IRHA Program Spotlight: Annual Conference

Posted by: Luke Wortley | Tuesday, May 15, 2018

IRHA Program Spotlight: Annual Conference

by Luke Wortley

We’re going to take a break from the series about Telehealth – specifically the UMTRC and the ITN – and direct a bit of our collective brainwaves as a staff toward talking about IRHA’s longest-running and most wide-ranging individual program: the Indiana Rural Health Association Annual Conference. It’s one of the things we here at IRHA all look forward to, and judging by the attendance numbers over the course of history, we’re not the only ones. This post will be the first of two that will serve as an interlude before we resume talking about some of our other outreach and advocacy efforts.

By the time Annual Conference rolls around, summer has finally descended on the Hoosier State, and since spring has been so late in breaking this year, we’re looking forward to the consistent sunshine as the charity golf outing kicks off the 21st iteration of the Indiana Rural Health Association Annual Conference (For information and registration, click here). And since I mentioned the golf outing, I think it’s probably best to have this first post focus primarily on the setting of the IRHA conference: French Lick, Indiana.

French Lick: Like coming home…

When I joined the staff full time in the summer of 2016, about two weeks before Annual Conference that year, I’d never been to French Lick, despite having lived in Indiana for the better part of four years.

Wherever you’re coming from to get to the conference, there really is only one way into town, and it’s up and down winding roads that are, at best, one-and-a-half lanes that spin you through the wavy grasses of early summer, past legions of corn fields draped over top of the rolling hills. When you finally unwind and spill out onto US-150 and take it to IN-56, the West Baden looms to your right like a monument in the distance, the grounds immaculate. The trolley running echoes to a time none of us really remember all that well; yet the bells dinging in the car somehow make us feel as though we’ve arrived somewhere we’ve always been in our minds. I remember when I first got to French Lick Casino & Resort, I was just amazed that this setting was tucked away in the collective memory of the state, nestled in what many who don’t know rural America would call “the middle of nowhere.” For us, though, it’s home.

I could go on about the mosaic floors, the rocking chairs on the cavernous front porch, the ice cream creeping down my son’s hand as we walk to the playground after a day of splashing in the pool, but I’ll let a couple of our other staff members share their experiences with being at French Lick.

Phil Ellis, InSRHN Network Director:

“It seems appropriate that, to take in the venue of French Lick and its impact on the IRHA Annual Conference, one has to zoom out and consider a wider temporal perspective. Despite the best efforts of staff, previous venues in downtown Indy had a feeling of disconnection. The venues had us scattered on multiple floors, vendors in every corner with suboptimal exhibition space. A feeling of detachment seemed to dominate.

Upon our return to French Lick, despite the massive size of this venerable facility, there was an immediate feeling of connection. The rural environment gave birth to a feeling of being home again. The look in people’s faces as they entered reflected a sense of excitement and anticipation. The corridors of our meeting and exhibit area reverberated with re-acquaintance between fellow members and with the venue itself. We were home, where this event was meant to be.”

Jim Miller, Revenue Cycle Consultant:

“When IRHA returned to French Lick for its Annual Conference, following the half-billion-dollar renovation to the main hotel and West Baden, I was amazed by what had transpired. As a child, I visited the then-French Lick Sheraton Hotel on a number of occasions. Each Labor Day Weekend, the hotel was the site of the annual IDEA (Indiana Democratic Editorial Association), during which time I would swim, bowl, and generally enjoy the ambiance of French Lick.

But, as an adult IRHA conferee, I could fully appreciate what Bill Cook and his partners envisioned and realized with their huge investment in Orange County. The updating of all hotel rooms, the extreme attention to detail in refurbishing the mosaics in the main hotel lobby, the expansion of dining choices, the renovation of the many recreational options, particularly the two existing golf courses and addition of the Pete Dye course, and the opening of the casino far surpassed whatever features I recalled from my youth.

Yet, French Lick maintains a charm of yesteryear not found elsewhere in Indiana – from strolling picturesque grounds around the famous sulfur springs, to savoring ice cream cones from the resort’s creamery on a warm summer night, to simply enjoying a southern Indiana evening with cohorts in rocking chairs on the resort’s spacious front porch.


French Lick is truly unique. So, for those of you who haven’t visited it before, I urge you to attend the 2018 IRHA Annual Conference. You’ll obtain limitless education and networking opportunities, all the while soaking in what makes French Lick so special.”

While we do have another post due out here soon that’ll focus on the actual conference programming, I think we here at IRHA wouldn’t be doing our due diligence if we didn’t highlight just how amazing French Lick really is. Once again, here’s the link for more information and registration for IRHA’s 21st Annual Conference.

We’ll leave the light on for you.