identify members’ wants and needs and developing a plan to address these.

Register Today!

To register as an attendee, complete the appropriate form on the website or register and pay online. Completed forms can be mailed with a check payable to Missouri Rural Health Association, 2412 Hyde Park Rd., Suite B, Jefferson City, Missouri, 65109. The registration deadline is July 26.

Vendor spots are filled, but breakout session moderators are still needed. As a moderator, you will introduce and moderate a breakout session of your choice with a two-minute presentation before the session begins to highlight your organization. This is an excellent opportunity for your business to reach a multitude of decision-makers. For more information about being a session moderator, please email Sessions are chosen on a first come, first serve basis.

 For hotel reservation details, an event agenda, and more information, visit