CEO Update: Community is Everywhere
Last week, the Colorado Rural Health Center hosted our 2016 Annual Rural Health Conference. We host this conference every fall, but this year, it was particularly special. We celebrated our 25th Year of Service as your State Office of Rural Health and Rural Health Association. We kicked off the conference with a special speaker, a Colorado native, and a true inspiration, Amy Van Dyken. I tried selecting out a particular quote from her speech, but they were all so inspiring, I ended up trying to write out the entire speech.
At the end of Ms. Van Dyken’s speech, she stayed for over an hour to greet and personally meet every person who stood in line. She had a plane to catch and was running late, but she didn’t rush a single conversation. As the line ended, our star-struck staff leaned in for one last picture. We thanked her for staying past her scheduled time. She smiled and said, “These people are incredible. And you know what, if the EMTs, doctors and nurses had left me when they needed to go home or get on a plane, I wouldn’t be alive here today.” This inspiring kick-off to our conference set a tone for the entire conference – we are all facing challenges – but we are in this together. We are a community. Community is everywhere – and it’s easy to miss.
I recently visited a newly opened library in my neighborhood, and I was unsure what to expect. With so many electronic resources, and having raised a teenager, it was hard to imagine a community library being the same beacon of learning and exploration I recalled from my youth. As soon as I walked into the new library, I was overwhelmed with what I saw. There were meeting rooms, computers, study areas, and I was quickly reminded that facilities like libraries are so much more than how many of us think of them. They are community centers. They are places contributing to healthy communities in critical ways. Libraries, schools, hospitals, clinics and other institutions play a necessary role in community development. They are the vehicles for developing and sustaining healthy communities.
The timing of this was perfect. Shortly after my visit to the library, I read that October happens to be Community Development Month. But, what exactly is community development? How can building and strengthening a facility develop healthy communities?
The original purpose of declaring October as Community Development month was to acknowledge that thoughtful development cannot happen without meaningful community engagement and provides an opportunity to recognize the essential role that planning plays in creating communities of lasting value.
Given the acknowledgement of Community Development in October, I cannot think of a better month to have hosted our 25th Annual Rural Health Conference. Our work at CRHC is focused on our members, their needs and how we can support our facilities. But while that work is sometimes focused on one facility, our larger holistic goal is to build healthy sustainable communities. Community development, in any form, builds the capacity of institutions and develops the capacity of community members to then align their practice with a mind toward their larger community.
We are all part of different communities: our neighborhoods, schools, towns, specific interest groups, counties, and the larger rural Colorado community. I believe that positive and sustainable community development gives people and institutions the tools and the invigoration to build a sustainable healthy communities.
Our 2016 Annual Conference focused on acknowledging and celebrating our 25 Years of Service, but offered the most important piece to our role in community building: tools, innovation and education so you can leave, go back to your critical work and continue developing your community.
We ended our conference with Brian Lee, CSP who spoke about HCHAPS Performance and Improvement. He began with the importance of being compassionate and present. He told a story about a nurse who stayed by a patient’s side after a horrific accident that left him alone and unable to communicate. Every ten minutes, the nurse simply said, “I’m here.” That young man credits the nurse with saving his life. We know you each have stories like this.
Here’s to 25 more years of building our community of rural healthcare providers, advocates and staff. Colorado Rural Health Center will be here to stand shoulder to shoulder with you as we face the challenges ahead.
Thank you for all you do to build healthy communities across rural Colorado.