Health on the Plains: Episode 3, Building Partnerships for Better Health with Dan Duling

40 Min Read

Nov 02, 2023


Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S.
Photo of Dan Duling and Wyatt Beckman


On Episode 3, host Wyatt Beckman takes listeners to Pittsburg, Kansas, where he talks with Dan Duling, Vice President of Community Partnerships for Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. Dan shares his journey from educator to health care leadership. He discusses the challenges and opportunities in rural Kansas to grow a health center that meets the needs of its patients and leverages community partnerships to support the whole person – with behavioral health services, food and nutrition and transportation.

Episode Highlights: 

2:24 – 3:49: Dan tells the story of his connections in Southeast Kansas and his career progression from an educator to building connections and partnerships for Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas (CHC SEK).

4:00- 10:03: Wyatt and Dan journey back 120 years to the roots of CHC SEK, started by a sister of St. Joseph, who brought health care to the region. Dan emphasizes the mission of CHC SEK, highlighting their commitment to serving a wide patient population, including those who may face challenges accessing health care despite having insurance.

10:04-15:52: Dan explains the “secret sauce” for CHC SEK’s growth into rural communities across Kansas, including using a data-driven approach to identify where needs are, continuous quality improvement and a mission driven leadership team.

15:53-19:28: Dan and Wyatt discuss the importance and value of first being invited into a community and the partnerships that can happen to meet communities where they are, such as implementing a Food as Prescription approach and partnering with local food producers.

19:30-22:28: Dan shares about CHC SEK’s partnership with universities, such as being the health care and mental health care provider for Pittsburg State University and recently working to partner with K-State Research & Extension.

22:29 -26:43: Dan and Wyatt emphasize the importance of people and relationships in rural communities and sustainable transportation services to improve access to care and access to other needs.

30:50 –32:56: Dan elaborates on the role of community health workers, their integration into various community services, and reducing non-emergent EMS calls.

38:36-End: Dan explains the importance of trust-building and getting all community members involved in their work, no matter how little or large their contribution can be. Wyatt and Dan reflect on the last 120 years and look toward the future by Dan outlining his vision for CHC SEK and the region for the next 20 years.

Full Transcript

Voice over  0:00 

This is Health on the Plains, a podcast about rural communities, rural life, and the many factors influencing the health and well-being of rural Kansas. Health on the Plains is a podcast from the Kansas Health Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization, committed to informing policy and improving health in Kansas, through honest nuanced conversations with leaders and doers from a variety of backgrounds. The Health on the Plains podcast offers unique insights into rural health challenges in Kansas and shines a light on the people and organizations working to make their communities healthier, more vibrant places to call home.

Wyatt Beckman 00:41

Welcome back to Health on the Plains. We’re here at the Parolo Education Center in Pittsburg, Kansas at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. We just wrapped up a phenomenal conversation with Dan Dewayne who is VP of Community Partnerships are all about how we build trust in communities how we develop partnerships build relationships to grow access to care, here in Southeast Kansas, it’s a wonderful conversation with lots of lessons learned Dan is a really insightful guy. We hope you enjoy the conversation. Welcome to Health on the Plains podcast. We’re here in Pittsburg, Kansas. Now, some listeners may say what are we doing in Pittsburg, Pittsburg is not very rural, especially if you’re from a town like Ness City like mine with less than than 1500 people. I mean, Pittsburg you have, a university here you got this beautiful health center. But by many classification systems, Pittsburg’s still rural. And our guest today, Dan Duling is VP of community partnerships at the Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. And Dan’s work absolutely extends into rural areas outside of Pittsburg and in the region. Tell us something you you just really enjoyed about about this region about this area and being down here and working down here.

Dan Duling 02:11

Well, my wife and I and our family are are from Southeast Kansas, we had a little ten year stint in Olathe, which was wonderful, get to experience living in more than suburbs. But Southeast Kansas has a very unique love of neighbor, and support of neighbor. And that’s something I’ve come to love and appreciate. And it’s at all levels. I grew up on a farm with my folks around Walnut, Kansas. And I always tease about that’s a suburb of Erie, which Erie’s very small. But so that, whether it be your your neighbor as a farmer, or your colleague at work, or my connection to Pittsburg State, and the connections I’ve made with as an education person, being a teacher and a principal and elementary school, and a special director. I still have connections to friends at Pittsburg State and to the families that we serve. So, you know, it’s been such a natural move to go from the classroom to building administrator to partnerships with CHC SEK. I know a lot of these people, you know, some of them are much grown now. But I can tell you story about that later. But yeah, it’s they really are supportive of each other. And we try to figure out what we need to do to make it best for humans in Southeast Kansas.

Wyatt Beckman 03:49

I want to, I want to now go back a little bit. And think about the history of Community Health Center and some of the the inspiration and you talked about part of what brought you back and what you love about this community is how people care for each other as friends and as neighbors and the roots of Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, go way back, they go back to 1903. When Mother Mary Bernard Sheridan, a sister of St. Joseph, brought health care to the region. And she was quoted and I think you have somewhere in your building, we did a wall we did. She is quoted as saying to our staff, “do all the good that you can do for all the people that you can in all the ways that you can for just as long as you can.” When you think about your role here at CHC SEK, and you think about the organization more broadly. How does that quote resonate with you?

Dan Duling 04:51

Well, it reminds me of another phrase that a lot of people do is “just do what’s right, when no one’s looking.” CHC SEK isn’t about being sage on the stage. Yes, we are the largest health center Community Health Center in Kansas. In the United States, there are approximately 1400, 1400 being the smallest one being the largest. We’re at that about 58 mark in the United States. So, but that all being said, in our society today, we’re big and bold, right? CHC is not, that’s not the mission, it is put your work to the shoulder, put your shoulder the work and, and do what’s right, and help community so and, you know, to Mother Mary Bernard Sheridan’s quote, you know, “do all that you can”, that’s part of my partnership is, is maximizing partnerships. And I’m only one small grain on the beach of work. Here at CHC, I have only one small part. I was just in a meeting yesterday with the VP’s. And the chiefs and Krista Postai, our CEO, and Jason Wesco, our president, and it becomes a little overwhelming when I hear all the things that are going on, and the technical level and complexity that people are working and doing. So you know, and you’re just doing for all the people you can, yep, so we’re talking about neighbors, right. And interesting enough, I hope I can remember to weave this through. A lot of times when you think about a community health center, the population of people you’re thinking about, or usually, maybe people in poverty. So I want to flip that for you. So you know where CHC SEK is, we have 75,000 patients. Only 14% of those have no insurance. We have a majority of people that we are their primary care source in their community. So in fact, were their preference, were their choice of health care. So that really flips people on their head going, “Oh, I was thinking community health centers were for the poor.” And that is absolutely it’s about access, all access. And so that being said, we’re really continuing to focus on we always want to support the folks who are needing most access. But you know, we’ve got a lot of what I would consider middle class income, who work very hard to have a job, they have insurance. But they’re kind of struggling, you’re a single mom or single dad with two kids. That’s hard. And so our role is to focus on everybody. And so that’s a little different than, than what sometimes people perceive.

Wyatt Beckman 08:19

And to provide a level of care, and a level of access to care where you can be the choice of anyone.

Dan Duling 08:31

Yeah, exactly. As when, you know, when you guys walked in today, our campus is gorgeous. And our clinics that are out there, they’re really gorgeous. And they’re clean, they’re efficient, all the things you would want, because health care is really personal. If you walk into a facility, and it’s well kept well lit and friendly. Gosh, this is my choice.

Wyatt Beckman 08:59

Yeah. And I think that that can be a really powerful approach. When I think about how we sometimes perceive rural communities. When we talk broadly about what amenities do folks have, what resources do folks have? I think we can sometimes assume that the best versions of things are in the cities and that the rural places get what’s left or there’s this perception that maybe rural isn’t to the same level and for everything I see and you’ve talked about Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas is not – is aiming for the best that they can provide for all the people that can provide it for. Yeah, I think that’s a really powerful thing. When we think about how people perceive health care and rural communities

Dan Duling 09:50

Well to that point. Our leadership was very wise and understanding that the current and needs of patients are 24/7.

Wyatt Beckman 10:04

We’ve started to sort of talk about the growth of Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas, you’re you’re one of the biggest in the US and and you’ve expanded into new areas and new partnerships. And unfortunately, when we think about the conversation we have around rural health care. Often it’s the opposite story, right. And a lot of times, it’s a very true and real story that rural health care areas are losing access, or rural communities are losing access to health care, there’s fewer services being provided, there’s a loss of providers, and quite frankly, you all are the opposite. You’re expanding, you’re growing, and you’re expanding purpose, to provide better and more care. But some people could could be wondering, very simply, what’s going on? What’s the secret sauce? How are you pulling this off? And I know, there’s probably no easy answer. But I imagine part of the answer is the relationships and the partnerships that you’ve been building.

Dan Duling 11:11

Yeah, that’s true. I want to start with, as we all know, in any organization, whether it be KHI, or anywhere, it starts with the leadership, the vision and the heart of leadership. And our our leaders here at at CHC SEK, Krista and Jason, our chiefs are VPs. Their, they’re passionately connected to and committed to the mission. So first and foremost, you know, if you’re faint of hard work, then you might want to move down the road. This is, this is not the place you would want to be. But if you have a real serious mission of work to help people in multiple facets, I know we’re talking about a lot about health care, but we have a large footprint with mental health and growing. And we can speak to that. But so just being committed. Our leadership, sets the town. And I think that’s first and foremost. And it just oozes over everyone in the agency in the organization. I tell you, the other thing that I am most impressed with, and I’m really appreciative is we are absolutely data driven. I am so appreciative and in awe of the robust data system we have here. Data is used to drive where the need is. And especially when we’re invited to a community. And that’s key. We can talk about that later. But when the community goes, you know, I think this could amplify some things we’re already doing like it would create some new jobs – workforce. It would greater access to health care. And then there’s all those little tentacles that happened, that you know how it works – domino effect. But so having that having that data driven is so important. Success breeds success. And so that’s true of CHC SEK. We go into a community, we’re invited into a community, we talk to the community, we establish a potential patient base there, services, and and then people go, “gosh, yeah, this is good!” And then the neighbors talk to the neighbors. And it grows. So that’s part of the secret sauce. Not complicated.

Wyatt Beckman 14:03

There’s so many, there’s so many pieces in what you talked about. But starting with what you just mentioned, part of that only happens if if as you said you are successful. And in this space, that means you provide the care you say you’re going to provide its a high quality level of care. You keep your commitments that you say you’re going to to a community and that leads to more buy in and more relationships. The other two pieces when you talk about it – if there is a secret sauce, two ingredients I heard – there’s leadership and a commitment top to bottom of mission driven folks that care about this community that absolutely want to continue to carry on the mission and charge that Mother Mary Bernard Sheridan gave to do all that you can do. So it’s that mission driven passion commitment to provide into everything you can, combined with really high quality data and insight and, and planning and really sophisticated intelligence, and you bring those two together. And that those two ingredients seem like the core of the secret sauce.

Dan Duling 15:18

It’s a win. You know, one of the really neat things about community health centers in general. But there’s a very high standard for quality and quality measurements. And we have a an outstanding team of folks who that’s all they do work on and look at and crunch the data on. And if the needle is not moving, what do we do different? And we’re not talking about, you know, talk about it meeting, and then we’ll think about it in six months. It’s we’re talking about this week, next week, how do we move the needle?

Wyatt Beckman 15:52

Yep. You talked a lot about the work you do to build relationships to build partnerships, and a lot of that results in new approaches and new partnerships that bring care into new places. Before I ask you about some of the specific examples, and some of your favorite examples, I think it’s worth pointing out that I think this is a different approach in some ways than how we sometimes think about health care. I think when we when we think about building access to care, sometimes the approach is, let’s build the best facility we can, in this place that’s relatively convenient for the organization. And let’s make it as great as it can be, and then hope that people will come and sort of hope that they can, they can make it to that facility. And don’t get me wrong. You’re building amazing facilities. This building that we’re in right now is phenomenal. But it seems like you’re also saying that’s not enough. You’re saying “How can we – when we’re invited into a community – How can we extend our reach to provide services there where people are? How can we build partnerships with a school to be in the school and provide services?” Not say, “Come to us all the time, but how can we meet you where you’re at?” So with that sort of framing and thinking about all the all the partnerships, what are some of the unique partnerships and relationships that you’ve built to do some of that, that stand out for you?

Dan Duling 17:28

Oh, a phrase that I heard that resonates with me is, there’s sickcare and then there’s health care, right? Two different things. When you are not feeling well, you need sick care. We do that plus we do health care. So, for instance, and I’ll segue into being in partnership with locally grown produce. Right? So because we have food as a prescription. Oh, yeah. I mean, it’s not, that’s not rocket science. We know if you eat well, you feel well, you, you stay well, right. But it is more complicated than that. Because eating good food is expensive. And there’s no way around it. So if we can help people either get back on track to eating well, and do food as prescription, but then we so we’ve created some partnerships with some more local producers.

Wyatt Beckman 18:32

You took the next step – Exactly.

Dan Duling 18:35

So we’re talking about health care, not sick care. And they’re both important. But so doing that has been really interesting. And, you know, some of our local producers of food also have an influence by sharing that with the schools. And then we have students who are going, “Oh,” so you know, in Kansas, we’re an ag based usually you think farming you’re thinking multiple acreage, big tractors, $1 million, I’m out. Unless it’s a legacy farm of some kind. But what if you were talking about, you know, locally grown, greenhouse production, that sustainable and affordable and you can make an income? We we try to partner with those people. So that’s, that’s one example. That’s really cool. So, here’s a new one we’re working on right now. And it’s just off the press. As I as I make new friends, friends, become partners – which friends and partners are two different things. Friends are friends and partners are you know, we’re now we’re sharing the same sandbox and have to figure it out. But we are now working with a lot of our universities. We’ve always had a wonderful long standing with KU, of course. Now we’re making new partners, stronger partners with our local Pittsburg State University, has much to offer we are now are the health care and mental health care provider on campus, which we’re super proud of. And the students were already coming to our clinics here, but now they can stay around on campus if need-be. Our latest venture though, is with K State. So you think, wow, what is K-State and CHC Southeast Kansas? Oh, man, well, I just, we had a visit one day with all of the local extension office people, they just needed a room to visit, and meet. And so K State president came and his leadership team, along with many of the extension office, folks. My family grew up in 4H, our kids showed horses, our oldest daughter went and was on the equestrian team for K-State. So there was lots of good connections there. I just kind of knew that world a little bit. And so I got to thinking, well, who is most, who is very trusted, in rural communities with services that’s already established. Your county extension office.

Wyatt Beckman 21:27

They’re there. All across Kansas.

Dan Duling 21:30

All across Kansas! I thought well, who’s providing trusted health care and mental health care and services? I think I just described CHC SEK. Right. And so I reached out to the leadership at K-State. And they said, that’s simple and beautiful. So we’re starting to work on how do you it’s, I think it’s an efficient concept. Because we’re not creating a new model from ground up. Extension offices are already established. In many cases, the trust is there by the community, and they’re providing good service, they have lots of things that are beyond what many people may even know offer. Right? And here we are, maybe a potential clinic in town, we’re the school, and how can we amplify what both are doing? So that’s another example.

Wyatt Beckman 22:28

That’s, that’s really neat. And when I, a phrase that I have heard in some of my, my work, talking about collaborative partnerships, is that they move at the speed of trust. And that’s been a really, really powerful thing for me to think about. And when I hear you talking about how you’re building these partnerships, you keep bringing up trust and finding folks that are trusted and building trust with your partners. And I, I imagined that that a lot of cases, your work is moving at the speed of trust. And that’s the right speed for it to move. Then another thing that I that I heard you say, and it makes me think about when I asked you about federally qualified health center, and you said, “sometimes I don’t, I don’t focus as much on the federal part.”

Dan Duling 23:16


Wyatt Beckman 23:16

And when I heard you talk about your approach to building relationships and growing care, you said it, you looked around in your community and in your region and said, “What’s the good stuff that’s already here? There’s already resources here, there are already people in organizations doing things. How do we build on that? How do we leverage that?” It’s a very local approach. And if you’re not looking to the federal skies and saying, “What can we pull in?” you’re saying “There’s resources here, and there’s expertise her. How do we build on that and leverage that?” And I think that’s a really, really powerful approach.

Dan Duling 23:54

I appreciate you noticing that, that and thinking about that, because my school background, I’ll make this really simple. So 85%, if not a little higher of a school budget, are people, not the bricks and mortar, not the football field. So when we go the biggest, the best, the richest, the most robust resource in the community are the people. Are the people! And it’s amazing, the talents, and work driven people that are in those communities, and everybody wants the best for themselves and their kids and their families and their community. So when we go in, we really think about what are the people’s needs, and it’s not just medical needs or what the needs that we produce, maybe they’re going to be able to provide us some people resources that are going to enrich our, you know, our environment.

Wyatt Beckman 24:56

There can be mutual – It is absolutely mutual. And there’s probably, it sounds like there’s, there’s a lot of listening too. You, you’re not coming in saying, “we’re, we’re great. Have you heard about how wonderful Community Health Center Southeast Kansas?” You could say that, but you’re you’re coming in, and you’re not sort of saying, “we’re so great, we have all the answers do what we say.” It’s much more collaborative.

Dan Duling 25:17

My dad said “there’s a reason we have two ears and one mouth.”

Wyatt Beckman 25:19

So one, one, I love those those examples, and all of them, a common theme is it’s building on local resources, building on on expertise and leveraging the best resource that we have and that’s the people there. And I want to ask you about another specific program, initiative that I that I know you all you all do that I think is really neat, and hits at a challenge that we often see in rural communities. We know that when we’re talking about access to health care, you could put a clinic two blocks down from my house. But if for whatever reason, I can’t physically make it to that clinic, then I don’t really have access to the services there. And you all have, have a program that’s in both Kansas, or leverages grant dollars from both Kansas and Oklahoma, because you’ve expanded into Oklahoma. And it’s called CareVan. And you offer transportation services to folks. Can you tell me about how – any background and sort of thinking on that, resource? Because transportation is a challenge that we hear often when we come to rural communities. We’re just set up in general or spread out a lot of times. And so how, how was some of the thinking and how did that partnership and relationship form?

Dan Duling 26:43

Well, this might be a little bit of a stretch, but I’m going to correlate to the origination, the vision of, the spirit, the mission of CHC SEK, and the beginning was to get students ready for school. Right, make sure you’re healthy. And so that’s the original centerpiece was have kids ready for school. Because if you don’t feel well, well, you know, you don’t and you know, what happens then. So that being said, if you can think in concentric circles, what do schools already provide in rural Kansas to get you to school? The big yellow buses, right? So it’s it’s not complicated. And that is a service that is trusted. Your word. It’s very local, right? So so why not health care? Why not mental health care? Have access. Have a ride, to get there. Absolutely. So it’s not it’s not. So the vision was very clear that it is a barrier, it’s probably, if not the top barrier for people accessing services is always near the top. Right. So our leadership, again, who said, barriers, we knock down barriers, we figured out how to make that work, said, “you know, what, we did a data analysis we we took a look at is, is that an assumption? Or is that a truth?” Right. So a lot of times we get assumptions mixed up with that’s truth. And in this case, it is true that we knew it was but we wanted to verify. And that being said, we said, “we’ve got to figure out a way to get a transportation system put together.” So it began with getting transportation for patients to access their care. All right. Then our super smart leadership and people who are mission minded here at CHC said, “You know what, I think we don’t have public transportation in rural America, zero.” So why don’t we figure out how we could work with KDOT to help provide transportation for other things than just care. Health care. Because you go, “Well, yeah, what are you going to take them to the grocery store?” Yeah, yeah. Guess what? If you eat pretty well, you’re going to stay healthy. And I’ve connected again, it’s a whole person. If you are stressed out because your loving pet needs to go to the vet, and I don’t have transportation, or I’m an elderly person, and I’m not – I just need transportation. We figure that out. Guess what they’re stressed does it goes down there. Their family pet is well again, it’s all connected. And so the thing that I think is super smart on CHC SEK part is that we also look at the business plan, because it’s super important to make sure that it’s sustainable. These can’t be flash in the pan, fantastic it was a six month grant, and then and then yank away the service,

Wyatt Beckman 27:27

It’s a good way to lose trust.

Dan Duling 29:44

That’s a lose trust kind of activity. And our leadership here is very clear about, I want to see the plan, I want to see sustainability of the plan over time. And so that that’s, that’s where that’s at now. And now we’ve built a business plan that makes it sustainable.

Wyatt Beckman 30:35

So there’s both a this balance of a willingness to be innovative, to take some risk, and at the same time to constantly be evaluated, learning all the way so that you don’t take a risk that you really weren’t set up to succeed. And

Dan Duling 30:50

I’ll give an example. We have a community health worker that works through one of our hospitals. So when a person is discharged, when they’re discharged, then you’re kind of on your own. So we don’t want them to go back into an emergency room situation, readmitted to the hospital, the hospital doesn’t want that either, right? So a community health worker who has to have a certification, but not a degree. So they’re there, it’s money well spent on salary, right. And they’re, they’re good at what they do. An example would be, another one is, we have community health workers who are called, that are connected to patients who live in their house. And we have one lady who will call the EMS to come out. And when they get there, they she couldn’t figure out how to get her blood pressure cuff on. Now, at the same time, you can imagine the cost of an EMS, and what you’re not probably going to go in EMS, you know, at the same time in another part of the county, there’s a true situation here, so we work with local PD, county and EMS. And so we’ve now integrated ourselves into that system with community health workers. So we’re trying to show number one, it’s always patient centered so it’s, it’s good for the person. Yeah, that’s first and foremost. But economically, it makes great sense. Yeah. And then they’re still connected to us. So then the community health worker will say, you know, while I was doing that visit, I noticed that we’re, you know, maybe a little dementia. So potentially, some mental health supports, it might be partnerships within the community, ie, food pantry, it could be community health center, it could be multiple things.

Wyatt Beckman 32:57

Absolutely. One way that you’ve grown, that might not be obvious, based on the name, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas. What I think by my count, when I looked at all of the, your places you can access care; over 20. And you’ve extended into Oklahoma.

Dan Duling 33:22

You know, you know, as well as, as anyone coming from the Kansas Health Institute, the health rankings, oh, my goodness, you know, Southeast Kansas is very concerning. And our counties are really – and everybody’s working hard with trying to move that needle, Oklahoma’s even more challenged. So, you know, back to we go where we can make the most difference and that is in those small rural communities, schools, I know we didn’t get a chance to talk a lot about schools, but of course, that’s near and dear to my heart, but that’s the epicenter of support and catchment and schools. It still is, yeah. And we have health clinics, like full on health clinics, inside schools. We have therapists that get up every day, and they work in the school. And all of that trickles down to you know, if you got you know, the student who’s not feeling well, is it strep throat or is it just I don’t know, sore throat? Well, a lot of our folks who work jobs where you are on a point system of missing work so you don’t lose your job. Or you lose hours. It can be all done in school, I mean, so we’re we’re it feeds back into employers and the whole thing.

Wyatt Beckman 34:55

You go where there is an ability for you to provide and meet a need and that extended into Oklahoma and extends to the schools. I know, I know, education, and schools are something that you have a background in and you care a lot about. And it’s absolutely true to my experience that in a lot of rural communities, the center of the social scene, the center of people talk about at the dinner table, the center of what people think about is the schools. Yeah, they’re the a bedrock institution. And when you think about meeting needs, where people are at Yes, schools is absolutely a place to do that. So it makes perfect sense.

Dan Duling 35:41

We’re talking about social determinants. Gosh, there is an equal sign and a school building picture.

Wyatt Beckman 35:50

And if you can, if you can help students be healthier, healthier students can be more successful in their education. Yeah, that sets them up for

Dan Duling 35:56

Absolutely, and you know, we really hope like, for example, here, at this new education center, John Parolo Education Center, you know, the data is really clear that, for instance, where doctors do the residency, they usually stay within about 80 miles, data is pretty clear on that. So the leadership of course here said, you know, we know that and we are, you know, a desert. And the docs are not getting any younger. And dentists, oh, my gosh, I can’t get into dental right now and that’s super important that we do dental work. So that’s the whole point is if we can, you know, hook students into thinking about health care and take care of them at the same time, and support them. And from – you mentioned early on when you’re giving us, our listeners didn’t get to see it all, but we got an amazing tour of this building. And you talked about as early as grade school, you’re finding ways to connect students with this amazing resource here, see the potential in health care and you’re not waiting around for folks to sort of come. You’re saying “There’s a challenge, and we’re going to be part of the solution. And how can we support that?” And this building, and all the resources that are part of it is, is some of that.

Wyatt Beckman 37:25

So we talked about education, and you have a background in education. One of my parents was a teacher for a very long time. And so I have to ask you to lean into that. And, and I think you I think you’ll be okay with this. I mean, you you have a master’s degree in education leadership, and you’ve worked as a teacher and in that space, so I’ll put you in teacher mode. So you’re in teacher mode, and you’re standing in front of a classroom full of folks that work at health care organizations in places like rural Kansas, and you’re talking to the folks that are maybe in a position like yours, that are trying to think about – How can we how can we grow our partnerships and grow our relationships? How can we continue to provide high quality care in our region? And you had that summarized in your lessons learned, and you had to write them on the chalkboard. What are what are you writing for that that lesson for those folks?

Dan Duling 38:36

Well, we’ve used this word a lot, and we’ll use it continuously. But that is build trust, just as you do with your students. You know, building that trust is just so trust, trust as a word, you’ve just put it right there and underline it. And, you know, I think you need to create quick wins. We live in a society where we study it, we dice it, we look at it, it’s six months later, it’s a year later, we might do something. You gotta, quick win. And that is very small. And maybe as small as let’s try and food as medicine with a local producer who says, you know, I think next week I could deliver you a boxes of something. Or it could be you know, school nurse assisting in some way at the schools. It could be our dentists, we do outreach to schools, and go out there and so just, you know, the answer is yes, let’s do it. Follow through. You can trust us to do well, but let’s get it done. Now. This is not long term.

Wyatt Beckman 39:47

If there’s a if there’s a step to take, and you’ve thought about it you you can see the benefit. Yep, don’t don’t think that that step is too small. Take it and then and then think it and learn from it. Maybe you take a bigger step.

Dan Duling 40:01

Another just kind of a mantra of mine, but have a plan, but don’t go alone. Have a plan, don’t go alone. And that’s all about the partnership. So we always are, as you know, we’re, we’re calculated risk takers. But we reach out to our partners and say, “Does this fit? Does this fit?” It’s always best to be asked. Don’t crash the party. Yeah? You know.

Wyatt Beckman 40:37

So being invited and part of part of creating a space to be asked to be invited, is building those relationships all the time.

Dan Duling 40:49

And, you know, one of the things that I recognize is, sometimes it’s the systems that are getting in the way, not the people, and the people work inside this system. And I’m not talking about CHC SEK so much, but sometimes systems can’t seem to be as productive and amplify partnership, it’s just because the systems are built so different it’s difficult. But that doesn’t mean we can’t, doesn’t mean we can’t. So that’s what we’re always looking to see. And I always go into those conversations with partners about the people we’re talking to. You and I. We are part of families at home. And we’re not just employees, you know, whatever. We’re part of someone’s church group and parent or something. So anyway, trying to look at the system versus the people. And sometimes that people say, “You know what, I think we need to change the system.” So I think everybody has to have skin in the game. And that’s the one thing I share with when I do legislative work, is even the person that doesn’t have any health care, we will provide it for them and/or insurance or anything. But we do ask about a little $5. Sliding scale? A little skin in the game, if you can? I think that’s the one thing that the Midwest really shows well, and as a centerpiece is, if I can I’m going to, I’ll pull myself up with my bootstraps. Now. Right now, I’m only – I only have one boot on, can you help me out, but have little skin in the game. And the other one is just creating sustainable, I’d read the word sustainability, sustainability. And that’s true for whether it be our organization, the family structure, if you can create sustainability, other wonderful things are gonna happen. And then, you know, success or stability and success.

Wyatt Beckman 43:04

Absolutely. So, we’ve we’ve talked about a lot of things. And this has been a wonderful, wonderful conversation. I’m gonna take us back again, back in time, the seed for what what Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas would would become, as we talked about, was planted a long time ago, 120 years ago by a sister of St. Joseph, who just wanted to try to meet the health care needs of her neighbors and of this community. And I think today, Community Health Center Southeast Kansas absolutely carries on that mission, but it’s, it’s awesome. You employ more than 1000 people you provide care in more than 70,000 people every year. A lot has grown and changed in those 120 years. And I’m not going to ask you to look 120 years in the future. But I will ask you to look a little bit. So if we come back here in 20 years, and we sit to talk about this region, about the health of Southeast Kansas, what do you hope we’ll find?

Dan Duling 44:19

Well, the the ultimate hope is that all our friends and neighbors, the people that we serve, are in a better place, in their health, their mental health. And so that’s always the goal. They are our focus there, what we love serving and doing. So that would be the hope that we’re moving the needle and helping people be in a better place. Probably what I can tell you won’t change is our passion. In fact, it will gain momentum. I can feel it when I work with the staff here at CHC SEK. The commitment, the passion, the hard work, I think it’s only going to grow, because the outside forces are becoming even greater pressures. And we all know that in whatever lane of traffic you’re living in, if you’re wealthy or middle class or poverty or wherever you are in your context of your world, it becomes more complex. And it’s because we know more about ourselves, and and then we have outside forces that are just – we’re global. There’s no question we’re, you know, Facebook, and Google impacts farming in Southeast Kansas. I can tell you all stories about that, but they do. So that being said, you know, we have to continually remind ourselves, we got to do all we can, for as many as we can, for as long as we can, you know that the mantra that is here. So I think you’re going to see continued growth. Because it’s the right thing. We do the right thing. We offer the right thing we serve in the right way. So I think you’ll continue to see growth, only because success builds on success, and trust builds on trust. So they’ll probably be more of this. And I hope so and we will just be serving more people.

Wyatt Beckman 46:42

And as the as the world gets more complex, not less complex, Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas will continue, by everything I can see, to continue to grow to meet that complexity and serve serve folks here in this region as best they can. Well, this was a great conversation. Dan, I really appreciate your time. And thanks so much for having us.

Voice over 47:06

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Transcribed by

Health on the Plains Production Team

Wyatt J. Beckman, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., Host

Theresa Freed, M.A., Producer, Editor

Emma Uridge, C.H.E.S., Field Producer, Coordinator

Stewart Cole, Editor, Graphic Designer

About Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.

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