Events / E-Connecting for Healthy Eating and Exercising in Rural Communities

E-Connecting for Healthy Eating and Exercising in Rural Communities

October 14, 2022
9:00 am - 3:00 pm

Registration for this event is now closed. Please contact to inquire about late registration.

In partnership with the Center for Dissemination and Implementation at Washington University in St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Columbia, we invite you to join us for this year’s D&I Rural Health Symposium: E-connecting for healthy eating and exercising in rural communities on Friday, October 14 at the Innsbrook Resort in Innsbrook, Missouri.

This event aims to engage thought leaders from public health, health care, community organizations, and academia for cohesive actions and collaborative research to promote health behaviors and reduce health disparities in rural communities, as well as advance science in digital health intervention design and delivery. 


This event will take place in the Aspen Room in the Aspen Center at Innsbrook Resort, located approximately one hour west of Washington University in St. Louis and 75 minutes east of University of Missouri-Columbia.

Aspen Room, Aspen Center
993 Aspen Lake Circle Drive
Innsbrook, MO 63390

Get directions to the Aspen Center.


If you have any accessibility needs, please contact Emily Hickner at We need to be notified at least five business days prior to the event to guarantee accommodation for interpretation and CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services.

Featured Experts

KEYNOTE: Paul Estabrooks, PhD

Paul Estabrooks is a community-engaged research scientist who focuses on blending the three missions of higher education—research, teaching and service—as they relate to health promotion and studying how best to move research into sustained community or clinical practice. This includes the pursuit of a on twofold career goal—to advance health promotion science while concurrently having a meaningful impact in the communities that he has partnered with. Estabrooks has applied his training in group dynamics, systems-based approaches, and research-practice partnerships to achieve this twofold goal, primarily, in the areas of the promotion of physical activity and healthful eating, diabetes prevention, workplace and community weight control, and family-based childhood obesity treatment. Across these areas, he has had success in scientific advancement of methods to develop scalable and sustainable interventions, has published over 250 articles, and has been consistently funded as a principal or co-investigator by the National Institutes of Health since 2000. In addition, within his community partnerships, this work has helped over 300,000 people to be more active, eat better and lose weight.

Debbie Bennett

Debbie Bennett works as a county engagement specialist in nutrition and health education for University of Missouri Extension, serving Atchison, Holt and Nodaway counties in Northwest Missouri. Debbie teaches evidence-based community education classes such as A Matter of Balance; Stay Strong, Stay Healthy and Tai Chi for Arthritis and Fall Prevention. Debbie also works to implement Policy, Systems and Environment (PSE) interventions in the counties she serves.

Amy Braddock, MD, MSPH

Amy Braddock is a practicing family physician and Associate Professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at the University of Missouri. She graduated from the University of Missouri School of Medicine in 2009 and Residency Program in 2012. In 2015, she completed an academic fellowship earning MsPH degree. Dr. Braddock researches child obesity especially new technologies for families and EHR tools for providers to address child obesity in clinic. She cares for patients in her continuity family medicine clinic, including adults and children with obesity, as well as teaches residents and medical students in the inpatient and outpatient setting.

Andrea Cullers, PhD, RDN

Andrea Cullers is an associate professor at Missouri Southern State University and co-director of Lion Co-op at the MSSU Food and Hygiene Pantry. She earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Arkansas in dietetics and nutrition. She then attended University of Kansas Medical Center for her dietetic internship and master’s in nutrition. She worked at both the University of Kansas and University of California, San Francisco as a research dietitian. She earned her PhD at University of California, Davis in nutritional biology, with an emphasis in community and international nutrition. Her dissertation work at the Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute focused on the effect of calcium supplementation on bone change in pregnant women. In 2013 she became a faculty member at Missouri Southern State University in the Kinesiology Department. She is chair of the Missouri Council for Activity and Nutrition, Food Systems Workgroup and the Joplin Area Food Action Network. When she is not working she likes to read, hike, do yoga, travel and hang out with her son and husband.

Dima Dandachi, MD, MPH

Dima Dandachi is an assistant professor at the University of Missouri- Columbia in the Department of Medicine and the Medical Director of the HIV treatment and prevention program at the University of Missouri Health Care. As the Medical Director of the HIV program at MU, she devotes a significant amount of time to increasing awareness of HIV prevention and improving the quality of care for patients with HIV. She has been involved in many community outreach programs and implemented several quality improvement projects in ambulatory care to achieve a more patient-centered approach including increasing the rapid start of HIV treatment.  In recognition of this work, she was nominated as MU Presidential Engagement Fellow to represent the University of Missouri System by a systemwide committee of peers because of demonstrated excellence as well as the ability to communicate that work and research to public audiences across the state and to help fulfill the mission to disseminate and apply knowledge for the benefit of all Missourians.             

Dixie Duncan

Dixie Duncan is the Project Director at the Mississippi County Health Department. She directs the MPower initiative which aims to develop partnerships to reduce the impact of chronic health conditions in rural communities. The collaborative effort across 11 health departments, local providers, pharmacists, and other community-based organizations aims to increase the use of evidence-based chronic disease management courses in southeast Missouri.  Her work focuses on community engagement in rural communities to decrease the burden of health disparities including cancer and other chronic diseases, primarily through increasing healthy food access and chronic disease prevention programs in rural Missouri. Duncan is a southeast Missouri native with a degree in anthropology and a master’s in public administration.

Kevin Everett, PhD

Kevin Everett is the co-director of the MU Rural Health Research Center and associate professor of family & community medicine at University of Missouri. He is a clinical psychologist by training and has long-standing interests in behavior change interventions designed to reduce health risks. Early career work was dedicated to projects seeking understanding of individual factors contributing to tobacco use and other unhealthy behaviors while more recent work has focused on organizational and community level interventions. This has included projects addressing vulnerable, hard-to-reach, or underserved populations (e.g., rural populations; low-income; LGBT community; individuals with mental illness). His approaches specifically include local community participation including leadership building activities for youth and college students.

Maura Kepper, PhD

Maura Kepper is an assistant professor at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis and a member of the Prevention Research Center and Institute for Informatics. Kepper conducts research to design, implement, and sustain interventions that address modifiable risk factors for chronic diseases. Her research intersects behavioral health, informatics, and dissemination and implementation science. She uses technology to promote healthy behaviors (physical activity and diet), enable patient-centered decision making, and address social and environmental barriers to health. Her research uses transdisciplinary, community-engaged approaches to ensure digital health interventions equitably reach and meet the needs of diverse populations (e.g., low-income, rural communities).

Jane McElroy, PhD

Jane McElroy is a professor and epidemiologist in the Family and Community Medicine department at University of Missouri. She is also co-director of a newly founded Rural Health Research Center (RHRC). One element of the RHRC is expanding the Missouri practice-based innovations network, a clinic-based network for bidirectional engagement in research endeavors among (rural) healthcare clinics/systems and researchers. McElroy’s research focuses on cancer prevention and more recently on COVID-19 and Influenza. Besides cancer and viral exposures, she is invested in reducing health disparities. She has expertise in sexual and gender minority (i.e. LGBTQ) issues with federally funded projects and publications.

Patricia Miller

Patricia Miller is CEO of the Missouri State Alliance of YMCAs. She has a master’s degree in public administration, Bachelor of Arts in marketing management and 30 years of non profit experience and leadership. Miller currently provides leadership and support to 24 YMCA Associations serving over 600,000 Missourians through over 70 branches and 800 service delivery sites.  Miller also supports 11 YMCA Associations in Kansas, providing strategic planning, board governance and consulting support. Miller will review the Y’s challenges and approaches to serving rural Missourians working to improve their health status through physical activity and healthy eating.

Tim Nikolai

Tim Nikolai is the Senior Rural Health Director for the American Heart Association in the Midwest. An “Army brat” and a graduate of Ripon College, he has been with the Association for 14 years in a variety of roles, predominantly in Wisconsin. In his current role he works with organizations that are based in – or focused on – rural communities. This includes hospitals, community health centers, school districts, local health departments and more.  His work focuses on changing policies and systems from a barrier to health into a health asset. He lives north of Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two kids.