2023 IHA Small & Rural Hospitals Annual Meeting: June 28-29

Time: 7:30 AM


Meeting Location
Bank of Springfield Center
1 Convention Center Plaza
Springfield, IL 62701
(217) 788-8800

President Abraham Lincoln Springfield - a DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel
701 E. Adams Street
Springfield, IL 62701
(217) 544-8800

Room rates: $129 single/double plus tax
Book with IHA’s discounted rate 
Rooms are held under the IHA room block through 5 pm on June 13, 2023.


 First staff member per hospital or health system


 Each additional staff member *


 Board members


 Any one-day registration


*The additional registrant(s) must be employed at the same hospital or hospital system corporate office as the first registrant to qualify for this discount.

Register Online

Building a vibrant rural health system means keeping one eye on the present with another solidly focused on the future. It means looking for new solutions to persistent challenges while anticipating new competitors in the field. With deep roots in your communities, small and rural hospitals are well positioned to reshape healthcare for the future by building on milestones of the past.

See our brochure to learn more.


Wednesday, June 28

7:30 am: Registration & Breakfast Buffet

8:30 am: Welcome

Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, President and CEO, FHN Memorial Hospital Chair, IHA Small and Rural Hospitals Constituency Section

8:40 am: A Path Forward: The Rural Healthcare System of the Future (Keynote Address)

Keith J. Mueller, PhD, Gerhard Hartman Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Iowa and Director, Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, Rural Policy Research Institute

Small and rural hospitals are often the only providers of health-related services in the communities you serve. With this awesome responsibility comes significant challenges like staff shortages, increased costs and other financial pressures. To guide you on a sustainable path forward, rural healthcare expert Keith J. Mueller, PhD, will pinpoint opportunities to strengthen rural healthcare within changing delivery and finance models. This enlightening keynote address will answer this pivotal question: What does the rural healthcare system of the future look like?

9:45 am: President's Address

A.J. Wilhelmi, IHA President and CEO

10:05 am: Network Break – Sponsor Hall

10:35 am: IHA Advocacy Update

David Gross, IHA Senior Vice President, Government Relations

Advocating for small and rural hospitals is an essential part of IHA’s service to members. Our efforts in Springfield and Washington, D.C., address the issues that matter most to you—and to your hospital’s long-term viability. Hear the latest updates on state and federal policies impacting small and rural hospitals from IHA leaders. 

11:10 am: Keeping Our Staff Safe: A Discussion on Workplace Violence

Anthony A. Bucki, DNP, MSN, RN, Director of Emergency Services, Morris Hospital
Keith G. McGlen, CPP, CHPA, Vice President, Security and Emergency Management, Carle Health
Moderated by Keneatha Johnson, MPH, IHA Senior Director, Safety and Emergency Preparedness

How can you safeguard hospital staff from physical violence and verbal assault? Top on the list: adopting smart strategies to identify patients or visitors who may become violent. A panel discussion on this urgent issue—as violent incidents increase in small and rural hospitals—will explore best practices to protect your employees from harm.

12:10 pm: Luncheon

1:00 pm: Concurrent Partner Programs

Maintaining Your Patient Safety Culture in Challenging Times

Carrie Pinasco, IHA Senior Director, Midwest Alliance for Patient Safety
Jenny Winkler, IHA Senior Director, Quality, Safety and Health Policy

As small and rural hospitals prioritize patient safety, top strategies should be on every hospital’s checklist. This breakout session will explore the role of leadership walk rounds and robust error reporting, among other evidence-based strategies to strengthen your hospital’s safety culture.

Monitoring Utilization Trends with COMPdata

Jeff Balsewicz, IHA Senior Director, Operations and Data Governance, Informatics
Ken Jay, IHA Vice President, Informatics

Understanding why your patients are coming to your hospital—and the hospitals around you—can help stake your ground in the crowded healthcare marketplace. In this breakout session, COMPdata staff will show you their new Guided Analytics dashboard and how key data within the dashboard can support decision-making about market share, patient migration and service lines.

Increasing Patient Access to Medications for Opioid Use Disorder

Nicole Gastala, MD, Medical Director, Illinois Department of Human Services, Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division and Family Medicine Physician, UI Health
Ronald J. Vlasaty, Chief Operating Officer, Family Guidance Centers, Inc.
Michael Wahl, MD, FACMT, Medical Director, Illinois Poison Center, Senior Clinical Instructor, The University of Chicago

Treatment for opioid use disorder reaches just one in five Americans with opioid use disorder. This breakout session will highlight a promising solution for small and rural hospitals: the state’s no-cost MAR NOW referral program to connect patients with immediate treatment. You’ll hear how MAR NOW works in hospitals and about treatment partners in central and southern Illinois.

Please note this session does not qualify for continuing education credits.

1:45 pm: The Future of Work is Human: Transforming Your Organization in a New Era

Lisa X. Walden, Good Company Consulting Co-Founder

Moderated by Mark Gridley, President and CEO, FHN Memorial Hospital and Chair, IHA Small and Rural Hospitals Constituency Section

Our brave new world of work puts people first, abolishes burnout and embraces flexibility. This thought-provoking session will inspire you to courageously create a work environment that serves both your organization and your employees. With a new approach, you can leave behind what’s familiar and comfortable for what’s engaging and fulfilling for your staff. Following her presentation, we’ll have a discussion with our workplace expert on reimagining the future of work in hospitals.

3:15 pm: Network Break – Sponsor Hall

3:45 pm: Addressing Rural Health Disparities with Innovative Models of Care

Panelists include:
Jennifer Barbour, Director of Public Relations, Sparta Community Hospital
Mary Frances Barthel, MD, MHCM, FACP, SFHM, Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Blessing Health System
Katherine L. Ryczek, MHA, BSHM, Manager of Process Improvement, Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital
Moderated by Lisa Harries, IHA Assistant Vice President, Health Equity and Policy

Small and rural hospitals have shown tremendous commitment and progress in addressing longstanding disparities in healthcare. Hear about successful initiatives from four small and rural hospitals reflecting four pillars—Our People, Our Organization, Our Patients and Our Community—as we celebrate your milestones in health equity.

4:45-5:45 pm: Reception – Sponsor Hall 

Thursday, June 29

7:30 am: Breakfast Buffet – Sponsor Hall

8:30 am: Rural Healthcare Regulatory Roundup

Martie Ross, Kansas City Office Managing Principal, PYA      

For over three years, hospitals have been operating with greater flexibility and increased federal funding. The shift from the COVID-19 Public Health Emergency—expected to end May 11—has major implications for small and rural hospitals. This session, led by policy expert Martie Ross, will unpack COVID-related changes and other top regulatory issues impacting small and rural hospitals. You’ll get practical tips and best practices to navigate the changes, achieve compliance and strengthen hospital operations.

9:30 am: Networking Break

9:50 am: Navigating a Changing Market: Strategies for Rural Hospital Financial Stability

Eric Shell, CPA, MBA, Chairman, Stroudwater

Outside competitors continue to disrupt healthcare—propelling the industry’s accelerated evolution—as small and rural hospitals confront increased financial pressures. Hospital leaders will continue to face increasing pressure from competitors unless they adapt to new market realities and rewrite the functional imperative of their rural health system. Offering best practices and strategies, this session will help you leverage your market position and improve financial and operational performance—while coexisting with outside competitors.


Alex Weber, American Ninja Warrior, Award-Winning Leader and Entertainer

When things get tough, do you quit or commit? To accomplish a goal, solve a problem and take your organization to the next level, you must choose to commit. In this exhilarating closing session, you’ll learn about the five keys of being unstoppable so you can achieve peak leadership and performance. From his start as an American Ninja Warrior host to a contestant himself, Alex Weber will show you how to overcome challenges though his battle-tested system. You’ll gain energy and become more productive and a better problem solver. Get ready to become unstoppable!

12:00 pm: Adjourn

Who Should Attend

Registration is open only to IHA-member hospitals and health systems and 2023 IHA Corporate Sponsors.


Jennifer Barbour, Director of Public Relations, Sparta Community Hospital
A seasoned professional, Barbour has over 15 years of experience in healthcare and social services marketing, public relations and outreach. At Sparta Community Hospital, she has served as the Community Champion for the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development Program. In addition, Barbour works with the community to help identify and address community health needs, and leads employee engagement and medical student recruitment efforts. She is Chair of the University of Illinois Extension Unit 26 Advisory Board, Assistant Governor of the Rotary District 6510 and Vice-Chair of the Healthy Communities Alliance.

Mary Frances Barthel, MD, MHCM, FACP, SFHM, Chief Quality and Safety Officer, Blessing Health System
Dr. Barthel has worked as a hospitalist for 19 years in Wisconsin and Illinois. She joined Blessing Health System in 2011 as Hospitalist Medical Director before transitioning to Chief Quality and Safety Officer in 2015. With a master’s degree in healthcare management, Dr. Barthel led Infection Prevention for the Hospital Incident Command System, consistently engaged in issues around COVID-19 testing, isolation, contact tracing, treatment and care, and vaccination of patients and staff.

Anthony A. Bucki, DNP, MSN, RN, Director of Emergency Services Morris Hospital
Dr. Bucki has over 30 years of extensive emergency nursing experience. Dr. Bucki began his career as clinical operations manager at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, where he was responsible for daily operations of the emergency department (ED) and worked as an ED nurse. He then became interim ED director at UChicago Medicine. Dr. Bucki is currently the director of emergency services for Morris Hospital. He also manages his own on-site healthcare screening company that provides screenings and pre-employment physicals to manufacturing companies. Since 1995, he has been a part of the Emergency Nurses Association as state director for the Illinois ENCARE Program, overseeing programs on injury prevention. Dr. Bucki has received multiple honors for his work in operations management and nursing.

Nicole Gastala, MD, Medical Director, Illinois Department of Human Services, Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division and Family Medicine Physician, UI Health
Dr. Gastala is board certified in family and addiction Medicine. She graduated from Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and completed her family medicine residency at the University of Iowa. Dr. Gastala has developed and expanded medication-assisted recovery by mentoring prescribers, guiding residents and training clinicians in Illinois. She has also focused on the development of walk-in integrated behavioral health, addiction and primary care programs within Mile Square Health Center, the Federally Qualified Health Center at UI Health, where she practices family medicine. In January 2021, Dr. Gastala became the medical director of the Illinois Department of Human Services’ Substance Use Prevention and Recovery Division.

Mark Gridley, MBA, FACHE, President and CEO, FHN Memorial Hospital and Chair, IHA Small and Rural Hospital Constituency Section
With over 30 years of healthcare experience, Gridley has managed and developed special teams and projects impacting caregivers, patients and community members. His experience includes hands-on care delivery; clinical, administrative and operational management; and physician leadership. Gridley previously served as Administrator and Market Executive with Aurora Medical Group and Vice President of Physician Affairs, then Chief Operating Officer with FHN Memorial Hospital in Freeport, where he currently oversees the provision of an integrated care delivery system. Gridley proudly served in active duty in the U.S. Army as a medic and licensed practical nurse. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Keith G. McGlen, CPP, CHPA, Vice President, Security and Emergency Management, Carle Health
McGlen brings nearly 30 years of safety and emergency management experience leading security efforts at some of the largest healthcare organizations in the country. He has improved security and response outcomes by focusing on clear, quality-driven strategies. McGlen has supported clinicians through introducing effective technology, instilling a corporate security vision, managing risk and developing processes to improve safety responsiveness. He was previously Vice President of Security Services at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital; Associate Vice President of System Security Services at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston; and Director of Security, Parking and Transportation Services at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C.

Keith J. Mueller, PhD, Gerhard Hartman Professor, Department of Health Management and Policy, University of Iowa and Director, Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis, Rural Policy Research Institute
With more than 220 scholarly articles and policy papers to his credit, Mueller has received awards from the National Rural Health Association (NRHA), Rural Policy Research Institute (RUPRI) and University of Nebraska recognizing his research contributions. Currently chairing RUPRI’s Health Panel, Mueller previously served as NRHA president and as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services. He also has served on national advisory committees to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. In 2016, Mueller received the University of Iowa Regents Award for Faculty Excellence. 

Martie Ross, JD, Principal and Director, Center for Rural Health Advancement, PYA
After two decades as a healthcare transactional and regulatory attorney, Ross now advises providers navigating healthcare regulations. Her deep understanding of new payment and delivery systems and public payer initiatives assists rural providers seeking to strategically position their organizations for the future. In this role, Ross identifies opportunities and develops realistic plans of action, synthesizes complex regulatory schemes, and explains their impact on providers.

Katherine L. Ryczek, MHA, BSHM, Manager of Process Improvement, Katherine Shaw Bethea Hospital
With over 19 years in healthcare, Ryczek has experience in both clinical and technical roles. She completed her master’s degree in healthcare administration in 2020 and specializes in process improvement, strategic planning, facilitating improvement teams, and educating and applying lean and six sigma concepts. Ryczekis passionate about helping others succeed and promoting positive change.

Eric K. Shell, CPA, MBA, Chairman, Stroudwater Associates
With nearly 30 years of healthcare financial management and consulting experience, Shell is an industry leader in supporting the transition of rural healthcare to population health. He provides vital strategic, financial and operational improvement services to ensure rural health systems continue to provide local, high-quality and accessible patient care. Shell helped develop a national program for rural hospital performance improvement and performance measurement and a new rural demonstration payment programs for frontier clinics and hospitals. He has served on the National Rural Health Association’s Rural Health Congress and Governmental Affairs Committee and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy’s Rural Hospital Issues Group. 

Ronald J. Vlasaty, Chief Operating Officer, Family Guidance Centers, Inc.
Since 1999, Vlasaty has served as the centers’ COO. He is responsible for the oversight of all inpatient and outpatient substance use disorder and mental health treatment and prevention programs, as well as the operation of two hospital-based medical detoxification programs. He previously served as Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse, Bureau of Administration. Vlasaty is Chairperson for the Statewide Illinois Advisory Council for the Substance Use Disorders and for the Medication Assisted Recovery (MAR) Committee of the Statewide Illinois Opioid Crisis Response Advisory Council. He is also an Advisory Board Member for the Cook County Department of Public Health’s Suburban Cook County Opioid Advisory Council.

Lisa X. Walden, Co-founder, Good Company Consulting
A speaker, strategist and consultant, Walden is dedicated to helping businesses create authentic, empowering workplaces. Her work centers on the concept that people and strategy don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Walden takes a holistic approach to workplace strategy, keeping human beings front and center. As a speaker, she focuses on how to maintain thriving cultures, best practices for mindful communication and tactics for nurturing the single most important component of a healthy work environment—trust. Walden is the co-author of Managing Millennials for Dummies.

Alex Weber, Award-Winning Performer and Acclaimed International Speaker
Best known as a competitor on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior, Weber uses humor and his contagious energy to make a long-lasting positive impact on people worldwide. He has appeared on The Discovery Channel and FX, in addition to American Ninja Warrior, called one of the most difficult competitions in the world. Weber has also achieved success as a coach and leader, earning U.S. Lacrosse Coach of the Year for transforming the Los Angeles lacrosse into champions. As a speaker, he has positively ignited over 3.5 million people to achieve their goals, realize their potential and lead their organizations to record-breaking success.