UnityPoint Health | Government Affairs - Our Team
Woman Holding Her Child

Meet the Government & External Affairs Team

The UnityPoint Health Government & External Affairs team serves as the health system's primary point of contact with state and federal legislators, government agencies and advocacy organizations to help shape policy as it is being created and to ensure laws and regulations implemented best serve our patients and communities. We use the expertise of our health care leaders, physicians, providers and staff to help communicate the vision and mission of UnityPoint Health, as well as the full spectrum of the services we provide and our economic impact on the communities we serve.

John Sheehan

Chief Administrative Officer


John Sheehan oversees all functional areas of the UnityPoint Health system services departments, including the Government & External Affairs department. He joined the organization as Vice President of UnityPoint Health Operations in April 2019, where he worked with all UnityPoint Health regions on company initiatives such as campus optimization, rural health and service line development. Sheehan is recognized for team building expertise that strengthens organizational culture and performance in all areas.

Previously, Sheehan served as an executive at UnityPoint Health – Cedar Rapids and was the only administrator with a dual appointment in both hospital and clinic operations. Sheehan has also held positions at UW Health, ThedaCare, Geisinger and Centura Health. Sheehan received his master's in health administration from St. Louis University and his bachelor's degree in economics from the University of Wisconsin.

Cathy Simmons

Executive Director, Regulatory Affairs and Federal Government Affairs Lead

Cathy SimmonsCathy Simmons currently serves as Executive Director, Regulatory Affairs under the UnityPoint Health Government & External Affairs department. She has been with UnityPoint Health since 2008.

In her current role, Simmons is responsible for advancing federal legislative, policy and regulatory priorities and leads the development of regulatory platforms for the health system. This includes efforts to remove regulatory red tape, promote sustainable reimbursement structures and position UnityPoint Health to be nationally competitive during application processes to participate in payment and service delivery innovation models. Simmons has facilitated applications to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and its Innovation Center for the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO), the Medicare Shared Savings Program, the Medicare Care Choices Program, the Next Generation ACO and the Rural Community Hospital Demonstration.

Simmons started her work at UnityPoint Health with the UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital Foundation (Waterloo, IA) as its first grants manager. In 2009, Simmons joined the Government & External Affairs department to support grants and sponsored programs efforts. During her tenure in sponsored programs, Simmons was responsible for securing more than $35 million in grant funds. 

Before her appointment with UnityPoint Health, Simmons held positions at the Nebraska Unicameral, Operation Threshold Community Action Agency, and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank.

Simmons received her bachelor's from Grinnell College, juris doctorate from the University of Nebraska College of Law, and a master's in public policy from the University of Northern Iowa. She currently serves on the governing board of Precedence, Inc.

Ashley Thompson

Director, Government & External Affairs and State Government Affairs Lead

Ashley ThompsonAshley Thompson currently serves as Director, Government & External Affairs under the Government & External Affairs department. She has been with UnityPoint Health since 2012.

Thompson is responsible for advancing the health system's state legislative, policy and regulatory priorities. In addition, she is responsible for the successful development of strategic systemwide initiatives, such as the UnityPoint Health Youth Prevention Education Initiative, to further develop community benefit programs that service the needs of patients and communities served by UnityPoint Health. 

Prior to her current role, Thompson served as Director, Patient and Community Partner Engagement in the UnityPoint Health – Fort Dodge and Waterloo regions. She was a key member of the Trinity Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) leadership team and led the organization's patient-centered medical home deployment team, as well as clinic (ambulatory) quality and patient experience improvement strategies. In addition, she spearheaded the formal affiliation between UnityPoint Health – Allen Hospital and Black Hawk-Grundy Mental Health Center, a community mental health center in Northeast Iowa. 

In addition to Thompson's roles within UnityPoint Health, she previously served as Director of the Compass Practice Transformation Network (Compass PTN), Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, a $32.5 million primary and specialty care improvement and payment reform effort funded by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation. She has also held positions at UnityPoint Accountable Care, the University of Southern Mississippi, Gordon Whyte & Associates, G. Edward Tucker Financial & Strategic Consulting, the University System of Georgia and the Black Hawk County (IA) Health Department.

Thompson serves on the Iowa Rural Health Association Board of Directors, as the health system's representative on the Iowa Rural Development Council and as the Vice Chair of the Story County (Iowa) Analysis of Social Services Evaluation Team (ASSET).

Thompson received her bachelor's in education and health promotion from the University of Northern Iowa, a master's in public health from the University of Georgia and a certificate in global health disparities from Global Health Corps.

View Ashley's Awards