2020 International Rural Nursing Conference Keynote Presenters 


John Kirchgessner pictureJohn C. Kirchgessner, PhD, RN, Nurse Historian, Author
Opening Keynote: Enduring Issues in Nursing – Meeting Healthcare Needs in Rural Communities

John C. Kirchgessner is a nurse historian, whose research has focused on the nursing profession during the first half of the 20th century. His research explores the relationship between nurses and industry, specifically the work of nurses and the care they provided to West Virginia coal miners and their families. He has written and presented extensively on the West Virginia Miners Hospitals, the 1907 Monongah mine disaster, and public health in coal mining towns during the 1930s and 1940s. In addition, Dr. Kirchgessner has investigated how hospitals’ nursing departments during the mid-20th century were often income generators for their perspective institutions and not the cost centers hospital administrators traditionally claimed. His research has been presented at international and national research meetings. He is an Associate Professor of Nursing at St. John Fisher College Wegmans School of Nursing Rochester New York and has been affiliated with Eleanor Crowder Bjoring Center for Nursing Historical Inquiry at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kirchgessner co-authored The Voice of Professional Nursing Education: A 40-Year History of the American Association of Colleges of Nursing, Nursing Rural America: Perspectives from the Early 20th Century, and History of Professional Nursing in the United States: Toward a Culture of Health. He has also written book chapters and has published in refereed journals.


Katy SearleKathleen L. Searle, FNP-C, Owner, Firth Medical Center PLLC
General Session: Surviving the Rural Practice Environment - Sustainability Progressing to APM

After a devastating setback, Firth Medical Center PLLC, was doomed to be closed.  Access to healthcare in our small community is difficult, and losing the clinic was going to make it especially hard.  I decided that the clinic was vital to the community and that there had to be a way to make it sustainable and profitable.  We rolled up our sleeves, bought the clinic, kept our overhead down, and worked tirelessly to find every possible way to get paid!  Our theory was to be available to everyone so that meant being credentialed with every insurance company in our area.  It also meant finding every program that would be willing to help us, for free.  We utilized Qualis Health, TCPI, SHIP, and NCQA, among others, to help guide us into the new world of the Advanced Payment Model and as a member of an ACO.

Katy Searle’s goals have always been to help as many people in her community as she possibly can.  She and her clinic colleagues aim to be credentialed in every insurance company and allow access for EVERYONE!Her clinic, Firth Medical Center PLLC, is very busy and employs two other nurse practitioners, one part time LCSW(I)/biller, four CMAs, one CNA, an office manager and one janitorial personnel.  All of her employees live in Firth or Shelley, Idaho. Ms. Searle’s clinic became recognized as a Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) in 2018.  She and her employees work every day to maintain their Quality focus and uphold this recognition.The clinic is proud of their specialties in Family Practice, Rheumatology and Women’s Health.  One of their FNPs speaks fluent Spanish.  The clinic also offers a lifelong transformation program for health in and has been able to affect many of their patient’s lives with weight loss and increased health.  They lost 300 lbs. as a clinic, just the employees. Katy’s hobbies include golfing, playing the guitar and songwriting, being the fun grandma, and making chain saw bears.

Russ Barron pictureRuss Barron, Executive Director, Idaho Board of Nursing
General Session: Strengthening the Delivery of Healthcare Services in Rural Locations

Most everyone agrees rural communities struggle to provide needed healthcare services.  Because the reasons for this struggle are many and varied, no single solution solves the problem.  It takes multiple approaches to make meaningful improvements.  This presentation identifies some of the reasons challenges exist and their potential solutions, as well as considers some practical, achievable ways to strengthen the delivery of services, which lead to healthier outcomes.

Russ has served as the Executive Director of the Idaho Board of Nursing since June 2019.  He works with a 9-member board responsible for all aspects of nursing regulation in Idaho.  He oversees the board’s office operations involving approving nursing education, processing licensing applications, implementing disciplinary actions, and offering alternatives to discipline.  Idaho currently has about 30,000 licensed nurses.   

Before coming to the Board of Nursing, Russ worked for the Idaho Department of Welfare for more than 20 years.  During that time he held various positions within the organization. He was appointed Director in July 2017 and his role included overseeing the statewide operations of all Department programs and services including state hospitals and treatment centers, managing a budget of more than $3 Billion, and leading more than 2900 employees. He successfully directed transformational projects that positively impacted quality, timeliness, service delivery, customer satisfaction, and employee morale. Russ also actively served on several boards, councils, and committees.

Russ received his Bachelor’s degree in Business Management at Abilene Christian University in Abilene, Texas, and his Masters of Business Administration degree from Boise State University in Boise, Idaho.  Russ and his wife, Michelle, have two sons and two daughters.

Marc RingelMarc Ringel, MD, Consultant, Author
General Session: Using Information Technology to Make Rural Healthcare Even More Personal

Would you get on an airplane with a pilot who doesn’t believe in checklists?  On the other hand, how do you feel about the experience you’ve probably recently had as a patient, with a healthcare professional who busily checked off symptoms on a monitor screen, never changing their gaze long enough to look you in the eye and ask, “How are you doing?” and then listening to your answer?  This is the crux issue today with the electronic medical record and other automated healthcare information systems.  They struggle to do justice to both data and story.  

These fancy technologies are just tools, not ends in themselves.  This presentation will explore issues around employing the tools of information technology in ways that strengthen relationships and free us to do what we human beings do uniquely well:  understanding, touching and healing.  Real connection is the foundation of healing.  The robustness of our communities generally gives us rural practitioners a leg up in connecting with patients.  The big challenge now lies in incorporating the powerful new tools of information technology in ways that strengthen those connections, while helping us deliver the best that medical science has to offer.

Marc Ringel, MD, the son of two Chicago natives, was born and raised in that city, an unlikely start for a physician who has dedicated his career to rural medicine.  But that's just what he did, starting with a two year stint, from 1976 to 1978, as a general practitioner with the National Health Service Corps in Yuma, Colorado, population 2000.  He has delivered full service family medicine in a number of rural settings; has taught family practice residents, medical, nurse practitioner and physician assistant students; and has developed, managed and consulted on continuing medical education programs.  Among his proudest accomplishments is having developed the Rural Training Track program in Wray, Colorado in 1992, still the smallest town in the country to offer full time graduate medical training.  He has served as a consultant, written articles and a few books, been a columnist and radio commentator, and delivered talks to professional and lay audiences on many topics, especially on rural health and healthcare informatics.  Marc's most recent book is Digital Healing:  People, Information and Healthcare, published by Taylor&Francis in 2018 and released in audio format by Audible in 2019.  He is credentialed by the American Board of Family Medicine, with a Certificate of Added Qualification in Hospice and Palliative Medicine.


Dr. Oneko pictureOlola Oneko, MD, Gynecology, Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center Hospital, Professor, Tumaini University
General Session: Sharing My Experience of Training Health Providers in Rural Africa

Olola Oneko was born in Kenya in 1949. He completed Primary and Secondary School in Kenya. In 1967, he was awarded a scholarship for medical studies in Germany. In 1974, he completed his Medical Studies program at the Martin Luther University, Halle/ Wittenberg in Germany.

From 1974- 1980, he was an intern and registrar in St.Barbara Hospital and District Hospital in Bremervord in Germany. In 1985, he was awarded a Specialist Degree in OB/GYN from Dusseldorf, Germany. From 1985 -1990 he worked as Specialist and became Deputy Head in St. Josef Hospital in Germany. He moved to Mpilo Teaching Hospital in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe in 1990. In 1996, he was requested by German Government NGO to go to Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Center, where he became Deputy Chair of the OB/GYN Department in 2004. In 1997, he cofounded the Kilimanjaro Christian University Medical College in Moshi. In 2007, he became a lecturer and, in 2011, he became Senior Lecturer. He was awarded professorship in 2015. His areas of research include cervical cancer prevention research with Duke University in North Carolina, The World Health Organization, Queens University in Canada, and Cornell University in New York. In October 2019, he was offered a professorship position at the Maseno Medical School, in Kisumu, Kenya. 




For more information, contact Sea Talantis at stalantis@ccs.ua.edu or 205-348-3014 or Mandy Guin at mguin@ccs.ua.edu  or 205-348-6222.