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Five Questions with Terry Hill

Terry Hill of Duluth received the President’s Award from the National Rural Health Association for his 25 years of work on rural health care issues. (Photo submitted by Terry Hill)

Terry Hill of Duluth recently received the President’s Award from the National Rural Health Association for his 25 years of work on rural health care issues. Hill was the first executive director of the Northern Lakes Health Care Consortium and Minnesota Center of Rural Health, known today as The Center. He is an adviser for The Center, based in Duluth, which provides assistance, information and resources for improving rural health care in the region. We asked Hill Five Questions about his work and other passions.

Q: A video at the award ceremony talked about your growing up in rural Alaska and how it shaped your perspective on rural issues. Are there some specific ways you have used that upbringing in developing policy?

A: I grew up in a very remote area of Alaska, more than 200 miles from the nearest hospital or clinic. That experience helped to ground me in what it means to be rural, and gave me perspective on the challenges of providing health care in wilderness areas of this country.

Q: What drew you to the University of Minnesota for studies in history and journalism, and how did you end up in Duluth?

A: I moved to Minnesota to attend the University of Minnesota, intending to go to law school. After graduation, my professional plans were interrupted by a draft status that became 1A. I received an all-expenses-paid trip from the U.S. Army to Vietnam and later to Cambodia.

Q: Can you tell us about a specific success story you’ve helped shepherd in your career that might explain the work of The Center and other rural advocacy groups?

A: The National Rural Health Resource Center, based in Duluth, has become the nation’s leading technical assistance center for rural health. Our staff works in support of thousands of rural hospitals and clinics throughout the United States, and we are a go-to resource for federal policymakers. Ultimately, our goal is to have an impact on the health and welfare of rural Americans.

Q: You are an Army veteran with a Bronze Star and other accolades from serving in the Vietnam War. How has that experience shaped your life and work?

A: My experience during the Vietnam War provided valuable perspective for the rest of my life. No later experience was ever as difficult, no weather was ever more hot and humid, and never again was I to feel as lonely and afraid. The challenges and difficulties I encountered during the rest of my career seem minor in comparison. I was able to say “At least no one’s shooting at me, and I don’t have to spend my nights sleeping in the mud.”

Q: You are hosting a dinner party and can invite any three people — alive or dead,

famous or not — to dine with you. Who would they be and why?

A: Benjamin Franklin was a brilliant thinker, founding father and sparkling conversationalist. He’d have an endless supply of great stories and anecdotes and could be counted on to bring along an attractive group of admirers.

Albert Einstein would expound on the principles of quantum physics and would nicely complement the wit and wisdom of Franklin. Topics such as nonlinear time and space would challenge our conventional thinking and would leave us with much to think about after the dinner.

The Dalai Lama would provide a living spiritual conversation to the dinner. I’d bypass some other worthy candidates, such as Pope Francis and Thich Nhat Hanh, and choose the Dalai Lama, who has more than 70 years of spiritual leadership. This man has been a brilliant champion of world peace, tolerance and personal growth. His sense of humor would prevent the conversation from becoming overly intense, and he could be counted on to bring harmony and peacefulness to the entire proceedings.

Compiled and edited by Mike Creger. Do you know someone we should ask Five Questions to? Tell us about that person at or call (218) 723-5218.