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Rural Health Journalism Workshop 2015: Program

Click the red arrows to read descriptions of each session.

Friday, June 19

7:30-8:15 a.m.

Breakfast available


8:40-8:50 a.m.


  • Len Bruzzese, executive director, Association of Health Care Journalists

Cypress I 

8:50-9:50 a.m.

Surveying the rural landscape: What journalists need to understand about the residents and health issues

“Once you’ve seen one rural community,” says an expert, “you have, indeed, seen only one rural community!” Look past the idyllic settings and find a series of rural populations – farmers, factory workers, veterans, retirees and “exurb” commuters, to name just a few – with their own personalities and their own health concerns. Our set of experts will help you start finding the health stories that can be distinctly different than those in urban or suburban settings. We’ll look at the people, their lives and the health issues that surround them.
  • John Bowling, D.O., assistant dean of rural medical education, University of North Texas Health Science Center

  • Gary Brinker, Ph.D., director, Docking Institute of Public Affairs; sociology professor, Fort Hays State University

  • Moderator: Larry Dreiling, senior field editor, High Plains Journal

Cypress I 

10-11 a.m.

Covering the challenges facing rural hospitals

Many rural hospitals around the United States are facing hard times – a growing number have closed, leaving residents miles away from the care needed by some of the sickest and poorest. What factors create these challenges? Is this a pattern destined to continue, or can rural hospitals find ways to buck that trend? Find story ideas close to your own community while you hear from a former hospital executive whose facility managed to thrive in a rural community and from a researcher who tracks data about rural hospitals.
  • Michael Williams, D.O., M.D., M.B.A., president, University of North Texas Health Science Center

  • Sharita R. Thomas, M.P.P., research associate of North Carolina Rural Health Research Program, Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

  • Moderator: Rebecca Catalanello, health writer, The Times-Picayune

Cypress I 

11:10 a.m.-
12:10 p.m.

Cultural complexity in rural health

The “melting pot” opportunity-for-all metaphor for American life doesn’t necessarily fit for health. How well health systems work is partly determined by insurance coverage, partly by location, but also by language, family structure, traditions, beliefs and other cultural factors. Journalists are finding their own challenges in covering health in a changing cultural setting. This session will help reporters find better footing to navigate the intersection of culture and health.
  • Uche S. Uchendu, M.D., executive director, Office of Health Equity, Department of Veterans Affairs

  • Tammy Worth, independent journalist, Blue Springs, Mo.

  • Moderator: Carrie Feibel, health and science reporter, Houston Public Media

Cypress I 

12:15-2 p.m.

Preparing a next generation of providers
Luncheon session

With rural America aging, health care needs are growing. But the numbers of providers are lagging. We’ve seen education programs to encourage young health care professionals to practice in a rural setting and have watched nurse practitioners move into rural clinics. What are the next changes on the way as the rural health workforce adapts in the face of greater need? Our panelists will offer some insight in possible solutions and stories.
  • Kevin Blanton, D.O., rural faculty, Office of Rural Medical Education, University of North Texas Health Science Center; family physician, Clifton Medical Clinic

  • Russell Stanley, third-year medical student, Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine

  • Moderator: Eileen Beal, M.A., independent journalist, Cleveland

Cypress II

2:10-3:10 p.m.

Growing mental health needs in the rural setting

Long-standing obstacles for rural residents who need mental health care remain: cultural resistance to disclose a problem, mental health stigma, funding shortfalls and poor access to or availability of services. A growing number of veterans diagnosed with PTSD living in rural communities, as well as a population aging more rapidly than the general U.S. population, may face additional barriers and go underserved. While the needs are growing, what are the possible solutions? Speakers with experience in dealing with these needs will outline the issues for journalists.
  • Alan Podawiltz, D.O., chairman and associate professor for psychiatry and behavioral health, University of North Texas Health Science Center

  • Emily M. Selby-Nelson, Psy.D., licensed clinical psychologist, Cabin Creek Health Systems; clinical assistant professor, West Virginia University School of Medicine-Charleston

  • Moderator: Laura Beil, independent journalist, Cedar Hill, Texas

Cypress I 

3:20-4:20 p.m.

Pinpointing underserved places and people near you

Although 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas, only 9 percent of physicians practice there. That’s just part of the picture. Maps and data can illustrate the geographic disparities: counties with few doctors, regions lacking needed specialists, populations far from key resources. Such barriers to health care can impact rural residents especially hard. Get some important tips about localizing and humanizing a problem that pervades rural America.
  • Erin Carlson, Ph.D., assistant professor, Health Management and Policy, School of Public Health, University of North Texas Health Science Center

  • Denna Wheeler, Ph.D., director of rural research & evaluation, Center for Health Sciences, Oklahoma State University

  • Moderator: Shannon Muchmore, staff writer, Tulsa World

Cypress I