Plenary Sessions

Information on our 2025 Plenaries will be available in October.

Monday, February 12

PLENARY SESSION: Transforming Rural Health Care Navigating the Digital Frontier | 8:30 AM – 10:00 AM

Conference Welcome

Presentation of the 2023 AHA Rural Hospital Leadership Team Award

The 2023 AHA Rural Hospital Leadership Team Award will be presented to Queen’s North Hawaii Community Hospital, Waimea, Hawaii. The award honors the leadership team who has guided their hospital and community through transformational change on the road to health care innovation. The team displayed outstanding leadership and responsiveness to the community’s health needs and demonstrated a collaborative community process that has led to measurable outcomes.

Nayyar Geeta

Geeta Nayyar, MD, Former Chief Medical Officer, Salesforce; author of Dead Wrong: Diagnosing and Treating Healthcare’s Misinformation Illness and board member of the American Telemedicine Association

Join this session to hear insights from Geeta Nayyar, MD, on the evolving landscape of digital health and how rural hospitals can leverage emerging technology for improved patient care and outcomes. Dr. Nayyar will delve into crucial topics such as artificial intelligence innovation, social media's impact on health information and how rural health care leaders can incorporate digital health solutions to enhance care delivery.

PLENARY SESSION: Driving Innovation and Access in Rural Health Care | 1:45 PM – 3:00 PM


Michelle Hood, FACHE, Christina Campos, FACHE, Wanda Figueroa, Mary Mannix, Erik Thorsen, Fran Witt, DNP, LNHA, RN

Navigating Change: Transforming the Rural Health Care Landscape

M. Michelle Hood, FACHE, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, American Hospital Association
Christina Campos, FACHE, Administrator, Guadalupe County Hospital, Santa Rosa, N.M.
Wanda Figueroa, President and Chief Executive Officer, RiverValley Behavioral Health Hospital, Owensboro, Ky. 
Mary Mannix, FACHE, President and Chief Executive Officer, Augusta Health, Fishersville, Va. 
Erik Thorsen, Chief Executive Officer, Columbia Memorial Hospital, Astoria, Ore. 
Fran Witt, DNP, LNHA, RN, President and Chief Executive Officer, Effingham Health System, Springfield, Ga. 

Hear from leaders across the country as they share innovative approaches in rural health care. Drawing on real-world experiences, they will provide practical insights, offering a glimpse into transformative solutions that address challenges ranging from financial sustainability to workforce shortages to care delivery and access. Join us for a session that goes beyond the surface, providing nuanced perspectives on the ongoing evolution of rural health care and the strategies shaping its transformative journey.

Chris DeRienzo, MD, Mohamed Diab, MD, Albert Wu, MD

Driving Innovation and Access in Rural Health Care: Fireside Chats with the Disrupters

Chris DeRienzo, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Physician Executive, American Hospital Association
Mohamed Diab, MD, Chief Executive Officer, Accountable Care Organization, CVS Health
Albert Wu, MD, Chief Medical Officer, Dollar General

Primary care services offered by retailers, payer-owned providers and advanced primary care disrupters are gaining traction. A Bain & Company 2022 study found that primary care models from nontraditional players could capture as much as one-third of the U.S. primary care market by 2030. Discover what two of the field’s key transformational companies in this space envision for expanding care in rural communities.

Tuesday, February 13

Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, Travis Robey, Shannon Wu

PLENARY SESSION: Washington Update | 9:15 AM – 10:00 AM

Moderator: Lisa Kidder Hrobsky, Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Political Affairs, American Hospital Association
Panelists: Travis Robey, Vice President, Political Affairs, American Hospital Association
Shannon Wu, PhD, Senior Associate Director of Payment Policy, American Hospital Association

Join American Hospital Association leaders for a discussion on the latest from Capitol Hill. Learn what policies Congress is considering and what it means for rural community hospitals.

James E. Orlikoff

PLENARY SESSION: Rural Hospitals at the Tipping Point | 1:45 PM – 3:00 PM

Jamie Orlikoff, President, Orlikoff & Associates, Inc., National Advisor on Governance and Leadership to the American Hospital Association, and health care governance expert

“Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you got till it's gone?” Rural hospitals are closing services, and some are closing their doors; fewer than half of rural hospitals have maternity units, and more than 2 million women of childbearing age live in rural maternity deserts. The list goes on. Rural hospitals and the entire U.S. health care system are at an unprecedented inflection point with a presidential election, demonization of hospitals, economic stresses, and more all looming on the immediate horizon. This presentation will review these trends and address how rural hospitals, health systems, and their boards might deal with the immediate pressures and raise their gaze to pursue sustainability.


Wednesday, February 14

Alex DeLaCruz

PLENARY SESSION: Lead with Passion | 10:30 AM – 11:30 AM

Art delaCruz, Chief Executive Officer, Team Rubicon; Officer, United States Navy, Retired

Lead with Passion. During his 22-year career in the Navy, Art delaCruz was tasked with various assignments, including six combat deployments, commanding a Navy strike-fighter squadron, serving as a Topgun instructor, and serving as a Secretary of Defense Corporate Fellow at McKinsey & Co. Following his time in the Navy, he worked in business development and strategy & planning for the aerospace and defense sector. He now works with Team Rubicon, a team of veterans and first responders with a mission to “rapidly deploy emergency response teams” wherever needed. Art delaCruz explains how to lead and inspire others through a ruthless dedication to excellence.