Meet a Member: Andy Lowe

Andy Lowe, Chief Strategy Officer at Outer Cape Health ServicesAndy Lowe

Why rural?

I have lived in rural New England my entire life, growing up in grown-over farm country in Connecticut, then living in Vermont in college and after, and most recently in outer Cape Cod. People who live in rural places have a connection to the land and nature that you just don’t get even in suburban environments, let alone urban spaces, and that connection binds us together in a way that used to be universal but which is rapidly—and unfortunately—becoming antique. I find the challenges faced in rural environments, particularly those related to health, to be stimulating and thought-provoking. Solutions to rural challenges require thinking around corners, often by adapting solutions from urban/suburban spaces to fit the unique challenges of low-density environments. I wouldn’t—probably couldn’t—live anywhere else.

What does being a member of the RoundTable mean for you? 
The Association provides a focal point for raising awareness about rural health challenges and solutions and a forum for conversation, networking, and best-practice sharing. In terms of tangible benefits, I have had several funding and research opportunities sent my way by RoundTable colleagues. I also love the fact that the folks from the “rural nooks and crannies” in southern New England can contribute to and learn from their more “classically” rural northern New England colleagues. TheAssociation is ultimately a validation of the fact that we’re all in this together!

What does rural healthcare mean to you?

Rural healthcare means identifying and overcoming challenges that most of the country doesn’t even recognize. Many folks see rural landscapes and think of beautiful scenery, vacations, and getaways. I see places where invisible, underserved populations have been created by the forces of tourism and second home-driven economies. I see people who are living on subsistence-level incomes from two, three, or four jobs—snowplowing, commercial fishing, handiwork, snowmaking—while dealing with a variety of social determinant issues that their urban counterpoints couldn’t even fathom. These are people with an innate dignity, but for whom access to healthcare can require lengthy trips by car, if they are fortunate enough to own one, or ridiculously lengthy trips by public transportation, which is frequently inadequate to non-existent. Let’s not forget that limited cell coverage and broadband that can make rural places feel more like the 19th than the 21st century (OK, so that’s an attraction for some of us as well). We have essentially created a rural underclass that faces serious health disparities, and I find the challenge of reversing this trend to be stimulating and rewarding.