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Leading Rural Health Into the Next Frontier
By Rick Pollack
February 10, 2017
One of the best parts of my job is getting to travel the country and meet the women and men who are leading the way in redefining the “H” and transforming health care. Rodney Nelson, president and CEO of the Mackinac Straits Health System in St. Ignace, MI, is one of those leaders. He sought new, creative solutions to rescue a facility on the verge of shutdown, and in recognition of his achievements, we honored him this week with the 2016 Rural Hospital Leadership Award at our Rural Health Care Leadership Conference in Phoenix. When Rodney ascended to the top job in 1999, Mackinac Straits was a 1950s-era facility struggling to meet the community’s health needs. The key to Rodney’s success was forging partnerships with various community stakeholders. This helped him to better identify and serve patients in need. Rodney established a joint venture with the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians, which donated a 16-acre parcel of land valued at $1.2 million for a new hospital facility, including a tribal health and human services clinic. He spearheaded a community task force to identify gaps in the delivery of mental health and addiction services. Other partnerships he brokered led to the establishment of St. Ignace Shores, a facility that integrates social detox with a mental health crisis unit under one roof. Rodney was recognized in front of more than 800 conference attendees, representing 250 rural hospitals and health systems. Many C-suite executives and board and trustee members attended to share strategies on preserving access to care for their communities. It was the conference’s 30th year. I’m glad Rodney got the recognition he deserved before his retirement this July. He is one of many inspirational people I meet in our field who are dedicated to patient care and service.
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