We Are Working to Make the WVRHA as Diverse as the Community We Serve

Photo by katie wheeler/FlickrCC

By Jacquelynn A. Copenhaver
President, West Virginia Rural Health Association Board of Directors

As the West Virginia Rural Health Association continues to increase in membership, we feel we have a commitment to having our Board of Directors reflect the diversity of our membership and the rural citizens of our state.

The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect for differences in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, gender expression, socio-economic status, educational background, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, and other ideologies.

We are committed to creating an atmosphere of acceptance and respect, understanding that no one group or individual is intrinsically superior to another.

Our strategic plan for the future includes the goal of making our Board of Directors more diverse, and we have already implemented some of the action steps to move us in the direction of diversity.

If this sounds like an organization that you want to be a part of, we have a role for you.

We embrace the understanding that diversity makes the West Virginia Rural Health Association more robust as an organization, and creates a more vibrant experience for all of us.

If this sounds like an organization that you want to be a part of, we have a role for you. If you’re not already a member, that’s the first step. You can become a member today for as little as $10.

And we are always looking for passionate and committed health professionals, students and community advocates to help us plan and host our annual conference, to do important health advocacy work, and to guide the organization as our board members of the future.

We want to hear from you. Reach out to us today, and be a part of the organization that empowers all West Virginians to advance their quality of life, their well-being and their access to excellence in rural health care.

Emerging Young Leader Urges Reimagining of How We Deliver Health Care in West Virginia

Photo: Brea Cunningham/FlickrCC

Supporting the next generation of health professionals and leaders is what inspires everyone at the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

It’s why we are always looking for new ways to engage with students and young health advocates. We know that West Virginia’s ability to overcome the pressing health challenges of today will depend on whether we can foster a strong and innovative public health workforce of talented professionals committed to rural people in this state.

People like Quintin Brubaker.

Quintin, who is currently studying medicine at West Virginia University, is the latest student to join WVRHA’s Board of Directors.

Having undergone medical training and study in three states across the region, he sees a need to evolve the way we think about health care and the role of traditional health care providers.

“The solution to many of the challenges will be not simply to provide more health care in the clinics and hospitals, but to find ways that communities can transform themselves with new models of health promotion, making changes that can be sustained,” he says.

“We’ll have to not only train and attract more health care workers, but also to ensure that our health care workforce is ready and able to fully engage the public about the urgency of these problems, and provide leadership in the context of community-driven health change.”

“The solution to many of the challenges will be to find ways that communities
can transform themselves with new models of health promotion.”

For Quintin, being a member of WVRHA is all about building those critical connections that will one day guide his career.

“Becoming involved with WVRHA is a way to complement my training as a clinician, and engage with an organization of people and institutions allied in pursuit of practical solutions to the state’s urgent health goals.”

If you are ready to be part of the coming generation of change in West Virginia, becoming a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association is a great place to start.

Student memberships are just $10. Sign up now at wvrha.org/become-a-member/

Between the Cracks of the Public Health System Is Where You’ll Find Dr. Angie Settle

Last year, the nonprofit health advocacy organization known as West Virginia Health Right provided free health services to more than 23,000 low-income people in the southern part of the state.

The organization was founded in 1982 by a small group of doctors and nurses in Charleston who believed that every person is entitled to quality healthcare, even if they don’t have private insurance.

As its CEO, Dr. Angie Settle has a close and personal understanding of the urgent plight of many West Virginians that are slipping through the cracks of America’s public healthcare system.

Having started with West Virginia Health Right as a Family Nurse Practitioner 20 years ago, Dr. Settle has dedicated her entire career to serving the uninsured and underinsured of West Virginia.

Like many born and raised West Virginians, she is stunned by the swift and devastating impact of drug addiction in local communities.

“The use of heroin is a startling, but common, reality that I would have never imagined just 10 years ago,” Dr. Settle says. “We must continue to battle this war that is being waged, to take back the health and wellbeing of our families and end the economic instability it has compounded.”

You can join inspired and ambitious healthcare leaders like Dr. Angie Settle as a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

Memberships start at just $10. Learn more at wvrha.org/become-a-member/

And although it doesn’t receive the same public attention that the opioid crisis does, Dr. Settle and West Virginia Health Right have also started to focus on what they are seeing as an urgent health need – dental services for low-income West Virginians.

“It is my goal during my lifetime to see a move toward preventative care for impoverished individuals, and not just treatment after the fact with multiple extractions,” she says. “This leads to a sad reality of the need for dentures in the very young. We can and must do better in West Virginia. We must offer preventative care, cleanings and restorative dental services for all West Virginians.”

Dr. Settle, a newly elected WVRHA board member, believes the organization plays a critical role for anyone interested in working toward creative and impactful solutions to the state’s pressing health issues.

“Being with like-minded individuals, focused on bettering the physical and mental wellbeing of our state’s citizens, is so important to all of our endeavors,” she says. “It will take a combined effort, like that of the WVRHA, to truly propel us all forward on the road to a healthier West Virginia. We must strive to rank as one of the best state’s in the nation and no longer settle for last place.”

Learn more about joining the West Virginia Rural Health Association at wvrha.org/become-a-member/

From West Africa to West Virginia: Member Spotlight on Bob Whitler

Bob Whitler and his wife Kathie.

The health of people in rural and underserved communities has been the guiding light of Bob Whitler’s life ever since he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the west African nation of Senegal, bringing clean water to isolated villages, 50 years ago.

Since then, Bob has become one the leading figures of West Virginia’s public health community.

After moving to West Virginia from his native Illinois (via Senegal) in 1968, he worked for WVU Extension Service and then for the Charleston Division/ WVU Medical Center.

In 1978 Bob and his wife and young son lived in Sierra Leone, where Bob was Associate Peace Corps Director for Health and Rural Development.

Back in West Virginia, he worked for the West Virginia Hospital Association establishing its first small and rural hospital committee, and was Vice President for Public Policy.

Bob is now Executive Director of the Partners in Health Network, Inc., a collaborative network of healthcare organizations, and Vice President for Government and Community Affairs at Charleston Area Medical Center.

We need this diversity of ideas, to come together to work toward real solutions.

Bob says that right now is a pivotal moment for West Virginia as it struggles to address the massive public health crises that threaten the future of the state.

“Our challenge is both exciting and daunting at the same time,” he says.

It’s why Bob believes so strongly in the importance of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

“Something very powerful happens when you bring together players from different sectors of the healthcare community, from universities and researchers to the folks working in hospitals and clinics,” he says. “We need this diversity of ideas, to come together to work toward real solutions.”

You can join passionate and committed healthcare professionals like Bob Whitler as a member of the West Virginia Rural Health Association.

Learn more at wvrha.org/become-a-member/

As Chair of West Virginia Rural Health Association’s Policy Committee, Bob is eager for the state’s health community to drive positive changes to local laws and legislation that tackle real health problems.

In particular, he’s excited to explore the potential of community paramedicine in West Virginia’s rural communities, allowing licensed paramedics to provide an expanded range of health services to patients in isolated areas.

He also anticipates the West Virginia Rural Health Association helping state legislators weigh the benefits of a sweetened beverages tax this coming legislative session, to provide additional funding for desperately-needed health programs across the state.

“The West Virginia Rural Health Association is the focal point for very important issues that impact the entire state,” Bob says. “Our ability to improve the health of people in West Virginia has a massive impact on everything, from the strength of our workforce, our education system, and what the future looks like for our kids and our grandkids. There is no greater challenge right now.”

Learn more at wvrha.org/become-a-member/