Oregon Office of Rural Health

March 2021 Newsletter

March 2021 ORH Newsletter

SAVE THE DATE! 2021 Virtual Series: Forum on Aging in Rural Oregon

Sessions will be held the third Thursday of each month from March to December, 2021 from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm PST.

The Forum on Aging in Rural Oregon offers a space for people to share their experiences, learn from one another, and brainstorm new ideas to improve care and services for aging community members. The Forum is Oregon’s only rural-focused event where leaders from Critical Access Hospitals, Area Agencies on Aging, local public health departments, payor organizations, and clinics connect with state and local aging-related stakeholders and community members. Attendees include health care providers, policymakers, community members, family caregivers, elder care professionals, philanthropists and anyone interested in making it easier for community members to age in place in rural Oregon. Email questions to Rose Locklear.

Please mark your calendars for Session 1 on March 18, 2021 from 2:00 pm – 3:00 pm for:

A Conversation About Resilience in Native American Communities - Fostering cultural competency for health professionals and aging advocates when serving Native elders. A focus of this session will be the Q&A.

Important note: each session will require unique registration. We will share monthly session announcements and registration links via:

London Peak


Oregon Health Care Provider Loan Repayment Application Cycle Closes April 29, 2021

Oregon Health Care Provider Incentive Loan Repayment offers licensed health care providers, as well as pre-licensed mental health providers, an opportunity to apply to receive tax free funds to repay qualifying educational loan debt. The current provider application cycle closes at 5:00 pm on April 29, 2021. Eligible providers are highly encouraged to apply as early in the cycle as possible to allow time for information requests about their application. Eligible providers who are unable to submit a completed application before 5:00 pm on April 29, 2021 may apply in the next program application cycle, which opens April 30, 2021 and closes at 5:00 pm on July 29, 2021. For more information on the program, including qualification requirements, FAQs, and applications visit the program webpage.

The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program is Accepting Applications

The Oregon Partnership State Loan Repayment Program (SLRP) is currently accepting applications for its 2020-2021 cycle. Unlike most loan repayment programs, SLRP’s provider application process is not competitive. As long as SLRP funds are available, if an eligible provider (meeting all program requirements) who works at a SLRP qualifying practice site submits a complete SLPR application, that provider will be awarded. An awardee’s practice site must provide 50% of the award amount, plus a 10% administrative fee. If an awardee is funded at an amount that is fiscally unfeasible for their practice site to participate, the awardee and practice site may negotiate an award amount that would allow the practice site to participate. For more information on this program, including provider and site applications, please visit the program webpage.

Sunset with leaves


CAH and EMS Partner Project Grants Awarded

The Oregon Office of Rural Health (ORH) is pleased to announce the award of two Oregon CAH-EMS partner grants. Successful proposals were submitted by Adventist Health Tillamook and Lake Health District Hospital. Both hospitals proposed to strengthen their coordination with in-house ambulance and EMS departments.

The Adventist Health Tillamook project will focus on improving the access of the long-time, hospital-based EMS service to embedded field training officers (FTOs). This goal also includes increasing FTOs’ access to, and confidence in, the training tools available to them. For an agency that responded to 4,419 calls in 2020, this work represents important attention to how and how well its new pre-hospital providers are onboarded to work across departments, and the impact of having confident, well-trained personnel.

Lake Health District Hospital brought EMS online as the newest department in September 2020. With a 5,800 square mile frontier-designated coverage area, including two interstate borders—California and Nevada—the department’s four full-time staff and 25 volunteers have a big responsibility. The new collaboration has already helped significantly reduce their ambulance response time. Their grant project will support focus on improved coordination among the pre-hospital service and the hospital emergency department. The goal is not only to provide continuity of care, but also to enable EMS providers to maintain competencies in a region where access to training is often limited by distance and availability.

We look forward to learning and sharing more about the projects as they reach completion and measure results.

For more information, please contact Rebecca Dobert or 971-271-0481.


Rural Hospitals

St. Charles Hospital Cultural Competence Has Continued Impact

In 2018, St. Charles Madras Hospital identified a need to increase their cultural competence to improve the quality of care for their Native American Indian (NAI) patients. Among other indicators, a gap was identified by low inpatient satisfaction scores and participation rates from NAI Hospital Consumer Assessment of Providers and Systems (HCHAPS) responders. Chief nursing officer Candy Canga-Picar worked to implement a multi-faceted, evidence-based, culturally competent care training for hospital staff and Madras regional community members. As part of the project, the hospital’s Small Rural Hospital Improvement Program (SHIP) award helped support the training and other work to help the hospital become a culturally competent organization.

The ripple effect and positive impacts have ranged far beyond the scope of the original 2018-19 project, and continued in 2020 and 2021! Check out the RHI Hub Grants In Motion feature article for more details about the work and its continued effect; then head over to the Rural Health Leadership Radio podcast and hear Canga-Picar’s interview with Bill Auxier. If you or your rural/frontier health care facility are interested in working with ORH as part of a pilot replication project, please contact Rebecca Dobert or 971-271-0481.

Historic Shirk Ranch

Funding, Resources, and Educational Opportunities

Free Dermatology Resources Available for Rural Practices

Access to dermatology outside of the Portland metro area is extremely limited, with few specialists in rural areas, and none at all practicing east of Bend. The majority of late-stage cases of melanoma come from patients who live outside of Portland. To address this disparity in urban and rural outcomes, OHSU Dermatology launched an effort to partner with primary care to detect melanoma earlier.

Dr. Sancy Leachman, chair of dermatology and head of the Knight Cancer Institute Melanoma program, traveled throughout the state and spoke with hundreds of primary care providers to find what would work best for them and what resources would be beneficial to their practice. Based on this feedback they developed an online Toolkit where melanoma education, video demonstrations of rapid screenings and biopsies, and practice with immediate feedback on images of benign lesions and melanoma can be found. 

Other resources include eConsults and dermoscopy imaging devices (free in limited supply), requesting a specialist as a speaker for grand rounds or other meetings, a case discussion monthly videoconference, and online order form for patient education materials. You can access the complete list of resources here and select the ones you would like, and a coordinator will connect you with the information.

Now Open! Northwest Telehealth Resource Center’s Annual Conference: 2021 Virtual Meeting

April 15-16
The Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC) is pleased to announce that registration for the 2021 Annual Conference is now open. Presented virtually again this year, the theme is "Telehealth's Big Bang: From Challenge to Opportunity.” Join them as they discuss, reflect, and respond with subject matter experts on the impact the COVID-19 public health emergency has had on telehealth. 
Click here for more information and to register.

Spring 2021 ECHO Programs

This spring's catalog of ECHO programs will support Oregon health care professionals in treating patients with a variety of complex conditions, including substance use disorder, mental health in children and adults, and dementia. Complete descriptions and registration are available at the Oregon ECHO Network. New this term: A program designed to support recovery peers working in medical settings. The following ECHO programs are queued up for spring:

  • Adult Psychiatry II
  • Child Psychiatry
  • Dementia 360
  • Pain Management and Substance Use Disorders Dental ECHO
  • Recovery Peers in Medical Settings
  • Substance Use Disorders in Hospital Care

30th Annual Kinsman Bioethics Conference

April 15-16, 8:00 am-1:00 pm
This year's Kinsman Bioethics Conference, “Truth, Power, Justice: Bioethics as a Voice for Health Equity,” will be virtual via WebEx. After attending this conference, learners will be able to:

  • Describe the role of systemic inequity and how it affects people from a range of communities who have experienced bias and adverse health outcomes;
  • Prepare effective communication strategies to create inclusivity and equity in the patient-provider relationship; and
  • Explain the psycho-social impacts of health care disparities on patients and health providers.

The conference keynote speaker, Dr. Monica Peak, is an associate professor at the University of Chicago, where she provides clinical care, teaches and does health services research, with a focus on health disparities. Dr. Peek is the associate director of the Chicago Center for Diabetes Translation Research, the executive medical director of community health innovation and the director of research (and associate director) at the MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics. Her research pursues health equity and social justice, with a focus on promoting equitable doctor/patient relationships among racial minorities, integrating the medical and social needs of patients, and addressing health care discrimination and structural racism that impact health outcomes (e.g., diabetes, COVID-19).

The conference is sponsored by the OHSU Center for Ethics in Health Care and Samaritan Health Services. Continuing education credits will be offered to conference attendees.

Accelerating Health Equity, Virtual Conference

March 16-18
Join the American Hospital Association (AHA) for “Accelerating Health Equity,” a conference for leaders in community health, diversity and inclusion hosted by AHA Community Health Improvement. Each day will offer a keynote or plenary session, breakout sessions, and networking opportunities.

Learn more and register here.
Source: OAHHS

Relational Leadership Series

March 30, 12:00 pm – 1:00 pm
The Relational Leadership Institute (RLI) and Oregon Area Health Education Center (AHEC) present this learning collaborative to bring together a diverse, interprofessional, cross-generational group of health professionals to develop critical relational leadership practices. The collaborative combines large group didactics, small group work and opportunities for individual and group reflection, in addition to application in clinical and innovation settings. Participants leverage the learning space for support, inspiration and insight from the diverse backgrounds and professions of their colleagues.

Attend this no cost RLI session during your lunch hour, and earn up to one hour of CME credit. This session focuses on building strong, interdependent health care teams. Note: Sessions may be taken individually, or as an entire series.

Only 30 seats per session, register here today!

Last Call to RHCs to Share Telehealth Experience

Thank you to the Oregon Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) that have connected with us to share your telehealth experience to contribute to the project ORH is managing in partnership with the Telehealth Alliance of Oregon (TAO) and the Northwest Regional Telehealth Resource Center (NRTRC). The purpose of this work is to contextualize and catalog the telehealth services at Oregon’s RHCs. Background details are on the ORH telehealth webpage. If you have not yet spoken with Rose Locklear and you’re able to offer telehealth at your clinic, please reach out! Email Rose.

Caring for the Whole Person with Physical Disabilities

This five-minute video demonstrates the vital importance of seeing a person with disabilities as a person first and a diagnosis second. As the provider meets with her new patient to give him bad news about a test result, she skillfully explores who he is as a person. Building this trusting and caring relationship significantly enhances future conversations about prognosis and goals of care, and the patient feels respected as an empowered partner.

More Native American Physicians Needed

An Oregon Health & Science University paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Network Open and primarily written by American Indian physicians, concludes that efforts to diversify medicine with and for Native Americans are lacking, as shown in flat to declining medical school graduation rates.

Daisies next to water


Award Recipient at Winding Waters

Congratulations to Dr. Keith DeYoung, who has been selected to receive the 2021 OHSU School of Medicine Alumni Association Volunteer Faculty Recognition Award. Dr. DeYoung graduated from the OHSU Family Medicine Residency program, and has been a dynamic part of the team at Winding Waters for more than 10 years. Thank you Dr. DeYoung, for your commitment to the community, and for robust and ongoing support of rural clinical rotations for MD, NP, PA, and RN students.

Oregon Critical Access IT Directors and Staff Awarded Continuing Education

ORH is pleased to announce its support of continuing education for Critical Access Hospital (CAH) information technologists through our Medicare Flexibility grant. This opportunity, which was awarded to six CAHs provides participants a free virtual course. The majority of awardees will partake in cybersecurity education! Congratulations to:

  • Blue Mountain Hospital
  • Samaritan Health System
  • Grande Ronde Hospital
  • Pioneer Memorial Hospital
  • Harney District Hospital
  • Good Shepherd Health Care System
South Beach State Park

News from AHEC

Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner Education Begins in Eastern Oregon

Northeast Oregon Area Health Education Center (NEOAHEC) received a $1 million grant from the Healthy Oregon Workforce Training Opportunity (HOWTO) grant program, sponsored by the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), to expand the three-year Doctor of Nursing Practice Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner (PMHNP) educational program from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) to a distance delivery model serving eastern Oregon.

The program works to provide education for eastern Oregon residents who already hold a bachelor's degree or higher in nursing, and retain them in the region as a highly skilled workforce able to practice in an area of health care high need. By growing its own PMHNPs, NEOAHEC will increase the workforce available to serve the mental health needs of the region. A large portion of NEOAHEC’s grant will fund scholarships for students to further reduce the barriers associated with returning to school. Students who have been accepted into this year’s program have received generous support from scholarships including:

  • NEOAHEC via HOWTO Grant $163,000—Scholarships awarded from this generous grant from OHA have enabled these students to remain in their homes, with their families, and achieve a higher level of education to provide service in their communities.
  • RENEW $55,000—The OHSU School of Nursing has received funding through the Health Resources and Services Administration to support the expansion of the PMHNP program to rural areas of the state. The grant provides scholarships for PMHNP students enrolled in the doctorate of nursing practice degree program.
  • Scholars for Healthy Oregon Initiative (SHOI) $39,000—SHOI funding provides full tuition and fees for a limited number of eligible students entering specific clinical degree programs at OHSU. In return, funding recipients agree to practice as a health care practitioner in a rural or underserved community in Oregon.

Three students from eastern Oregon have accepted admission to start the program this year. The students are spaced throughout the region in Baker, Umatilla, and Wallowa counties.

Meet the Students

PMHNP Student Darren Ramcharan

Darren is a registered nurse currently working at the prison in Pendleton. He has lived in eastern Oregon most of his life, which has helped him to understand the background, challenges, and perspective of his future patients.

"I have seen firsthand, working both in an acute and public health setting in the emergency department and currently in the state prison system, that there is an extreme lack of mental health providers and community options locally for the mentally ill to receive the proper care. By pursuing my PMHNP and bringing my education back to my community, I will be able to make a difference by providing the care that this community desperately needs."

PMHNP Student Nathan Neff

Nathan is a pastor and registered nurse currently working in Baker City. Nathan has spent the majority of his life in Baker City, and has seen firsthand the need for qualified and competent mental health providers.

"I anticipate that having another mental health provider with a spiritual and medical background will have a significant impact in Baker County. I appreciate the opportunity to go back to school, and NEOAHEC's work to bring this program to eastern Oregon has opened some great doors."

PMHNP Student Jacki Russell

Jacki recently completed her Bachelors of Science in Nursing from the OHSU School of Nursing in La Grande. Her background prior to nursing was social services, and she lives in Wallowa.

"Wallowa County does not currently have any practicing PMHNP's living in our area and I hope to help fill that gap in the future. I also have an interest in public health and community health. I feel that there will be opportunities for collaboration with community partners, and other service providers to address needs in my community related to mental health.”

Admission for year two will open in the early winter. More information about this program can be found here, where you can also, watch an informative video about the PMHNP Program.

Training Program for CNAs at St. Charles Health System

St. Charles Health System has partnered with Central Oregon Community College to create an internal training program for certified nursing assistants, also known as a CNA1. The program addresses the critical shortage of CNAs, while supporting caregivers as they advance their careers. Read more about the program here.

Family Medicine Rural Training Track scheduled to launch in 2024

A collaboration between OHSU and Sky Lakes Medical Center is working to improve health access in rural Oregon, by creating the first medical residency program in the central part of the state. Learn more about the program here.

Mt Hood Sunrise

ORH Spotlight

Rondyann Gerst, Field Services Program Manager

Rondyann Gerst

Rondyann is your Rural Health Clinic expert! Based in northeastern Oregon, she has worked in rural health care her entire career. After college, she accepted a position managing a general surgeon’s practice in La Grande. With family living in rural Oregon, she decided to stay. Rondyann decided to work with and become an advocate for Rural Health Clinics based on her passion for rural health, and her belief that rural health organizations are often overlooked when decisions are made on health care.

If asked to give advice to people who are considering living and working in rural Oregon, Rondyann suggests getting to know locals in the community; have them show you around and introduce you to the hidden secrets of a small town. As she knows well, some of the most wonderful things about living and working in rural Oregon are the beauty, outdoor activities, ease of commute, friendly people and the sense of safety.

Thank you Rondyann, we appreciate all the work and care you invest in our rural communities!