Celebrate the power of rural health care with gratitude

From the column: "They know they’re needed. They know communities depend on them. They know that a future where their doors are permanently closed would be of no benefit to anyone."

Pat Bagley / Cartoons
We are part of The Trust Project.

Across Minnesota and nationwide, National Rural Health Day was celebrated Thursday. For the past 11 years, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health has led the effort, setting aside the third Thursday of November to call attention to the selfless and community-minded spirit of health care professionals, health care organizations, and other stakeholders. They’re working daily to improve health, well-being, and equity in the country’s rural communities, where nearly 60 million Americans reside.

From Windom to Cloquet, Winona to Roseau, and all points in between and beyond, Minnesota’s rural physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice nurses and other nurses, behavioral and mental health specialists, dentists, therapists, technicians, public health professionals, health professions students, administrators, staff, and volunteers, as well as the facilities and agencies where these professionals work all deserved a big “thank you” on National Rural Health Day. The state’s rural health clinics and hospitals, public health departments, emergency medical services agencies, and other nonprofits who serve the health needs of our rural residents deserve thanks and so much more.

No matter where they practice — in critical-access hospitals, free clinics, nursing homes, mobile health clinics, federally qualified health centers, or the backs of ambulances — Minnesota’s rural health care workforce finds ways to give and then give some more. They give us their time. They give us their attention. They give us their unending compassion. They give us leadership and vision for meeting rural community health needs. They’re committed to the communities they serve, which are typically their own communities: the communities where they live, play, and shop; the communities where their kids go to school; and, very often, the communities where they grew up.

All they give is to ensure that you, I, and our family and friends receive the best care possible when facing what may potentially be one of the worst days of our lives.

The health care organizations that employ these caring professionals and the nonprofits they partner with deserve our appreciation as well. In today’s challenging economic environment, operating a rural health care facility or service is no easy task. But most organizations and their leaders find ways to keep the doors open. They ask the tough questions that need to be asked. They recruit and retain the right staff. They partner with community organizations. And they drive change, going the extra mile to advance health equity.


They know they’re needed. They know communities depend on them. They know that a future where their doors are permanently closed would be of no benefit to anyone.

So let me take this opportunity to thank all of the health care professionals, health care organizations, and health and wellness-related nonprofits which serve the rural communities throughout Minnesota.

When we need you, you are there. No matter the time of day. No matter our health concern. We can depend on you.

That sense of security is nothing short of priceless.

Happy National Rural Health Day to each one of you.

Sally Buck of Duluth is CEO of the National Rural Health Resource Center (, a nonprofit working to improve health care in rural communities.

Sally Buck.jpg
Sally Buck

What to read next
From the column: "Many Democrats are clamoring to pass substantial bills while they still hold the House of Representatives before the GOP takes over the lower chamber next year. ... Fortunately, due to the wisdom of our Founding Fathers, who ensured the Senate would “cool” legislation like a saucer cools hot tea, it is unlikely any of these half-baked bills will end up on President Joe Biden’s desk."
From the column: "With a potentially obstructionist House of Representatives controlled by many election deniers taking the reins of power in 2023, there is increased urgency to achieve as much as possible during the “lame duck,” the period after the election during which the outgoing Congress sometimes punts key decisions."
From the column: "It is being sold as a device to aid the less fortunate, but it is really a transfer of tax dollars from lower-income earners to higher-income earners."
From the column: "The system is broken and must be fixed. Biden’s plan to cancel student debt is a first step."