Organization Newsletter

September 2014

In this issue...

  1. Introducing Washington’s New State Office of Rural Health Director
  2. Medical Assistant Pathways Program 
  3. Call for Presentations for the 28th Northwest Regional Rural Health Conference
  4. Celebrating 22 Years! 
  5. Speech-Language Pathologists Use Technology to Treat Dysphagia at St. Luke’s
  6. Hard Work Pays Off
  7. Washington Department of Health Conducts Budget Exercises 


The Washington Rural Health Association e-newsletter is a publication of Washington Rural Health Association, a not-for-profit association composed of individual and organization members who share a common interest in rural health. This e-newsletter seeks to disseminate news and information of interest to rural health professionals and stakeholders to help establish a state and national network of rural health care advocates.

WRHA members include administrators, educators, students, researchers, government agencies and workers, physicians, hospitals, clinics, migrant and community clinics, public health departments, insurers, professional associations and educational institutions. If you are interested in joining or renewing your membership with WRHA click here.

Introducing Washington’s New State Office of Rural Health Director

Submitted by Bonnie Burlingham
[email protected]

After months of searching, the Department of Health has hired Pat Justis to lead the State Office of Rural Health. Pat has a clinical background in behavioral health and years of experience in quality improvement and practice transformation.

Before joining the State Office of Rural Health, Pat worked at the Department of Health leading the Medical Home Collaborative and the Washington Health Improvement Network. She was a key leader who made rural providers and clinics a priority.

To help the state get to know her better, I asked her to give us one tidbit about herself that most people don’t know about her. A little known fact about Pat is that she is working on mastering “Stairway to Heaven” on the bass clarinet.

She will be out and about meeting with key rural health leaders in the coming months. Do not hesitate to email her at [email protected] or call (360-236-2805) to introduce yourself and your work. Pat is a great asset to the rural health team across our state.

return to the top

Medical Assistant Pathways Program



Submitted by Zach Nostdal
z[email protected]

Are your medical assistants credentialed?

Medical assistants working in Washington State must have either a Medical Assistant-Certified (MA-C) or Medical Assistant-Registered (MA-R) credential through the Washington State Department of Health. If you know of working MAs who may need to catch up on education, training or preparing for a certification exam, we are here to help.

The Medical Assistant Pathways Program allows working MAs who are either MA-R or unregistered to become MA-C through customized and flexible education plans with minimal disruption to work schedules.

This is especially helpful for working MAs in rural areas, who might not be able to travel to attend a traditional class. Though almost all the coursework is online, there are 4 clinical days and students are encouraged to come in for in-person support.

The program is generally free to MAs as it is funded by a Hospital Employees Education and Training (HEET) grant which includes a partnership between SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, healthcare employers, and select colleges within the Washington State Board of Community and Technical Colleges system. Normally, the only cost to MAs is buying the course books.

The next cohorts start September 22, with clinicals at Highline College and Yakima Valley Community College. Future cohorts are also planned to start in winter 2015.

If you are an employer who wants to learn if the program can help your MAs, please contact Jennifer Johnston, the HEET Program Manager at Highline College, at [email protected]

If you are a medical assistant interested in participating in the program, please contact Cirihn Malpocher at [email protected]

You can also learn more at the program’s website:

return to the top

Call for Presentations
28th Northwest Regional Rural Health Conference 

Submitted by Bobby Jones 
[email protected]

The 28th Northwest Regional Rural Health Conference is seeking dynamic presentations for the March 18-19, 2015 conference at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, Washington. The theme of the 2015 conference is Policy to Reality: Rural Health Tools for Success. Presenters are urged to include workable tools, strategies, methods, or approaches that conference attendees can take with them.

Presenters can choose to lead or participate in breakout sessions, panel presentations, or round table discussions. The deadline for presentation submissions is November 5, 2014. Presenters who have been selected to present will be notified by mid-December 2014.

Anyone interested in applying can find more information and submit their presentation at:

return to the top

Celebrating 22 Years! 

Submitted by Jillian Connolly
[email protected]

In August, Linda J. Powell, MD completed 22 years at the Odessa Clinic. This is something OMHC would like to proudly acknowledge. Imagine - that means over 140,000 hours of call (not over 15 minutes from town) and more than 30,000 visits in the clinic over the past 22 years! This means treating family and friends and going the extra mile to help oversee healthcare here in Odessa.

She attended medical school at SUNY in Syracuse, NY and completed her residency of 3 years as Chief of Residents at Wyoming Family Practice Residency in Casper, WY. She and her husband, Steve, were looking for a small rural town that was half way between Los Angeles and upstate New York, hence Odessa. Doctor Powell, Steven and their 2-month old son Zack arrived in August 1992.

She and Steven have three children (two in college and one in high school) and have always been involved in many different sports, family and community activities. When there is spare time, Doctor Powell enjoys cooking (especially desserts), sewing, golfing, boating and family activities. Being active in the community, you will see her involved with the Odessa Healthcare Foundation’s annual auction and winetasting event as a Foundation board member. In the past she has been a key organizer in the healthcare sponsored golf tournament. You will find her helping with other organizations such as FBLA, Knowledge Bowl, Historical Society, Women’s Health Night and other fundraising activities that are important to her and her family.

Doctor Powell is the Chief of Medical Staff at Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center and the Medical Director of Life Care Center in Ritzville. She is a member of the Washington State Medical Association and the American Board of Family Medicine. Doctor Powell stays current in certifications including certification in Family Medicine, Basic, Advanced Cardiac, Trauma and Pediatric Life Support. She sees patients in the Odessa Rural Health Clinic/Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center along with Danny Jones, PA-C and Craig Olson, MD. She speaks Spanish and French. She has dedicated herself to providing quality care to the community and surrounding area of Odessa.

It is important to Doctor Powell that we have rural doctors to serve rural communities in the future and that these folks know what it is like to raise a family and serve in and around rural communities as their healthcare provider. For this reason she is a member of the faculty of the University of Washington, which includes supervising residents at the Family Practice Residency Program in Spokane monthly, hosting and teaching a RUOP (Rural Underserved Opportunities Program) student for a month each year here in Odessa, and hosting students from the WAMI Program at the University, showing them what it is like to be in rural medicine.

Other organizations have recognized her dedication to rural medicine and Odessa. She is a past recipient of the Washington Rural Health Association’s Outstanding Practitioner Award and the Doc Hollywood Award given by the Indiana Rural Health Association to a doctor who has shown dedication toward improving healthcare in his/her own underserved rural community.

Odessa Memorial Healthcare Center would like to thank Doctor Powell for her years of dedication and commitment to giving quality healthcare to our community and being an active member of our community. Here’s to you Doctor Powell.

return to the top

Speech-Language Pathologists Use Technology to Treat Dysphagia at St. Luke’s

St. Luke’s speech-language pathologists use VitalStim technology to treat dysphagia.

Submitted by Jerrie Heyamoto
[email protected]

Patients with dysphagia or difficulty swallowing, can now benefit from VitalStim® Therapy System provided by treatment from St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute’s speech-language pathologists. Dysphagia affects 15 million Americans of all age groups.

VitalStim provides therapists an additional treatment to support traditional swallowing exercises. Low level Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation (NMES) is used on the front of the neck. It is safe, painless and noninvasive. “We work with each patient to understand what methods best meets their needs and recovery expectations, providing personalized care,” said April Montney-Codr, a speech-language pathologist at St. Luke’s.

Since receiving the system last November, St. Luke’s therapists have used the system with patients with a variety of conditions such as stroke, brain injury and Parkinson’s disease. VitalStim helps patients strengthen the oral and pharyngeal muscles, those muscles used to eat or drink, as they have been weakened due to injury or illness.

St. Luke’s uses Experia’s biofeedback modality to show the patient their current swallowing capacity and effort. This process measures the muscle contraction occurring when swallowing and applying those results to the patient’s swallowing exercises.

“We are excited to have this technology as part of our resources available for patients suffering from swallowing disorders,” said Megan Wood, a St. Luke’s speech-language pathologist.

“Our first priority is our patients,” said Nancy Webster, director for rehabilitation services at St. Luke’s. “At St. Luke’s, we strive to provide the very best in patient care and being a resource for healthy living. Our staff is committed to continually improving the quality of life for our patients by providing the highest standards of care.”

For more information about the rehabilitation services provided by St. Luke’s visit

About St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute

St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute is the region’s largest free-standing physical medicine and rehabilitation hospital and the only Level I trauma rehabilitation hospital in the Inland Northwest. St. Luke’s, accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities (CARF) and The Joint Commission, serves more than 7,000 patients each year in inpatient and outpatient settings - people who have suffered a stroke, lost a limb, and suffered a brain injury, spinal cord injury or one of many other illnesses or injuries. St. Luke’s is a division of Inland Northwest Health Services (INHS).

For more information on St. Luke’s visit us on:


return to the top


Hard Work Pays Off


Submitted by Jerrie Heyamoto
[email protected]

Dick Hilton had the scare of a lifetime. What started as making a pot of coffee turned into Dick’s left leg shaking, him falling to the floor, and pinning his right arm underneath his body. Dick had suffered a stroke.

Conscious, but unable to move, he lay helpless on the kitchen floor for hours until a friend stopped by the house to check on him. “He knew my wife was gone for a couple of days and had tried to reach me that evening, but I didn’t answer the phone,” Dick explained. “He came by and I just yelled for help until he heard me.”

Soon after the paramedics arrived they called Northwest MedStar to transport Dick to Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane. Dick remembers both the paramedics and the NW MedStar flight team, saying, “Everybody was nice. They talked to me the whole way, telling me that I was going to be okay.”

After his stay at Sacred Heart Hospital, Dick was transferred to St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Institute for his recovery. When Dick arrived at St. Luke’s he couldn’t walk.

After three weeks of intense inpatient physical and occupational therapy, Dick’s prognosis was much better.

Dick can now walk by himself. He said it was the dedicated staff that helped him to improve. “You have to learn it all over again and they [the therapists] take you through that process. I didn’t think I could do it, but by golly I did,” Dick said. While proud of his progress, Dick does not sugar coat the experience. “It’s hard work. You don’t get anything accomplished unless you do hard work. You can’t just skip through it. If you do, you won’t ever get better. They’re here to make you better. That is their primary job.” Dick became close to the St. Luke’s staff who aided in his recovery, whom he now views as friends and plans on visiting in the future.

Living on 40 acres of land in Clayton, Washington, with his wife, two dogs, and some horses, Dick was grateful to be able to return home and continue his recovery.

return to the top

Washington Department of Health Conducts Budget Exercises

Submitted by Nico Patel 
[email protected]

Due to recent revenue forecasts showing government revenue is increasing slower than anticipated, Governor Inslee has asked agency leaders, including the Washington Department of Health (DOH), to conduct budget exercises to reduce spending by 15%. The DOH compiled and finalized a list of programs for possible funding reduction. Budget exercises for the 2015-17 budget cycle are in preliminary stages and will go through several iterations before becoming law. The Governor is legally required to submit a budget by December and must rely on past tax sources for the future budget. The budget exercises are a way for state officials to prioritize funding choices.

At this time, the DOH is proposing the possible elimination of funding for the Western and Eastern Washington Area Health Education Centers (AHECs). Programs managed by AHECs include recruitment and retention programs for primary care centers, veteran employment initiatives, continuing education programs and others. AHECs prioritize the management and development of programs that grow the health care workforce in rural and underserved areas.

For more information, please contact Nico Patel at [email protected] 

return to the top