Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health Presents 2007 State Rural Health Awards

July 2, 2007

Three respected community health care providers and a long-time rural community health center were among those honored during the 2007 Pennsylvania Rural Health Awards ceremony, which was held at The Penn Stater Conference Center Hotel in State College, Pennsylvania, on June 14. Michael Huff, deputy secretary for health planning and assessment in the Pennsylvania Department of Health, assisted with the presentation of the awards.

Donna Decker, community health manager for Wayne Memorial Hospital in Wayne County, was one of two recipients of the 2007 Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award. While many rural communities find themselves struggling to maintain the health care services they so desperately need, Wayne Memorial has become a model of success for others to follow. Much of the credit goes to Decker, whose tireless efforts to seek the input of, and build relationships with, community groups and agencies has made a significant difference in the health status of individuals and families in Wayne and Pike counties.

For the past 13 years, Decker has been the key leader in The Prevention Initiative, a program established to improve the health of the community through various health programs and events, public awareness campaigns, screening programs and other activities. Since 1994, The Prevention Initiative—a State Health Improvement Plan partner—has grown to include more than 350 individuals, businesses and groups. Decker also played a key role in helping Wayne Memorial become a “tobacco-free campus” on October 1, 2006. Because of programs she has developed and offered at the hospital, the percentage of hospital employees who smoke has dropped from 30 percent to less than 20 percent during the past year.

Paulette Schreiber, who maintains a busy women's health practice at Elk Regional Health Center in St. Mary's (Elk County), also received the 2007 Community Rural Health Leader of the Year Award. A ten-year breast cancer survivor, Schreiber actively seeks opportunities to improve access to cancer education, prevention, screening and treatment opportunities for women and their families. In addition to providing preventive cancer screenings within her practice, she also surveys, counsels and schedules women for prevention and early detection appointments through her activities with local businesses, schools and senior centers. She has also changed her hours to more easily accommodate the schedules of working women and has become a clinical provider for The HealthyWoman Program so that local uninsured and underinsured women can receive free breast and cervical cancer screenings.

Over the years, Schreiber has organized conferences on women's health and the environment and has developed and taught prevention education programs for breast cancer survivors designed to help them increase their knowledge and change behaviors in an effort to reduce the risk of cancer reoccurrence. She has even started a women's health library in the Women's Imaging Center at Elk Regional Health Center in order to help women have a better understanding of the function and results of early detection screenings.

Mona Counts, Elouise Ross Eberly Professor of Nursing at Penn State, was named the 2007 Rural Health Hero of the Year. In 1994, after completing a study of the healthcare needs of rural Greene County, Pennsylvania, Dr. Counts co-founded the Mount Morris Primary Care Center. The Center, which is now a community-owned nonprofit organization, provides primary care services to more than 5,000 patients–some of them who travel more than an hour for treatment despite the fact that other healthcare providers are available closer to home. The center, which was the first in the nation in which nurse practitioners serve as the primary caregivers, has served as the model for the establishment of similar centers across the country.          

Welsh Mountain Medical and Dental Center (WMMDC), located in New Holland (Lancaster County) received the 2007 Rural Health Program of the Year Award. Founded in 1972, this Federally Qualified Health Center continues to provide quality, family-centered health services and programs to all members of the community—especially those who encounter barriers to care.

WMMDC constantly develops unique, creative programs designed to meet the diverse health care needs of residents of Lancaster, Berks and Chester counties. In October 2006, for example, the center introduced “Cavity Free Kids,” a program designed to motivate children to take better care of their teeth between office visits. In January 2007, WMMDC launched a new program to track patients‚ body mass index in order to measure their progress in the fight against obesity. These and other educational and preventive programs, such as ongoing sealant and immunization programs for uninsured or underinsured children, make WMMDC a key health care provider in what might otherwise be an underserved community.

The Pennsylvania Rural Health Awards are presented each year during the Pennsylvania Rural Health Conference, which is hosted by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health. The annual conference, co-sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, the Pennsylvania Rural Health Association, Penn State Outreach and Penn State Cooperative Extension, supports health care providers, administrators, policy makers and educators in their efforts to enhance the quality and delivery of health care services in Pennsylvania‚s rural communities.

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Editors: For additional information, please contact the College of Health and Human Development Office of College Relations at (814) 865-3831 or healthhd@psu.edu.