Rural Health Cohort

Three Community Leaders from Rural Minnesota Selected as Inaugural Cohort for Project REACH

June 23, 2021

Three community leaders from rural Minnesota have been selected as the inaugural cohort for Project REACH (Rural Experts Advancing Community Health), a joint initiative of the University of Minnesota Rural Health Program through the Office of Academic Clinical Affairs and the Clinical and Translational Science Institute.

Project REACH is a year-long program that provides diverse community leaders in rural Minnesota with health policy and leadership training. Participants learn to frame health policy challenges and how to communicate effectively with state legislators and other policymakers. Participants identify local challenges, build leadership skills to address the challenge, and develop and share a policy proposal with relevant decision makers. Throughout the program, participants will have access to mentorship from University of Minnesota faculty and staff. Travel expenses for training, meetings, and program materials will be covered. Participants receive a $1,200 stipend and a certificate of completion upon the end of the program.

Ann Bussey, a retired health care leader, serves as a volunteer community advocate and facilitator on the Iron Range, advocating for older adults and the opportunity to live and grow old in an age-friendly environment. She participates on multiple community health committees across the Iron Range as well as the Fairview Range Community Healthy Aging Committee. She is a member of the Central Mesabi Medical Foundation, a foundation that supports the Fairview Range Medical Center community in Hibbing and the surrounding area. Bussey has over 40 years’ experience in progressive health care leadership in integrated delivery systems, clinical operations, professional practice, research and education, and rural health. She joined the School of Business & Technology at the College of St. Scholastica in 2013 as a member of the Rural Health MBA Advisory Board and served as an adjunct faculty in the program from 2014-2017. Bussey completed her master of arts in management at the College of St. Scholastica and her undergraduate degree at St. Catherine’s University in St. Paul. She lives in Side Lake, Minn., enjoying the lakes and woods, and her large and lovely family.

Leah Lehtola, a community health leader from Montevideo, Minn., serves as CCM Wellness Center and Community Health director. She uses her role to proactively reach members in the community to address physical health as well as social health through coordinated programs and events. For the past seven years, Lehtola has shown a dedication to her organization and the community through various organizational health-focused initiatives. Lehtola holds a bachelors of science degree in community health education from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Through her participation in Project REACH, Lehtola hopes to enhance her skills in identifying health problems, investigating their causes, and providing evidence for policies and actions to break them down. In her spare time, Lehtola enjoys spending time at the lake, trying new recipes, and chasing after her two young children with her husband, Jordan.

Adam Pavek, PharmD, a pharmacist from northern Minnesota, serves as pharmacy director for IMCare, a locally managed care organization serving over 9,000 members of Itasca County. Over the past 15 years, his diverse experience has ranged from serving as a practicing pharmacist to shaping policy for commercial, Medicaid and Medicare programs. Pavek has served in clinical and administrative leadership roles with the Minnesota Department of Human Services and UnitedHealth Group, in collegiate academics at the University of Minnesota, and in retail pharmacy services with Walgreens and Supervalu. This diverse experience has given him a unique perspective on the industry. He has found a particular affinity for his most recent role serving smaller rural health plans and health systems. Pavek was born in Bemidji, grew up in Roseau, and currently lives in Grand Rapids, where he enjoys an active outdoor lifestyle with his family that includes fishing, hunting, foraging, mountain biking and golfing.

For more information on Project REACH, visit

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