October 3, 2023 



Montana Healthcare Leadership Program Graduates 2023 Class; Recruitment Open for 2024 

HELENA – The Montana Medical Association (MMA) announced today that eleven healthcare professionals graduated as the 10th class of the Healthcare Excellence in Leadership Program (HELP). HELP is a top-tier leadership program aimed at equipping Montana healthcare professionals with the leadership skills needed to create positive change in their practices, hospitals, and surrounding communities.  

“These graduates join the ranks of 154 other top-tier alumni who are also leaders in Montana’s healthcare industry,” said MMA CEO Jean Branscum. “Graduates will affect change and leadership in the healthcare arena and are prepared to embrace the new and emerging expectations of medical professionals and changes to lead to better patient care.” 

Graduates of the 2023 program include: 

  •  John Calf Looking, PA-C, Primary Care, Blackfeet Community Hospital, Browning 
  • Wynde Cheek, D.O., FACN, Neurology, Crossing Currents Consulting, Helena 
  • Melody Cunningham, M.D., Palliative Medicine, Cunningham-Partners Hope Foundation, Missoula, 
  • Carey Downey, M.D., Family Medicine, Southwest Montana Community Health Center, Butte 
  • Michael Eisenhauer, M.D., Cardiology, Benefis Health System, Great Falls 
  • Tiama Friend, M.D., Emergency Medicine, Clark Fork Emergency Physicians at Community Medical Center, Missoula 
  • Anna Loge, M.D., Internal Medicine, Barrett Hospital & HealthCare, Dillon 
  • Dorothy Sizemore, D.O., Family Medicine, RiverStone Health, Billings 
  • Kaitlin Staebler, DMSC, PA-C. CAQ-Psychiatry, Psychiatry, Montana Psychiatry & Brain Health Center, Billings 
  • Tyler Thorson, M.D., Family Medicine, St. Luke Community Healthcare, Ronan 
  • Jessica Valentine, M.D., Family Medicine/Obstetrics, Clark Fork Valley Hospital, Plains, 


Additionally, another healthcare leader has completed the halfway point of completing this program and will finish in 2024. 

  • Shae Saunders, M.D., Family Medicine, RiverStone Health, of Billings 


Program graduates were honored during a celebration at their last session, in Big Sky, on September 15-16th and were recognized at the Montana Medical Association’s 145th Annual Meeting, in Billings on September 29-30th

The Healthcare Excellence in Leadership Program was created in 2013 by Montana physicians to help industry healthcare professionals step into new and emerging leadership roles and engage in vital healthcare policy discussions across the state. Participants in this top-shelf leadership program attend five monthly sessions across Montana to learn about the state’s healthcare issues and gain critical leadership skills. In 2019, the program branched out to include professionals from the full healthcare team, providing opportunities for more Montana healthcare professionals to move into leadership roles to spearhead the development of effective patient care. 

One hundred and sixty-five talented physicians and other healthcare professionals have participated in the leadership program’s first nine years. Past participants have accepted top leadership roles in Montana healthcare institutions and received multiple industry awards, including the MMA’s Legacy of Leadership Award. The 2023 Legacy of Leadership Award was presented to the Advisory Board that designed the program ten years ago. The members of that board are listed below. 

  • Michael Brown M.D. - Billings 
  • Craig Eddy M.D. (deceased) 
  • Roxanne Fahrenwald M.D. -Billings 
  • Jonathan Griffin M.D. - Hawaii 
  • David Lechner M.D. - Helena 
  • J. Kevin Maxwell M.D. -Glendive 
  • Virginia Mohl M.D. - Red Lodge 
  • Richard Popwell  M.D. - Billings 
  • Wendy Samson- Billings 
  • Lenette Kosovich  - Billings 

The 2023 program was developed through the support of the MMA Foundation and grants provided by The Physicians Foundation, a national non-profit organization that seeks to advance the work of practicing physicians and helps facilitate the delivery of health care to patients. The MMA Foundation supports physician education in Montana and also celebrates its tenth anniversary this year.  

Applications are now open for the 2024 program, with room for an expanded class of 25 Montana healthcare professionals. The program welcomes applicants who are passionate about patient care and want to grow their skills to have an influential impact on patient care matters. The program equips participants with the tools and knowledge to be more effective in leadership roles within their practice and the medical community and offers opportunities to impact healthcare policy. Each session will also feature learning conversations on wellness and resiliency. 

The program features a top-notch faculty line-up and approach proven to enhance the leadership skills of Montana physicians and healthcare professionals and grow their knowledge of healthcare policy in Montana. Healthcare professionals interested in participating in the 2024 program are invited to contact the Montana Medical Association to request a program application at or (406) 443-4000 for more information. 

About the Montana Medical Association 

The Montana Medical Association is a membership organization comprised of Montana physicians dedicated to improving patient care. Our mission is to serve our members as an advocate for the medical profession, quality patient care, and the health of all Montana citizens. The MMA is the largest physician-led organization in Montana, with nearly 1,400 members.