Health on the Plains: Episode 6, Looking Back and to the Road Ahead

15 Min Read

Feb 08, 2024


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


On Episode 6, host Wyatt Beckman takes listeners on a look back at the first five episodes of Health on the Plains. Since the show got started in September 2023, we’ve heard from a wide range of leaders and doers in rural Kansas, as they’ve addressed the health-related needs in their communities. Guests have shared not just the challenges, but how they’re tackling issues head on and seeing success. Wyatt offers a preview of upcoming episodes that will take him to southwest and south-central Kansas. Thanks to our listeners who continue to check out new and earlier episodes.

Episode Highlights: 

  • 0:41-2:25: Wyatt looks back on the first episode of the Health on the Plains podcast, with a clip from the initial guest, southeast Kansas Rancher Matt Perrier. He talks about the diversity within his community.
  • 2:26-4:55: Wyatt recalls the second episode with Lisse Regehr, President and CEO of Thrive Allen County. She discusses how her organization attracts young professionals by meeting their needs.
  • 4:56 – 6:40: The third episode with Dan Duling of the Community Health Center in Southeast Kansas is discussed. Wyatt recalls the innovative strategies the organization uses to get things done to meet nutrition and general health needs of the community.
  • 6:41-8:53: Wyatt shares details of his conversation with Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation Chairman Zeke Rupnik, who touches on the importance of preserving tradition and culture while rising to the challenges of addressing behavioral health needs within the Nation.
  • 8:54-10:50: Wyatt recalls his conversation with Bluestem PACE Executive Director Emilie Rains, who talks about an innovative model of care that gives older adults greater options to live in their homes and communities. She describes the relationships and connections formed through the program.
  • 10:51-12:23: Wyatt offers a preview of upcoming episodes.

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 0:41

We’ve now recorded five episodes of Health on the Plains. And we’ve already gotten lots of really great feedback about the wonderful conversations we’ve had. And looking forward to reflecting a little bit on what we’ve learned so far. For our first episode, we went down to the southern end of the Flint Hills and talked to a rancher, which is probably not the first person you think about for a health podcast, or a health policy podcast focused on rural health, which was very intentional. With this podcast, we’re really looking at a broad view of health. And the people that influence our health and our well being, especially in our rural communities, they often wear 2-3-4 different hats. And they’re often people that don’t wear white coats, or folks you don’t see in the hospital. And that’s one of those people he serves on our board. And one of the things he said that really, really stuck with me, and I think we’ve seen in future episodes is he said that oftentimes, there’s a lot more diversity inside of our rural communities than we see from the outside.

Matt Perrier 1:56

Depending again, on your perspective, a lot of folks would say, “Well, that’s obvious. And that’s why they vote like they do. And that’s why they think like they do.” But I’m here to tell you, even though everybody that’s walking into the clinic, or the hospital or wherever the case, the ballgame, wherever the case may be, even though we may all look and act and sound the same, I will promise you, there’s an immense amount of diversity in Eureka, Kansas.

Wyatt Beckman 2:26

And even if we see a rural community, and we think most of these people kind of look the same, they all go to the same school, they must be pretty similar. There’s a lot of differences in experience in those communities. And it’s been really exciting to see that. In every episode we’ve done, we’ve heard a different story, different experience in Kansas. In our second episode, we went down to Allen County, in southeast part of the state, and talked with Lisse Regehr here, who’s the president CEO, there Thrive Allen County. And Thrive is doing amazing work, their health coalition, that is taking such a multifaceted view of health. And they really helped us set the stage for all that’s to come with the podcasts. They talked about how they’ve woven together economic development, with physical activity, with other health-promoting activities. And one thing that really stuck out with that conversation is efforts to try and improve the health and well being and the quality of life in our rural communities, those organizations and those leaders doing that work, they have to do just as much listening to the community as they do talking and working and acting and, and they really showed the power of that active listening to help understand the true needs and the true goals of a community.

Lisse Regehr 3:46

But we do a lot of the recruitment of medical professionals into our community. So we do the community side of recruitment. And we were recruiting dentists into town and the first dentist that we were driving around said, “Hey, where’s your dog park?” And we just started laughing like ha ha, that’s funny dog park in rural Kansas, like, no, the dogs just run around. We don’t need a dog park. And then the second recruit, said, “Hey, where’s your dog park? And we didn’t laugh, we said, you know, “We don’t have one.” And then the third recruit said, “Where’s your dog park?” And we said, “We don’t have one but we’re working on it.” And it’s listening to our young professionals who at that time, these were young professionals whose lives were in urban areas whose children were their animals. And after a long day of work, they would take those children, those dogs to a dog park, where they’d watch them run around with other dogs, and where these people would get to hang out with other people who love their dogs as their own children. And they needed to be able to see how does the life I live now fit into this area that I might move into.

Wyatt Beckman 4:56

After that episode, we stayed in southeast Kansas. And we went and talked with Dan Duling, who’s with the Community Health Center in Southeast Kansas. And the focus of our conversation was really on building partnerships. If you’ve spent time in rural communities, you know that partnerships are really how a lot of things get done. There’s not as many people but there’s a lot of really goodwill, a lot of energy and a lot of passion for a community. And he talked about how Community Health Center of Southeast Kansas really exemplifies that as a FQHC in their community and how they have found unique ways to partner with schools, with other organizations in their community to bring care to new people and to new ways and really give us some good insights about how to think about doing that in other communities across Kansas.

Dan Duling 5:46

Trust, trust is a word, we’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 got to have a quick win. And that is very small. And maybe as small as let’s try and have food as medicine with a local producer who says, you know, I think next week, I could deliver you 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.

Wyatt Beckman 6:41

For our fourth episode, we traveled north this time, and we went up to the Prairie Band Potawatomi Tribe, about 30 minutes north of Topeka, and we talked with the Chairman of the Tribal Council, Zeke Rupnik. And we had a really, really great conversation and the theme of that conversation was how do you balance honoring and respecting and enhancing and building upon the cultures and traditions that you have in a community? And every community has traditions and things that have come before them? How do you honor that? How do you build on that, and at the same time, be innovative and forward looking? And I think Zeke and the Tribal Council and the Nation, there really showed us how to balance that well. And we talked some about how they did that through COVID-19. And how they’ve done that with their behavioral health center and expanding access to care.

Zeke Rupnick 7:37

One of the things that we were looking at was reduction of energy costs. And so we we’re in the process of utilizing solar panels on top of geothermal to help power that facility, so that we’re not, you know, polluting the air or anything around us. I think my other dream for expansion would be to utilize technology. Right now we’re trying to secure grants, that would provide fiber to every resident within the boundaries of the reservation, the 11 by 11, so that we could take advantage of what like the VA has, telehealth. So those folks that need to be monitored, they can be monitored at home, we can, you know, direct their care, so on and so forth. So those are some of the areas that I would really like to, you know, move forward on, we’re working in that direction to get that done. And just being able to provide different services for our members.

Wyatt Beckman 8:54

In episode five, we went out to McPherson and talked with Emilie Rains, who is the Executive Director for Bluestem. PACE, P-A-C-E stands for Program of All Inclusive Care for the Elderly. It was a really neat conversation about a really innovative model of care for our older adults. These programs, which Kansas is fortunate to have them not every state has them really wrap older adults in comprehensive care, a multidisciplinary team of providers that meet unique needs and goals of the patients they serve. One of the things that was really great about that conversation, and I think hit on something that is important in our rural communities, is really valuing those older adults and the things that they bring to their families, into their communities and doing things that allow them to remain in their community, remain in their home and continue to live a fulfilling life.

Emilie Rains 9:55

One of the things that is different about pets, is that you know, what brings an individual to PACE maybe that they’re having more falls or they are needing assistance with showering or, you know, they’re forgetting to take their meds or maybe they can’t even get to the pharmacy to get their meds, those things bring people to PACE. I think what keeps people at PACE is the community and really the family environment. So folks don’t even realize how much they need interaction and relationship with others until they get here. And they are looking across the table at someone and say, “They’re my age too, and they’re struggling with diabetis or they’re struggling with heart disease that’s really you know, causing shortness of breath and keeping them from doing those things they wanted to do.” So it’s finding that commonality amongst each of us even though we’re here for a different reason. I feel like we stay for the same reason, which is the connection and that quality care that we can give because we form relationships.

Wyatt Beckman 10:51

Was a really great conversation and something that I think, is a cool and innovative model that I’m excited to see other communities and other organizations explore and learn more about. We are just getting started with what we think that Health on the Plains podcast can be. And we’re really excited to continue to travel across the sunflower state and have conversations with more leaders and more doers, working to improve the health and well-being of our rural communities. In our next couple episodes, we will be traveling further west, we’ll be heading out to Liberal, Kansas to talk with someone who is involved with our community health worker program in the state, with K..U and is also involved in a coalition in her community. We’ll be talking with a hospital C.E.O. and executive talking about rural health care leadership in our small communities. And we have lots more great conversations coming up. And we’re always looking, and I really believe that there’s a lot of good happening in rural Kansas. And there’s a lot of innovative ideas, and wonderful lessons that we can learn. And we want to help tell those stories and learn from each other. If you ever have any great ideas or interesting people and good stories that we can tell, we would love for you to share those with us so that we can all collectively learn more about how we can build a thriving and healthy rural Kansas.

Voice over 12:24

You just heard Health on the Plains. Look for new episodes twice per month. Follow us on social media, and continue to listen to the latest episodes wherever you regularly listen to podcasts. Learn more at Thanks for listening.

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.

Learn More About KHI