The Minnesota Critical Access Hospital
and Rural Health Conference:
Engaging Communities
& Transforming Health Care
June 23-24, 2008 in Duluth, Minnesota

conference logo

Congratulations Minnesota Rural Health Hero and Team Award Winners!

Gary Wingrove, Buffalo, and Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center, Wabasha, receive awards

Outstanding contributions to rural health were honored at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference on June 24 in Duluth. Gary Wingrove, Buffalo, and the Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center Wellness and Disease Management Team, Wabasha, were recognized for their innovations and leadership in rural health care.

Wingrove received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for his contributions in strengthening emergency medical services (EMS) in rural Minnesota and nationally. Wingrove currently serves as director of Government Relations and Strategic Affairs for Mayo Clinic Medical Transport, a nonprofit air and ground transportation company serving multiple communities in Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Prior to that position, he served as emergency medical technician and paramedic for volunteer, nonprofit, government and hospital-based ambulance services in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin and as state EMS director.

Thomas Vanderwal, director of the Greater Northwest EMS, explained, “The level of integrity that EMS carries today would not have occurred without the legislative relationships Gary has painstakingly built over his years of service to the EMS community. His willingness to work at the national and state levels has not overshadowed his readiness to work with small groups in rural Minnesota.”

When the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health honored him, Chris Tilden, director of the Kansas Office of Local and Rural Health explained, “He is a tireless advocate for EMS and rural health.”

Wingrove is president-elect of the National EMS Management Association. He is active, or has participated, in the Minnesota Ambulance Association, the Association of Air Medical Services, the American Ambulance Association, the International Association of Flight Paramedics, the International Roundtable on Community Paramedicine, the Minnesota EMS Regulatory Board and the Minnesota Rural Health Advisory Committee, the National Rural Health Association and the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

Wingrove is working with the state EMS and rural health offices of Minnesota and Nebraska, in collaboration with Nova Scotia, Canada, and Queensland, Australia, to use ambulance personnel in new ways. The Community Paramedic project will wed the emergency services role of ambulance personnel with the public health role of other health care workers to meet the needs of rural residents and visitors. With more than 75 percent of the United States classified as rural or frontier, Wingrove believes, “EMS must become part of a fully functional multidisciplinary heath care alliance that serves populations, not geography. I encourage decision makers to envision how we can use EMS to fill the gaps in our public health system.”

Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center’s Wellness and Disease Management Team was recognized for their involvement in the health of their community. The team develops and implements programs and services that promote wellness, prevention, disease management and early intervention. Saint Elizabeth’s helps elementary children, seniors and every age in between to reduce their risk factors through increased physical activity and improved nutrition.

To fully understand the impact of prevention and wellness in their community, the team has tracked outcomes of individuals with Metabolic Syndrome—a combination of risk factors for heart disease, stroke and/or diabetes. Results have shown that those participating in the wellness program have had significant reductions in risk factors and improved overall health. In addition, Saint Elizabeth’s is improving the center’s own employee health and reaching out to children through the Healthy Kids project, and working with inactive seniors. Program information is online (PDF: 355KB/6pgs).
r to l , Minnesota Department of Health Asst. Commissioner Scott Leitz congratulates Jenny Schlagenhaft, Terese Hemmingen, Paula Thompson and Jim Root, accepting their award on behalf of Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness and Disease Management Team

Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness and Disease Management Team’s primary members include Nicole Graner, purchasing manager; Terese Hemmingen, registered nurse and diabetes educator; Tracy Henn, PharmD; Pam Kieffer, physical therapy director; Deb Pfeilsticker, registered nurse and employee health nurse; Jim Root, human resources director; Jenny Schlagenhaft, community relations/communications director; Paula Thompson, registered dietitian; Carla Theusch, cardiac rehabilitation director and exercise physiologist; and Jolene Wieczorek, cardiac rehabilitation exercise specialist. Many other employees are involved and contribute to the success of the program.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents hero and team awards every year. This year’s conference, “Engaging Communities and Transforming Health Care,” was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the Rural Health Resource Center-Minnesota Center for Rural Health.


Each year the Minnesota Rural Health Conference honors one outstanding individual and one team in the field of rural health. Previous award recipients

Award Categories: Rural Health Hero and Rural Health Team

The Minnesota Rural Health Hero of the Year and The Minnesota Rural Health Team of the Year demonstrate leadership in bringing health services to rural populations. The committee will consider outstanding care, involvement in the community, and lasting contributions to the health care system. Selection is based on the compassion, innovation, leadership, collaboration, efficiency and/or unselfishness nominees exhibit to make lasting contributions to health care. Areas of impact could include, but are not limited to, health care and health programs, rural health policy, legislation, the advancement of the field, improved patterns of health care delivery, cooperative efforts to avoid duplication of services and achieve common goals, and the lasting impact of a program on populations and areas served. Include the significance of the work to the community, populations or individuals served.

Nomination Materials:
Complete the Nomination Form and write a narrative, describing, in up to six double-spaced pages using a 12-point font, why you believe the person or group should be selected. This is the primary instrument used to judge the nomination.
Additional Attachments:
Email attachments of up to six pages of relevant news clippings and supporting letters.

Resubmission of Nominations:
Nominations not selected from the previous year will be eligible for consideration. To resubmit a nomination from 2007, please complete a new nomination form and check the resubmission box. Include any pertinent updates such as contact information. The previously submitted narrative and attachments will be used for judging.

Submission of Forms:
Nomination forms and attachments were due May 2, 2008.

Selection Process
Award determinations were based on the merits of nominees, relevance to established criteria and demonstrated benefit to rural areas served. Winners were determined by a committee of Minnesota Rural Health Conference partners.

Awards Presentation and Recognition
The 2008 Rural Health Awards were presented on Tuesday at 12:15 p.m. during a luncheon ceremony at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference on June 24.

Awardee Recognition
Nominators presented the awards. The award is a plaque appropriate for display. The nominators and the winners were invited to make a three-to-five minute speech. A press release was issued announcing the winners on Wednesday, June 25, following the announcement at the Conference.


If you have any questions, please contact Mary Ann Radigan at or (651) 201-3855.

Updated Tuesday, 18-Mar-2014 10:57:37 CDT