2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellows Program to hold graduation on May 5

The inaugural class of the ICAHN Rural Health Fellowship began its eight-month leadership journey at a live, socially distanced event kick-off on October 28 in Springfield. The Rural Health Fellowship is designed for up-and-coming critical access hospital leaders. The experience covers four main pillars:

  • Rural health
  • Leadership
  • Operations
  • Finance

Fellows participate in online learning, a service project, and a book club with the goal of developing confident leaders who are equipped with the skills needed to lead in a rural community.

An important part of the Fellowship is the mentor component. In forming the program, the Fellowship Advisory Committee felt it was important for rising leaders to have access to someone with expertise and experience. Each fellow is paired with a mentor who can advise and talk through ideas. More than halfway through the Fellowship, we checked in with new Fellow, Deepa Dummi, Memorial Hospital, Chester, and Nancy Allen, ICAHN Senior Operations Specialist and Fellow mentor. Here are their stories:

2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellow Mentee:
Deepanjali Dummi

“Have a goal in front of you and a guru behind you.”

ICAHN Rural Health Fellow Deepanjali Dummi accelerates her professional life by keeping this favorite Indian quote of hers in mind – and in action – at all times.

“Education keeps me away from trouble…I love to stay busy, and I am always learning,” said Ms. Dummi, MHSA, RHIA (CHIME), Director of Health Information and Informatics Management, Compliance and HIPAA Privacy Officer, Memorial Hospital, Chester. “We live in an ever-changing world of new diseases with new treatments, so you have to be ready for newer ways of tasks and functions of information management.”

Deepa’s current job responsibilities include coordinating all HIM tasks, reviewing and revising departmental and hospital-wide HIM/HIPAA policies and procedures, monitoring FPPE/OPPE for all providers, serving as HIPAA Privacy Officer and providing education and reporting, serving as Corporate Compliance Officer and providing education and reporting, serving as RAC Auditor and FOIA Officer, and handling grant applications and the ongoing compliance of those awarded grants.

However, Deepa’s passion and her priority are informatics, which is incorporating health information and information technology for a better healthcare outcome. In simple words, it means the blending of manual processes with electronic process and to have effective and efficient workflows, within the organization.

Before coming to Memorial, she worked at St. John’s HSHS, Springfield, and St. Francis HSHS, Litchfield in Health Information Management and Informatics; Health Care Global – Specialist in Comprehensive Cancer Care, Bangalore, India, as Head of Health Information Management/Health Informatics; Sri Devraj Urs Medical College, Kolar, Karnataka, as Visiting Faculty and Director of Health Information; Health Information Management Analyst at Richard and Annette Bloch Cancer Care Pavilion, University of Kansas Medical Center, Westwood, KS; and as Adjunct Faculty for the Health Science Institute at Penn Valley Community College, Kansas City, MO.

Deepa was relocated to the United States in 1995 to Philadelphia to join her husband who immigrated in the late 1990s for further studies. Deepa is a dentist from India, who worked on her second bachelor’s degree in Health Information Management and Informatics and her master’s degree in health policy and administration from the University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS.

Deepa’s Fellowship project is two-fold: efficient use of Dragon Speech Software among providers and implementation of licensing and credentialing software.

Dragon Speech Software allows the provider to have a Joint Commission-compliant turn-around time (24-48 hours) for documentation completion. The Dragon software, an available solution within Memorial’s EMR, was not being 100 percent used before implementation of her Fellowship project.

“There were lots of strings to braid with this project, but it did not take long to jump-start its reimplementation,” said Deepa. “Timely documentation is the key to a patient’s continuum of care and also, complete and accurate claims processing and reimbursement.”

Deepa organized a ‘Train the Trainer’ with her hospital’s department managers and the Information Technology team to ensure all could effectively coach the doctors who would be using the Dragon Speech Software.

Regarding the implementation of the licensing and credentialing software, Deepa noted that the extensive usage of spreadsheets and paper and even more importantly, having only one individual manage the spreadsheets, needed to change at her hospital. With her Fellowship project implementation, Deepa utilizes MD Staff, a product of ASM, Inc., as a solution to licensing and credentialing more than 100 providers and maintaining their Focused Evaluations (FPPE) and Ongoing Evaluations (OPPE).

“MD Staff implementation is progressing at a fast pace,” said Deepa. “The hospital is super excited about the online accessibility to add and retrieve data at any time of the day without clashing into another user (10-12 nurses trying to access one spreadsheet), and MD Staff also allows me to have another back-up associate to work the flow, with no spreadsheets involved.”

In addition to the project’s exceptional interoperability and the chance to work with other critical access hospital leaders and mentors, Deepa has again parlayed this experience into one that has also been of gratification, education, and growth.

“I’ve been in many other leadership training programs, but I’ve never gotten to know myself better as I have in this one. At this phase in life, it’s important to ascertain what I personally am good at and what I’m not, to be really honest about it,” she concluded. “It’s the culture of learning I’m always seeking, and I think others would find value in it as well.”

2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellow Mentor:
Nancy Allen

As ICAHN’s Senior Operations Specialist, Nancy Allen, MS, BSN, RN, serves as lead for several ICAHN projects such as the mock survey, nurse planner for continuing education certification, and as the Nurse Leaders Peer Network facilitator. Prior to accepting the position at ICAHN, Nancy served as the CNE/Director of Patient Services for Advocate Eureka Hospital for nearly 30 years. During her tenure, she developed several service lines, including the school nurse program, expanding Community Education, and the start up of the Woodford County Health Department for which she served as the administrator for 15 years.

Today, she adds the role of “mentor” to her list, coaching Susan Chenoweth, CNO, Illini Community Hospital, and a 2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellow.

“At the start of the Fellows’ training, even before mentees were paired with mentors, Ada Bair (CEO, Memorial Hospital, Carthage) helped formulate the lists of reading materials and encouraged participants to make their selections,” said Allen, who chose Brave Leadership, authored by Kimberly Davis. “It turned out that Susan and I chose the same book without even knowing one another’s selection. We both felt it spawned great conversation and proved to be a great way to get to know one another.”

In an equally fortuitous but unknown turn of events, Kathy Fauble, facilitator for the Rural Health Fellowship Program, used her own ‘algorithm’ of pairing the subsequent skillsets of mentees and mentors, bringing Susan and Nancy together once again.

“I’ve always been a ‘why’ child. I’ve enjoyed being a lifelong learner, and healthcare is the perfect place for that, since it is so dynamic and changes absolutely every day,” said Allen. “There is nothing more exciting than seeing new nurse graduates start their journey. I enjoy learning from them and bestowing information on them.”

And even though Susan is not a new nurse, but actually a Chief Nursing Officer, the two have found this Fellowship program to be mutually beneficial.

“As part of Susan’s project, she is developing a leadership orientation manual, focusing on improving and upgrading the onboarding process,” said Allen. “This program has been a really good opportunity for growth and camaraderie. I have been in healthcare for 40 years, and I’ve learned so much from Susan and also all the professional speakers that make up this program. The agenda has been amazing, and I appreciate that the Fellowship is designed for all walks of life in healthcare, whether it be nursing, business, therapy, etc.”

The 2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellowship Program concludes with a graduation ceremony on May 5, but the memories and lessons learned from this eight-month leadership event will live on, said Allen. The next Rural Health Fellowship Program will begin again in the fall.

“That book I talked about, well, it really talked to my heart, and I would recommend it to any leader,” said Allen. “Remember how you felt when you were a kid, running with abandon, singing, dancing, blowing dandelions, and not caring what others thought? You were full of energy and ideas and expressed them easily…Well, then you grow up and find you are always looking over your shoulder and worrying about what everyone else thinks. This book makes you question: why do we lose the opportunity to be as courageous as we once were as a child? It gives you the motivation to open up and be free like that again.”

2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellow Mentees:

  • Raigan Brown, Memorial Hospital, Carthage
  • Harold Calderon, Marshall Browning Hospital, DuQuoin
  • Kim Calvert, Horizon Health, Paris
  • Susan Chenoweth, Illini Community Hospital, Pittsfield
  • Deepa Dummi, Memorial Hospital, Chester
  • Erin Frank, Horizon Health, Paris
  • E. David Harrison, Hillsboro Area Hospital
  • Emily Hendrickson, Memorial Hospital, Carthage
  • Andrew Kleinschmidt, Wabash General Hospital, Mt. Carmel
  • Stephanie Meyers, Memorial Hospital, Carthage
  • Tracy Perkins, Mercyhealth Hospital, Harvard
  • Aldo Rossi, Hopedale Medical Complex, Hopedale
  • Arica Schmidt, Midwest Medical Center, Galena
  • Lacey Stults, Horizon Health, Paris
  • Joe Whitson, Hopedale Medical Complex, Hopedale

2021 ICAHN Rural Health Fellow Mentors:

  • Nancy Allen, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Princeton
  • Sue Campbell, Community Hospital of Staunton
  • Trina Casner, Pana Community Hospital, Pana
  • Randall Dauby, Pinckneyville Community Hospital, Pinckneyville
  • Kathy Hull, Illini Community Hospital, Pittsfield
  • Jim Johnson, Franklin Hospital, Benton
  • Sarah McPeak, Carlinville Area Hospital, Carlinville
  • Sue Odle, St. Joseph Memorial Hospital, Murphysboro
  • Gregg Olson, Rochelle Community Hospital, Rochelle
  • Dr. Richelle Rennegarbe, McKendree University, Lebanon
  • Pat Schou, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Princeton
  • Rob Schmitt, Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services, Gibson City
  • Paul Skowron, Warner Hospital and Health Services, Clinton
  • Steve Tenhouse, Kirby Medical Center, Monticello

2021 ICAHN Rural Health Advisory Committee:

  • Ada Bair, Memorial Hospital, Carthage
  • Andrew Buffenbarger, Kirby Medical Center, Monticello
  • Alisa Coleman, Ferrell Hospital, Eldorado
  • Tracy Koster, Carlinville Area Hospital, Carlinville
  • Kathy Fauble, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Quincy
  • Hana Hinkle, National Center for Rural Health Professions, Rockford
  • Dr. Richelle Rennegarbe, McKendree University, Lebanon
  • Pat Schou, Illinois Critical Access Hospital Network, Princeton
  • Rob Schmitt, Gibson Area Hospital and Health Services, Gibson City
  • Karissa Turner, Wabash General Hospital, Mt. Carmel
  • Heather Whetsell, SIU School of Medicine, Carbondale

This program is supported by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of an award totaling $824,375, with 0% financed with non-governmental sources. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by HRSA, HHS, or the U.S. Government. For more information, please visit HRSA.gov.