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Photo Of John Eich

John Eich


John joined the Office of Rural Health in 2005 as a Program Manager of the Rural Community Initiatives, and was appointed Director in 2006. His experience and skills are primarily in community development, program planning, systems analysis and design.

John came to the Office of Rural Health from southern New Mexico, where he directed a county Health Council—a public/private partnership that assessed community health and wellness needs, established priorities, then built and maintained coalitions to strategically plan and implement projects. They also served as a resource to and advocate for the county on a regional and statewide basis.

John grew up in rural Wisconsin, dividing his spare time between doing chores and hiding from them with a good book.

Penny Black

Penny Black

Data and Evaluation Program Manager

Penny has over 15 years of experience in public health program evaluation. She has worked at city, county, and state levels, domestically and abroad. Penny is responsible for assessing, analyzing, and reporting rural health data; tracking the effectiveness of the Office’s programming and collaborative projects; and overseeing graduate student interns.

Penny has a Master’s Degree in Health Science from California State University, Long Beach and a Bachelor’s Degree in Health Science from California State University, Fullerton.

Photo Of Kevin Jacobson

Kevin Jacobson

Loan Assistance Program Manager

Kevin began working for the Office of Rural Health in April 2007. His program management responsibilities include the Health Professions Loan Assistance Program, the Strong Rural Communities Initiative and the Rural Health Development Council.  Kevin also publishes a blog, Rural Community Development, where he posts information on opportunities and resources to improve capacity in rural communities, specifically around health care issues.

Before he relocated to Madison, Kevin was a Program Manager with the Syracuse University Environmental Finance Center, where he worked with rural communities in New York on a variety of environmental, public health and community development issues. Prior to that he was Payroll Manager of the University of California, Los Angeles Student Association.

Kevin has a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Administration from UCLA and a Master’s in Public Policy from the University of Southern California.

Elizabeth DiNovella

Communications Coordinator

Elizabeth DiNovella writes the Rural Reporter newsletter, manages our social media and digital communications, and produces other materials for our office.

Liz is a digital journalist with twenty years’ experience reporting for national magazines, radio, the web, and on social media. Most recently, Liz was the producer of Surgery Sett, a podcast hosted by Dr. Jonathan Kohler at the Department of Surgery at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health.

Liz enjoys writing about arts and music, along with science and medicine. In 2017, the Milwaukee Press Club awarded her piece, “Vern Stenman of Big Top Has Big Ideas for Breese Stevens Field” a prize for Best Long Form Feature Story in the radio category. The Onion described her work as “passionate, intelligent commentary.”

She graduated from UW Madison with degrees in History and Spanish. She enjoys reading and learning to ride horses with her daughter.

Ann Thornburg


Ann Thornburg joined the Office of Rural Health in 2021.  She is responsible for managing the SORH office and financial functions, with oversight from the Director.  Her diverse operational and finance background makes her an instrumental team member of the Rural Health’s office, especially since she is the bridge between our office and numerous university departments that require operational updates and we depend upon to function as an organization.

Ann has worked in the university system since 2008 in financial administration and grant management areas. She previously operated her family company for over 20 years and worked within the WI Circuit Courts for approximately 7 years. Ann was born and raised in a small rural farming community in southern Wisconsin. She now resides in Madison with her family and enjoys walking with her beloved dog.

James Small

Rural EMS Outreach Manager

James grew up on Washington Island and has spent his entire adult life in working in public safety since becoming a first responder in 1993. James has nearly 10 years of experience as a Public Safety Director and has served two municipalities as Police Chief and Fire Chief.  He holds certification as a Paramedic, Law Enforcement Officer, and Fire Officer II.

James enjoys working with organizations and helping them develop strategies that improve street level service delivery to citizens. James has experience consulting on personnel matters such as employee selection, workplace culture, and employee discipline.  His workplace culture training program, “It’s your ISLAND” has been popular at conferences throughout the United States.

James is a lifelong learner holding a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Carroll College, Master of Justice Administration from Norwich University, and Certified Public Manager at the University of Wisconsin.  He teaches as an adjunct faculty member of two colleges in Southern Wisconsin.

Megan Polster

Program Assistant

Megan recently graduated from University of Wisconsin Oshkosh, where she studied Nursing and Sociology, with an emphasis in Community, Organizing, and Environment, and received a certificate in Social Equity and Diversity. She was raised in rural Northern Wisconsin, so this role is very personal to her after growing up thinking it was normal to drive an hour and a half to her pediatrician, experiencing the struggles of rural healthcare, and working as a Certified Nursing Assistant for over two years at the nursing home in her hometown.

Megan joined the Wisconsin Office of Rural Health in September 2022 as the Program Assistant. In this role, she provides technical assistance to Critical Access Hospitals and Rural Health Clinics throughout the state. The WORH helps fund these hospitals and clinics and creates quality improvement projects with them through two federal grants we apply for. Megan loves that she can be a part of improving rural healthcare.

Megan loves living in Madison with so many events happening and places to explore with her friends. She also enjoys riding her bike, setting up her hammock by the lake, and taking care of her plants.

Laura Ketterhagen

Provider Recruiter
Laura recently joined the Office of Rural Health as a Physician Recruiter in November of 2022. Previously, she worked in Recruiting at Goodwill of South-Central Wisconsin, as well as Exact Sciences. Prior to beginning her career in recruiting, Laura worked on campus in an administrative role at a biofuels research center at UW-Madison. After receiving a Master’s degree in Educational Leadership-Student Affairs and Higher Education from Minnesota State University-Moorhead, Laura completed a student services internship with the School of Engineering-UW Madison. After this, she chose to move into the recruiting field, where she still finds that she can put her student services knowledge to work in a meaningful way. Her undergraduate degree is from UW-Madison in Spanish.
Laura is a born and raised Madisonian, but developed an interest in rural healthcare due to a family member’s career as a rural midwife. She is excited to learn more about rural healthcare and do all that she can to help expand access to high quality healthcare across the state. In her spare time she enjoys dyeing yarn, knitting, and tending to her garden.
Samantha Peck

Samantha Peck

Rural Hospitals & Clinics Program Manager

Samantha comes to WORH via South Africa, where she was born, raised, and educated with a passion for bringing resources to under-served communities.

After working in education for several years, she moved to the non-profit world where she managed an English program for refugees in Cape Town, South Africa. Moving to the United States, she managed the nutrition program at a day center for women and children experiencing poverty.  Her background working in the non-profit world has cemented her determination to serve with a people-first approach.  When she moved to Madison in 2020, she brought this approach to her work in community-based research at the UW-Madison, as she worked on building research representation primarily with older adults and rural communities across South Central Wisconsin.

Joining WORH in January 2024, Samantha now works with Wisconsin’s rural hospitals and clinics on the Flex and SHIP programs, focusing on access and quality improvement programs and resources.

Outside of the office, she spends her time traveling, challenging herself to recreate culinary replicas of dishes tasted while traveling, and watching Formula 1 (and cooking food from each race’s host country).

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