Parke County nurse heads Rural Health Innovation Collaborative

By: Dave Taylor, ISU Communications and Marketing Staff
September 26, 2012

A nurse from western Indiana's iconic Parke County has been named executive director of the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative (RHIC).

Stephanie Laws of Bloomingdale, a town of 350 that doesn't have a traffic light but is home to one of the county's 31 covered bridges, will oversee day-to-day operations of the collaborative. She will work to ensure that the education, health care, government and economic development partnership, to ensure that it has short- and long-range strategic plans.

Launched in 2008, the RHIC works to improve and expand health care education, especially for rural providers. It also seeks to boost the economy of west-central Indiana by developing health care-related jobs and revitalizing a Terre Haute neighborhood that lies between the campuses of Indiana State University and Union Hospital.

"We're extremely pleased to have the benefit of Stephanie's enthusiasm and dynamic leadership as the RHIC management level," said David Doerr, chair of the RHIC board of directors and CEO and chairman of Union Health Group. "She has been able to take her life experiences from a small town in covered bridge country and successfully communicate at the state and national level the unique health care needs of rural America. The board of directors of the RHIC looks forward to working with Stephanie."

Laws has been involved in rural health issues for more than 10 years, both as a clinical provider and as coordinator of telemedicine services to west-central Indiana and east-central Illinois. She is director of the Wabash Valley Rural Telehealth Network, a member of the American Telemedicine Association, Indiana FCC Telehealth Advisory Committee and the national and Indiana rural health associations. She works extensively with colleagues to advance the use of telemedicine in rural communities to fill service gaps and improve the overall quality of health care services through technology.

Prior to being named the RHIC's executive director, she served as manager of the telehealth and innovative technologies department at the Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health at Union Hospital. She has worked for Union Hospital Health Group since 1998 and has managed emergency, medical-surgical, ambulatory surgery and intensive care departments at a critical access hospital.

"I am very honored to work with all of the RHIC partners to leverage resources in an effort to improve health care delivery quality and outcomes throughout the region via interprofessional education, training and research," Laws said. "I also look forward to fostering community collaboration and revitalization by promoting opportunities made possible through the collaboration."

Laws is past-president of the West-Central Indiana Area Health Education Center. She holds an associate degree in nursing from Indiana State University, a bachelor's degree from Indiana Wesleyan and is pursuing a master's degree in nursing administration from Indiana State.

Partners in the Rural Health Innovation Collaborative are Union Hospital and its Richard G. Lugar Center for Rural Health, Indiana State University, Indiana University School of Medicine-Terre Haute, Ivy Tech Community College-Wabash Valley, City of Terre Haute, Terre Haute Economic Development Corp., Vermillion-Parke Community Health Center, Hamilton Center, Indiana Rural Health Association and the Indiana Area Health Education Center.

Media contact and writer: Dave Taylor, media relations director, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, and chairperson, Communications Committee, Rural Health Innovation Collaborative, 812-237-3743 or dave.taylor@indstate.edu