Rachel Buford: A Journey of Resilience, Service, and Inspiration

Rachel Buford is a determined individual whose educational and career journey is remarkable. In 2016, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in human development and Family Sciences with a focus on social work from Oklahoma State University. The following year, she achieved a Master of Public Health specializing in Rural and Underserved Populations from the same university. Rachel’s educational journey culminated in 2024 when she obtained a Doctor of Healthcare Administration from Oklahoma State University.
Embarking on her doctoral journey, she was reminded of the importance of knowing her ‘why’. Her drive originated from the desire to inspire young women who saw her as a role model. This motivation had been ingrained in her during her high school days of leading mini cheer camps and cheering on Friday nights, and it continued to fuel her pursuit of a doctoral degree. It was also for the little girl she once was at Hennessey Elementary, unaware of her own potential. Despite facing obstacles and uncertainties, she aimed to convey to her and others like her that with unwavering commitment, they could surpass expectations and attain remarkable achievements.
Her path was deeply influenced by her experiences growing up alongside her mother, who battled a terminal illness. Spending significant time at the Kansas University Cancer Center, she found joy in the moments the nurses brought into a challenging period. These experiences initially led her to dream of becoming an oncologist, but a pivotal moment in 9th grade biology steered her away from pursuing a career in science. Nevertheless, the significance of healthcare, particularly in rural areas like Okeene and Fairview, was not lost on her. Throughout her education journey, she observed a disproportionate focus on urban issues, neglecting the equally critical needs of rural communities. Families in rural areas grappled with food insecurity, struggled to afford utilities, and lacked access to adequate healthcare. Her roots in the rural community instilled in her a deep-seated love and commitment. While she may not have immediately known her path, she was certain that she would find a way to contribute to healthcare and serve the needs of her rural upbringing.
In her role as a Population Health Associate at Vytalize Health, she is deeply involved in sustaining the operations of Critical Access Hospitals (CAHs), Rural Health Centers (RHCs), and Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) within the framework of value-based care. Collaborating closely with a diverse range of healthcare providers, including CAHs, RHCs, and FQHCs, her work involves implementing strategies aimed at achieving the goals of value-based care. By embracing proactive population health management techniques and fostering robust partnerships with local community stakeholders, she empowered these healthcare facilities to continue fulfilling their crucial role in serving rural populations. Through her concerted efforts, she not only strove to improve the quality of care delivered but also ensured the financial sustainability of these vital healthcare institutions 
Throughout Rachel’s academic pursuits, she never forgot the unwavering support and love of her family and extended loved ones. Their encouragement was the cornerstone of her success. Her journey was profoundly influenced by her mother in heaven, dad, stepmother, five sisters, nieces, nephews, and all of the “bonus” family she has. Their presence was a guiding light, shaping her resilience through life’s trials. She holds immense gratitude to the communities of Olathe Public School, Hennessey Public Schools, and Oklahoma State University, where exceptional educators imparted wisdom and grace. Every milestone she achieved was a gift from God, as she believed He had turned the trials into triumphs for His greater glory.