Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Indiana Regional Medical Center will present the second annual Pennsylvania Mountains Rural Health Conference on November 16 in celebration of National Rural Health Day.

The program is open to the community.

Preregistration is required. The registration deadline is November 10, with a reduced registration fee through Nov. 3.

The event is free to all IRMC and IUP employees and to IUP students.

The day-long conference will be held at the IUP Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex; registration begins at 8:00 a.m. and presentations conclude at 4:00 p.m. Breakfast and lunch are included as part of the conference registration.

Keynote presentations, designed for all levels of knowledge, are:

  • “Food is Medicine,” an interactive panel led by Douglas Roblin, senior research scientist at Kaiser Permanente-Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group, a 1975 IUP graduate;
  • “Preparing for the Next Generation of Physicians,” presented by Bergitta Cotroneo, deputy chief executive officer and executive vice president for the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine, a 1980 IUP graduate;
  • “Highways in the Sky: Implementing Drones into Healthcare Logistics,” presented by Airspace Link Inc. Business Development Team members Alice Griffith and Erica Tamburo;
  • “Pathways to Solve Pennsylvania’s Rural Physician Workforce Challenges,” presented by Benjamin Frederick, director, Global Health Center; director, Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center; Doctors Kienle Chair for Humane Medicine; professor of family and community medicine and of public health sciences and humanities, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine

Afternoon sessions will include three panel discussions: “Building a Foundation: The Power of Undergraduate Pipelines;” “Medical Schools: Recruiting Through Rural Rotations and Rural Clinical Campuses;” and “Rural Residency Program Development.”

The conference closing session will be presented by Richard Whalen, “Lessons Learned and Advice: Reflections From One Rural Pennsylvania Physician in Titusville.”

“IUP is committed to making a difference in rural health in our commonwealth and beyond, and we are proud to partner with IRMC to bring nationally known experts to our community to address this critically important topic,” IUP President Michael Driscoll said.

“IUP—and the entire region—is incredibly fortunate to have the resources of outstanding medical centers and health providers who are dedicated to rural health and wellness right in our own backyard.

“IUP will continue to build and strengthen relationships and collaborations with great partners including IRMC, UPMC, the Pennsylvania Mountain Health Alliance, Penn Highlands Healthcare, and the Pennsylvania Primary Health Network. We will work in partnership with these health care providers and organizations to improve rural health and well-being, as these relationships and collaborations will be critically important as we work to establish an IUP College of Osteopathic Medicine,” President Driscoll said.

This year’s conference builds on the IRMC-IUP Day tradition of celebrating its many partnerships while marking National Rural Health Day. 

The first celebration of National Rural Health Day included the launch of the IUP-IRMC podcast, Rural Health Pulse, in November 2022. 

IRMC and IUP cosponsored the first IUP-IRMC Day on April 22 during the university’s Research Appreciation Week, presenting keynote speaker Randall Longenecker and highlighting IUP-IRMC partnerships. 

“Following the first IUP-IRMC Day in 2022, we are proud to continue the tradition on an even larger scale this year,” said IRMC president and CEO Steve Wolfe. “IRMC and IUP continue to foster relationships to make new pathways that create opportunities for both the medical center and the university. It is exciting to see where the partnership may lead,” he said.

The conference is coordinated by Jim Kinneer, IRMC chief human resources officer, and Christina Koren, IUP director of Strategic Partnerships. 

“This is an incredible opportunity to come together with educators, policy makers, and industry practitioners and make a meaningful impact on the health and well-being of our rural communities,” Koren said. “The presentations will include time for discussion and questions, and everyone is welcome,” she said. “This is an especially valuable opportunity for students to network with professionals and plan the next steps in their careers,” she said. 

“You do not need to be a physician to attend and get value from this conference,” Kinneer said. “This conference is an opportunity to discuss both the challenges and the exciting future possibilities for rural healthcare to serve the needs of a diverse population with high-quality care.” 

Welcoming remarks will be provided by IUP President Driscoll, IRMC president and CEO Wolfe, Pennsylvania State Senator Joe Pittman, and Pennsylvania State Representative Jim Struzzi; Kinneer will offer closing remarks. 

Featured panelists for the afternoon session, “Building a Foundation: The Power of Undergraduate Pipelines,” are:

  • Dan Clark (MD), IRMC Summer Pipeline Program and director of Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery and director of IRMC’s Comprehensive Breast Center
  • Benjamin Frederick (MD), director, Global Health Center; director, Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center; Doctors Kienle Chair for Humane Medicine; professor of family and community medicine and of public health sciences and humanities, Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicin
  • Chelsea Gray (DO), year one, IRMC rural family medicine residency program; graduate of Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Grant Phillips (MD), UPMC Altoona family medicine residency, Altoona

Featured panelists for “Medical Schools: Recruiting Through Rural Rotations and Rural Clinical Campuses” are:

  • Victoria Bell, medical student, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Sophia Claesson, medical student, Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Amber Fedin (DO), associate dean for clinical affairs, Duquesne College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pittsburgh
  • Siriluk Geytenbeek (DO), year one, IRMC rural family medicine residency program; graduate of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine
  • Leesha Helm (MD), Penn State College of Medicine, health equity scholars program director, Hershey

Featured panelists for “Rural Residency Program Development” are:

  • John N. Boll, Jr. (MD), FAAFP, program director, UPMC rural family medicine residency and associate director, UPMC Williamsport family medicine residency
  • Kelly Meyer (MD), year one, IRMC rural family medicine residency program; graduate of St. George’s University
  • Amber Warren (DO), program director, Cornerstone Care family medicine teaching health center residency program, Mount Morris
  • Lisa Witherite-Reig (DO), immediate past president of the Pennsylvania Osteopathic Medical Association, founding program director of the Penn Highlands family medicine residency program, DuBois

About the Speakers

Bergitta E. CotroneoBergitta E. Cotroneo, (Fellowship through the American College of Medical Practice Executives), is deputy chief executive officer and executive vice president at the Alliance for Academic Internal Medicine, a northern Virginia-based consortium of five medical professional associations and three affiliates representing more than 13,000 academic internal medicine faculty and administrators at academic medical centers and teaching hospitals in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

Prior to joining AAIM, she served as chief operating officer at the National Patient Safety Foundation in Massachusetts. Earlier leadership roles include serving as director of ambulatory practice management and later director of medical staff affairs at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, executive director of the Retina Service at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia, and as assistant executive director of education, meetings, and research at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in suburban Chicago.

Controneo serves on several healthcare-related boards, including the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation Women’s Health Advisory Board, the Women Business Leaders US Healthcare Foundation Board of Directors, and the Flexible Medical Systems Advisory Board.

Ben FredrickBen Fredrick is professor of family and community medicine and public health sciences and humanities at the Pennsylvania State College of Medicine–Hershey Medical Center and holds the Doctors Kienle Center for Humanistic Medicine endowed chair at the university. The Doctors Kienle Center supports education and research aimed at promoting a humane, compassionate, and patient-centered approach to medicine. He is also the director of the Pennsylvania Area Health Education Center, which has a mission to support the training, recruitment, and retention of health professionals in Pennsylvania for rural and underserved communities.

Alice GriffithAlice Griffith is the director of Business Development for Airspace Link Inc., overseeing the transportation and logistics vertical to help advance drone operations within local communities across the US. Previous to Airspace Link, she was president of VyrtX, a multimodal logistics platform that introduced end-to-end data analysis and tracking across multiple delivery vehicles for time-critical items like human organs, tissues, and blood.

Griffith has 20 years of experience working in transportation, distribution, and logistics for food distribution and medical items. Over the last six years, she has done a deep dive into connected vehicles, specializing in electrification efforts and autonomous mobility initiatives. A licensed FAA drone pilot, she has earned several Top 40 under 40 awards and was recognized by the Women in Drones Trade Association as a 2023 Women to Watch Award recipient. She holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from Virginia Commonwealth University and a master’s degree in real estate, finance, and sustainability from American University–Kogod School of Business.

Erica TamburoErica Tamburo is a proposal writer for the Airspace Link Inc. business development team. Prior to joining Airspace Link, she spent 22 years working in medical research. She has extensive experience in medical imaging research and data management from her time at UPMC’s Department of Psychiatry. Prior to that, her research efforts were in rehabilitation science and technology at the University of Pittsburgh focusing on developing technologies to improve exercise interventions and wheelchair design. She holds multiple advanced degrees in physics, biomedical engineering, electrical engineering, and rehabilitation science.

Douglas RoblinDouglas Roblin’s session will explain the chronic care model; integrating dietary counseling into the shopping experience; exercise as medicine and supervised walking groups targeted toward learning the environment; “paramedicine,” using paramedics in a proactive rather than reactive manner; and peer support, discussing how social groups can assist in care transitions.

Roblin is a member of AcademyHealth (formerly Association for Health Services Research) and the Society for Occupational Health Psychology. He earned his PhD from the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) and his master’s degree from the University of Chicago.

He joined Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic Permanente Research Institute as senior research scientist in July 2017. His primary responsibility is to work with the other MAPRI research scientists and staff to maintain and enhance the research portfolio of health services, intervention, and epidemiology projects. His areas of interest include patient adherence to recommended care, psychosocial stress and cardiometabolic health, health informatics, and social determinants of health. He is currently working on a study to refine a predictive algorithm for acute exacerbations of COPD, a pilot web-based intervention to reduce risk of non-adherence to bisphosphonate therapy among osteoporosis patients, and a large multisite evaluating the effectiveness of individualized fracture risk information to post-DXA patients.

Prior to joining MAPRI, Roblin was professor of health management and policy in the School of Public Health at Georgia State University. He previously worked for 25 years with Kaiser Permanente, initially as a statistician and then as a health economist with KP’s national program offices in Oakland, California, and more recently as a senior research scientist with KP’s research program in Atlanta.

Richard WhalenRichard Whalen is an internal medicine specialist in Titusville, with more than 31 years of experience in the medical field. He is a graduate of Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is affiliated with medical facilities Titusville Area Hospital and UPMC Northwest.