Summit on the future of rural health care

The Third Annual Summit on the Future of Rural Health Care will take place on Oct. 29, 2024.

Check back here for updates leading up to the event.

The Third Annual Summit on the Future of Rural Health Care will take place on Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2024. This year’s event will focus on “Pioneering innovation in a shifting landscape.” The event will bring together some of the most dynamic and influential voices in health care, technology and business for engaging and thought-provoking conversations that will push us to challenge the status quo and explore new strategies for transforming care delivery in rural America during a time of rapid disruption.

These diverse voices from across the health care ecosystem will discuss timely topics, including:

  • Harnessing technology and AI in health care
  • Expanding access to high-quality, convenient, affordable and equitable care
  • Ensuring financial stability
  • Restoring trust
  • Addressing workforce challenges
  • Improving the health care consumer experience

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2024 Speakers and Moderators

Nworah Ayogu, MD
Head of Healthcare Impact, Thrive Capital

Dr. Nworah Ayogu is the head of healthcare impact at Thrive Capital. Prior to Thrive he served as the general manager of Amazon Clinic and before that as the chief medical officer of Amazon Pharmacy. Prior to joining Amazon, Dr. Ayogu was the founding medical director for CityBlock Health. He has worked with governments, payers, and health systems to improve access and quality of care, and he has published research in multiple journals including the New England Journal of Medicine. In addition, he served as a member of the White House Health Equity roundtable and has held faculty appointments at Harvard and NYU. Dr. Ayogu has received numerous awards including being named one of Business Insider’s 30 under 40 and Modern Healthcare’s 50 most influential clinical executives. Dr. Ayogu obtained his M.D. from Harvard Medical School and his M.B.A. from Harvard Business School. He trained in internal medicine at Columbia University and is a board-certified internist.

Ceci Connolly
President & CEO, Alliance of Community Health Plans

Ceci Connolly, a nationally recognized health care leader, is president and CEO of the Alliance of Community Health Plans (ACHP). She spent 25 years in the journalism field and is a well-respected author and TV commentator. As the Washington Post’s former chief health correspondent, she chronicled President Obama’s drive for sweeping health care reform. Connolly is co-author of “LANDMARK: The Inside Story of America’s New Health Care Law and What It Means for Us All” and has been published in numerous publications, including The New England Journal of Medicine.

In her current role, she works with some of the most innovative executives in the health sector to provide high-quality, affordable care to all. She is a leading thinker in the disruptive forces reshaping our health system and has been a trusted adviser to C-suite executives. Connolly has worked at two international health care consulting firms and is well-versed in a variety of areas pertinent to business today. She is an expert on communications, leadership coaching, crisis management and the Washington regulatory process.

A highly sought-after speaker, Connolly has the unique ability to translate complex subjects for audiences at all levels. Her breadth of experience as a health care adviser and as a political reporter both here and abroad enables her to speak authoritatively on a range of subjects including politics, health care, journalism, and what it takes to be a successful woman in the male-dominated worlds of Washington and Latin America.

Connolly was included on Business Insider’s inaugural list of “DC Health Care Power Players” and was also the first non-physician to receive the prestigious Mayo Clinic Plummer Society award for promoting deeper understanding of science and medicine. She is a founding member of Women of Impact (WOI) for Healthcare, serves on the advisory board of Fannie Mae’s Sustainable Cities initiative and is a former board member of Whitman-Walker Health.

Eve Cunningham, MD, MBA
GVP, Chief of Virtual Care and Digital Health, Providence; Founder and CEO, MedPearl

As Providence’s group VP and chief of virtual care and digital health, Dr. Eve Cunningham leads a care transformation portfolio of products and services that includes nine enterprise virtual care service lines, Hospital at Home, remote patient monitoring, remote therapeutic monitoring, a virtual nursing team and clinically focused digital products. Her team provides products and services to over 100+ hospitals across eight states. She is also the co-chair of the clinical AI governance team at Providence which is charged with identifying, vetting and prioritizing AI use cases for clinical care.

Dr. Cunningham is the founder of MedPearl, a patented clinical intelligence engine designed to support the next best actions and surface relevant patient data at the point of care. The platform is currently scaled at Providence and is used regularly by thousands of clinicians.

As a national speaker, Dr. Cunningham is a thought leader and advocate for improvements in telehealth, clinician shortages and workforce burnout, clinical innovation, and the application of AI in clinical care. She serves on the HIMSS Physician Executive Committee and was a recent recipient of the HIMSS-AMDIS Changemaker in Health Award (2024) and Becker’s Health IT Up-and-Comers (2023).

Dr. Cunningham joined Providence St. Joseph Health in 2017, initially serving as the chief medical officer of Providence Medical Group Southwest. She is board-certified in obstetrics and gynecology and has practiced since 2008 in the South Puget Sound community. Prior to joining Providence, Dr. Cunningham served as women’s and children’s service line medical director, medical director of the Center of Excellence in minimally invasive gynecology and division chief of women’s, children’s, urgent care and virtual care services at CHI-Franciscan Health (currently, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health).

With over 20 years of clinical practice and 12 years of leading and managing clinical operations, Dr. Cunningham has the advantage of understanding the practical technologies, change management, workflow and care transformation strategies that are needed in clinical settings.

Dr. Cunningham received her medical degree at Saint Louis University School of Medicine and postgraduate residency training at Kaiser Los Angeles Medical Center. She received her master’s in business administration from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. She is passionate about restoring joy to the practice of medicine and addressing some of our greatest challenges in the industry related to workforce shortages, hospital capacity and care fragmentation.

Tina Freese Decker, MHA, MSIE, FACHE
President & CEO, Corewell Health

Tina Freese Decker is president and CEO of Corewell Health, a leading integrated health system that strives to provide simple, affordable, equitable and exceptional care and coverage to millions of Michigan residents. She leads more than 60,000 colleagues who are passionate about the relentless pursuit of better health for their communities.

Known for her vision and drive, Freese Decker was a key architect of the 2022 integration of Beaumont Health and Spectrum Health, which are now unified under the Corewell Health brand. Determined to tackle the health field’s greatest challenges, she inspires through innovation and collaboration to make health better for all. She leads from her heart in advancing a culture and developing people to achieve their fullest potential.

Freese Decker brings more than 20 years of experience in integrated health systems to her role. Corewell Health is composed of the 21-hospital Corewell Health system and Priority Health, the third-largest provider-sponsored health plan in the country with more than one million members. The system’s integrated model of care and coverage provides a robust network serving urban, suburban and rural markets.

Freese Decker’s career journey started in the admitting department of a community hospital in Iowa, continued with an administrative fellowship at Spectrum Health in 2002, and went on to include a variety of roles at Spectrum Health, including president of the system hospital group, chief strategy officer and chief operating officer. She was named president and CEO of Spectrum Health in 2018. She continues to drive significant, transformational change as president and CEO of Corewell Health.

Freese Decker earned a bachelor of science in finance from Iowa State University and graduated with a master of health administration and master of industrial engineering from the University of Iowa.

Freese Decker influences and shapes health policy, engages in advocacy, and builds strong relationships with decision makers across Michigan and beyond. She was recently named 2024 chair-elect for the American Hospital Association Board of Trustees and will become chair in 2025. She is a board member of the Business Leaders for Michigan, Detroit Regional Partnership and Gerald R. Ford Foundation; board chair of The Right Place; and past board chair of The Economic Club of Grand Rapids and Michigan Health & Hospital Association.

Her most recent recognition includes Modern Healthcare’s 100 Most Influential People in Healthcare and Top 25 Women Leaders in Healthcare, The Economic Club of Grand Rapids’ Business Person of the Year, Crain’s Detroit Business’ Top Newsmakers of the Year, MLive’s Women Who Shape the State and Grand Rapids Business Journal’s 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan.

Bruce Scott

Bruce Scott, MD
President, American Medical Association

Bruce A. Scott, MD, was inaugurated as the 179th president of the American Medical Association (AMA) in June 2024. In this role, he serves as the primary spokesperson for the AMA. Concurrently he continues as a member of the AMA Board of Trustees and has served for 10 consecutive years.

Dr. Scott has been a leader in medicine throughout his career – prior to being voted president-elect in 2023, he served four years as speaker and four years as vice speaker of the AMA House of Delegates. He presided at the meetings of delegates from every state and specialty as they crafted policies for the medical profession. Before this, he was a member of the House of Delegates for over 20 years.

He previously served on the AMA Foundation’s board of directors and as president of the foundation. Dr. Scott has been president of his county and state medical associations and served on the boards of the Greater Louisville Medical Society and the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) for over 20 years. As a leader in these associations, he fought for access to care for vulnerable populations, improvement in public health and reduction of administrative burdens in health care. He was awarded the KMA Distinguished Service Award in recognition of his work on behalf of Kentucky’s physicians and patients.

In addition to his work within organized medicine, Dr. Scott is a member of the board of directors for Health2047, the AMA’s Silicon Valley-based innovation subsidiary that identifies and funds tech-enabled commercial health care enterprises. In this capacity, he is helping shape the future of medicine from yet another fundamentally important perspective and platform. Dr. Scott is passionate about practicing medicine. He is the president of his six-physician independent private practice group, medical director of a multispecialty ambulatory surgery center and holds a clinical appointment at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. His commitment to change in medicine is grounded in the barriers to care he strives to overcome in his daily practice.

A graduate of Vanderbilt University, Dr. Scott completed his medical education and residency at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, and a fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Subsequently, he returned to his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, to practice. He is board-certified in both otolaryngology and facial plastic surgery.

An author of myriad articles for peer-reviewed publications, as well as chapters in otolaryngology textbooks, Dr. Scott also speaks to physician audiences around the country on topics ranging from leadership and advocacy to sinusitis and clinical documentation.

Dr. Scott has been happily married for over 30 years and is the proud father of three young adults.

Ashley Thompson

Ashley Thompson
SVP, Public Policy Analysis & Development, American Hospital Association

Ashley Thompson is the senior vice president of public policy analysis and development for the American Hospital Association (AHA), a position she has held since 2015. In this role, Ashley provides leadership, strategic direction and management in the development, articulation and advocacy of the association’s policy positions. Additionally, she leads AHA’s formal policy development process, which solicits input from key hospital leaders on issues related to advocacy, public policy and field leadership. Ashley has held various policy roles in the association over her 20-year tenure.

Ashley also served as health policy advisor to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance, where she was policy lead for Chairman Charles Grassley (R-IA) on Medicare Part A issues, including those related to hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, home health care and hospice. During her time with the committee, she developed and drafted the Medicare provisions adopted in the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005, including provisions related to value-based purchasing and post-acute care payment reforms.

Additionally, Ashley spent seven years at hospitals and health systems, working in the areas of strategic planning, finance and policy at UChicago Medicine, NorthShore University HealthSystem, and Sinai Chicago. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Bucknell University and her Master of Health Services Administration from the Department of Health Management and Policy at the University of Michigan.

Past Event Recaps

2023 Summit Recap

View the 2023 full event recording.

2022 Summit Recap

Media Coverage

About Sanford Health

Sanford Health, the largest rural health system in the United States, is dedicated to transforming the health care experience and providing access to world-class health care in America’s heartland. Headquartered in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the organization serves more than 1.4 million patients and nearly 200,000 health plan members across 250,000 square miles. Learn more.