WELCOME: Pikeville Medical Center Chief Operating Officer Juanita Deskins addresses more than 1,200 people inside the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center during the 2017 SOAR Summit held on August 4.
Medical Leader│Photos by TEDDY PAYNTER

FAITH + GRIT: Eastern Kentucky projects showcased

Abigail Gibson

PIKEVILLE – Creating jobs, enhancing regional innovation and improving the quality of life across eastern Kentucky was the focus for the fourth-annual Shaping Our Appalachian Region (SOAR) summit held at the Eastern Kentucky Exposition Center on August 4.


Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) Chief Operating Officer Juanita Deskins gave a warm welcome on behalf of PMC, a presenting sponsor of the SOAR initiative.


"In my tenure at PMC I've had the great privilege and opportunity of working with the greatest visionary and innovative leader in this state, Mr. Walter E. May, our president and chief executive officer. Under his leadership, you have seen our organization grow from a small acute care hospital to a large precision-care facility," she said.


PMC is one example of what can be accomplished when you have vision, great leadership, innovative thinking and great people to work with.


"Please enjoy the Summit and thank you for supporting Pikeville Medical Center, our valued partners and SOAR as we drive new and innovative ideas in eastern Kentucky," Deskins concluded.


More than 1,200 attendees came to Pikeville to hear U.S. Congressman Harold "Hal" Rogers, Governor Matt Bevin and University of Kentucky head basketball coach John Calapari, while showcasing more than 130 innovators.


Congressmen Rogers, who serves as co-chair along with Governor Bevin, told those on hand that SOAR gives the region a chance to enhance efforts and inspire new opportunities for job creation.


"We're working together carefully and closely and seeing some good things happen. That's what this is all about, making sure that something happens. We are beginning to see the fruits of our collaborative effort," he said.


"We've all got to pitch together," he said. "We can't rely on county lines, this is a regional problem we have. It's going to take a regional solution to that problem and a regional attack. What happens good in Martin County is going to help Floyd County and so on and so forth."


The summit was full of individuals with the same goal in mind – creating better communities for our region one idea at a time.


Governor Bevin praised eastern Kentucky counties for their involvement with SOAR.


"We have folks who you will hear from as this day progresses who are looking at investing in this specific community and in eastern Kentucky in general," he said. "Ralph Waldo Emerson, a great writer and great poet, noted that nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."


Bevin said the thing he appreciates about SOAR, and specifically about eastern Kentucky, is their enthusiasm, pride and sense of dignity.


"This is an area where people want to work. Where there is pride in what is done, a sense of loyalty and a sense of home, a sense of roots and a sense of commitment," he said. "We're just getting started. We're just warming up. Good things are happening, there is a ripple effect. Up and down the eastern side of Kentucky there is an incredible activity unfolding."


The morning session included keynotes from Calipari, Max Espinoza, Senior Program Officer for Postsecondary; Philip Brown, Executive Director of Kentucky Communications Network Authority; Joan Ferrini-Mundy, Chief Operating Officer for the National Science Foundation; and John Stephenson, Senior Manager for Amazon Web Services.


SOAR Executive Director Jared Arnett said innovators are making a difference all across the region.


"Together we are shaping a better future for not only eastern Kentucky but all of our state," he said.


Arnett said it is exciting to see the energy in the area from local individuals, who are willing to invest their time and efforts to improve our hometowns.


The afternoon consisted of breakout sessions, where attendees participated in two discussions entitled "Broadband and the Digital Economy" and "Aerospace and Manufacturing Opportunities in Appalachia."


Congressman Rogers said he had the privilege of announcing the 2017 granting period for the next round of Abandoned Mine Lands (AML) pilot projects alongside the governor's office.


SOAR awarded mini grants to eligible groups who showcased their projects at the summit.


Those awarded were Manchester Memorial Hospital Telehealth Program, Last Mile Fiber Infrastructure Regional Forums/Boards, Paths2Promise, America's Entrepreneurial Schools and Colleges, Appalachian Pregnancy Care Center, Cultivating a Culture of Health in Appalachia, Community Health Initiatives, Homeplace Clinic, Teleworks USA, Pikeville Farmer's Market Production Initiatives and Himler Project.


For more information, contact SOAR at 606-766-1160 or visit soar-ky.org.