Sanford to host summit on the future of rural health care

— 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 on August 23rd at the Sanford Barn in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. It will also be live streamed for journalists and the general public to participate. The event begins at 9:30 a.m. CT.

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

A healthcare industry panel will explore how innovations in technology and other sectors can act as catalysts to transform care in rural America. Confirmed panelists include Sherry 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, the 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 fields 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 Masters in Health Planning and Financing from the London School of Economics.

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

Suk is an outspoken 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 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. Suk is also on the board of The Joint Commission and serves as the systemwide chair of Geisinger’s 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 a Baldrige Executive Fellow in 2017.

“Large rural areas disproportionately struggle to care for patients; experience a shortage of primary care professionals; and endure disruptive financial challenges that jeopardize patients’ access to care,” said AMA Board Member Michael Suk, MD, JD. The AMA has long advocated physician-led care teams and telehealth as critical to the efficient, effective, and equitable delivery of high-quality health care. To ensure rural communities can rely on telehealth and Internet-enabled digital health services and access physician-led care teams. Taking steps will help improve continuity of care, provide around-the-clock access, and eliminate physician shortages.”

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 technology programs. An accomplished writer, he has published more than 325 peer-reviewed articles and served as editor-in-chief of Spine for three decades. In 2015, Weinstein was appointed by President Obama to the Special Medical Advisory Group for the Veterans Administration where he served three secretaries.

“It is time to move beyond the ‘geography is destiny’ that has served as a predictor of a person’s health future. Approaches that involve long-term commitments from partnerships and community-based leadership to actionable policies are needed to drive real change so that where you are born, your Don’t let future health conditions be dictated. Rural America’s vibrant diversity is uniquely positioned to lead digital transformation, deliver critical learnings, and deliver meaningful improvements in population health globally.”

U.S. Sen. John Thune (RS.D.) will join Jerry Penso, MD, president and CEO of the American Medical Group Association, to focus on how telehealth, broadband access and policy advances in mental health are critical to improving health care. Rural areas for future generations.

“Access to high-quality health services is important, no matter when you call home. South Dakotans have long been beneficiaries of telehealth, and our providers continue to lead and innovate,” Thune said. “As a lawmaker, I am committed to ensuring that rural America is represented in the conversation about the direction of health policy and highlights the success we have seen in our state.”

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

“The rapid digital transformation triggered by the pandemic will help provide access and scale that is now missing in many rural communities,” said Geeta Nayyar, MD, MBA, MD, senior vice president and chief medical officer at Salesforce. “The world is now at a point where it can elevate health literacy and education in rural America through more reliable communication and technology. I am happy to unite with others to transform that.”

Eric Larson, Chairman, Advisory Board Company, and Anish Chopra, Co-Founder and Chairman, Care Journey, who were appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer, will explore how to innovate, patient-centered digital health solutions. 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 Physician, Sanford Health for a virtual fireside chat to discuss the relationship between healthcare quality and equity and CMS strategy. To “rethink rural health” and drive system-wide change.

McIver is a proven public health leader with experience 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 and advocacy (GA&A) efforts at the American Diabetes Association (ADA) as vice president of public policy and strategic alliances and later as senior vice president of all GA&A.

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

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

For more information, visit

Join virtually
Reporters unable to attend the summit in person can join the summit day livestream using this link:

About Sanford Health
Sanford Health, the largest rural health system in the United States, is dedicated to transforming the healthcare experience and providing access to world-class healthcare in America’s heartland. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the organization serves more than 1 million patients and 220,000 health plan members in 250,000 square miles. Integrated Health System has 47 medical centers, 2,800 Sanford physicians and advanced practice providers, 170 clinical investigators and research scientists, more than 200.

Good Samaritan Society senior care locations and world clinics in 8 countries around the world. Learn more about Sanford Health’s commitment to shaping the future of rural health care across the lifespan at or Sanford Health News.


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