The Minnesota Rural Health Awards are presented each year at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference to recognize individuals and teams that have made outstanding contributions to rural health care.

  • Minnesota's Rural Health Hero awards recognize outstanding individuals who have made a significant contribution toward improving the health care of rural Minnesotans. Factors considered include: compassion, efficiency, innovation, collaboration, unselfishness and leadership in rural health care. Minnesota's Rural Health Heroes can be practitioners, advocates, administrators, volunteers, educators, researchers, policymakers or other community members.
  • Minnesota's Outstanding Rural Health Team awards recognize teams of people who have made a significant contribution toward improving the health care of rural Minnesotans. Factors considered include: compassion, efficiency, innovation, collaboration, unselfishness and leadership in rural health care. Minnesota's Outstanding Rural Health Team can be an organization, clinic, partnership or collaborative, program or practice.

2013 Minnesota Rural Health Hero

Rural Health Hero Award


Al Vogt
, a resident of Cook, received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for over three decades of leadership and advocacy, not only in his local community but far beyond it. Vogt is Chief Executive Officer of Cook Hospital, a critical access hospital and attached nursing home serving a 2,500-square-mile region of Minnesota wilderness and recreational areas. In addition to his accomplished track record as a health care administrator in his local community, Vogt has helped bring together other Minnesota hospitals in collaborations recognized nationally for their innovation and effectiveness, particularly in the use of technology and telehealth.

Vogt is known as an entrepreneur and a collaborator extraordinaire. Among other partnerships, he helped form the Minnesota Wilderness Health Care Coalition, a group of northeastern Minnesota hospitals that have joined forces to ensure access in one of the most rural areas of the state through innovations such as a telepharmacy service that brings after-hours services to member hospitals. He is also a founding member and current Board member of SISU Medical Solutions, which also uses a cooperative approach, in this case to bring information technology services to rural hospitals and other health care providers throughout the state. Vogt is also active in statewide and national advocacy organizations.

2013 Minnesota Rural Health Team

Rural Health Team Award


This year's Rural Health Team award went to the Mobile Health Team of Open Door Health Center based out of Mankato. As a Community Health Center and the only sliding-fee medical and dental access point south of the Twin Cities, Open Door has long served as an important source of affordable primary care in rural southwestern Minnesota, particularly for those facing barriers such as poverty, lack of transportation and lack of insurance. In 2012, to make its services accessible throughout south-central and southwestern Minnesota, Open Door launched two mobile units.

These 40-foot "clinics on wheels" - one tailored for medical and behavioral needs and the other equipped for dental services - make regular stops in three counties (Dodge, Lyon and Sibley), with planned stops in four additional counties (Murray, Jackson, Fillmore and Cottonwood). Patients receive the same comprehensive primary care, disease management, oral health care, behavioral health care, and health education provided at the main clinic site in Mankato. In the first year of operation, the mobile vans drew residents from 26 Minnesota counties, and more than 80 percent of those patients were uninsured. The dental unit already has a waiting list of 500. Open Door secured grants through the Affordable Care Act and the Healthier Minnesota Community Clinic Fund to help support the mobile units.


Previous Rural Health Award Recipients
1999-2012

Rural Health Team Award Winners:

  • 2012
The Violence Prevention Council of Morrison County received the Rural Health Team Award for its collaboration and innovation using a "spectrum of violence" approach to reduce partner violence in Morrison County by targeting upstream activities to change societal norms.  
  • 2011
The Right Side Up in Otter Tail County received the Rural Health Team Award for its compassionate in-home efforts to reduce fall risk among seniors and improve their quality of life.  
  • 2010
The Northern Dental Access Center received the Rural Health Team Award for its work with families in rural, northwestern Minnesota who have low incomes. Staff is trained in understanding poverty and in recognizing the symptoms of sexual assault, neglect, mental health vulnerabilities and more. A patient advocate works to address all concerns to ensure patients receive the care they need in the most pain-free way possible. More details about Northern Dental Access Center on the ORHPC Models page.
  • 2009
Riverwood Healthcare Center and Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, Brainerd Lakes Affiliate were recognized for their Breast Health Team. Riverwood Healthcare Center launched a Nurse Navigator Program for Breast Health to serve residents of Aitkin and Crow Wing counties. The program educates women about the need for regular screenings for early detection of breast cancer and offers one-on-one support and coordination of services for women who are diagnosed with breast cancer. The program reaches out to women 35 and older and those with low household incomes. The goal is to improve care for patients with breast cancer and to improve access to breast cancer screenings. The program is a model for breast health that is being used in other health care systems.
  • 2008
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.
  • 2007
One of the driving forces of the Drug Free Coalition of Bemidji has been its voluntary involvement of members from all sectors of the community including parents, health care, social services, government, schools, law enforcement, faith communities and youth. This collaboration is making an impact on youth drug and alcohol abuse through the multidisciplinary approach of projects and services.
  • 2006
The Access Healthcare Home Health Psychiatric Nursing Team is a Medicare-certified, Minnesota class A licensed home health agency based in Grand Rapids, with patients in Cohasset, Deer River, Hill City, Jacobson, McGregor, Aitkin, and Iron Range towns. The team of certified psychiatric registered nurses includes Nancy Hock-Lien, Linda Mortenson and Carmen Rumer.
  • 2005

Sisu Medical Systems is a nonprofit corporation that manages shared information technology (IT) services for a consortium of medical centers using a minimum of member resources, which is crucial to sustaining and increasing the regions’ rural health care capabilities and it would be cost prohibitive for small facilities.

  • 2004
The Senior Helping Hands Peer Volunteers made invaluable contributions by helping troubled seniors recover and re-enter their community. The team's leadership, innovation, dedication and commitment to the program makes a difference in the quality of life for seniors struggling with chemical dependency and mental health issues.
  • 2003
The Madelia Community Hospital “Fight the Fat” Program Award recipients include the town of Madelia and the dedicated people who helped plan and lead the program, including Deb Grote, Donna Klinkner, Candace Fenske, Bev Dahl, Denise Osburn, Deidre Hruby, Jodi Ulmen, and Laura Meyer
  • 2002
Freshwater Education District Lakewood Health System Fetal Alcohol Diagnostic Team,Staples, for their efforts to increase community understanding of the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome.
  • 2001
County Emergency Medical Services, Fertile, a non-profit, charitable organization run entirely by volunteers.
  • 2000
Paynesville Area Health Care System, a model for collaboration in health care delivery, and an important component of the Rural Physician Associate program and the Rural Health School.
  • 2000
Saludando Salud, providing medical interpretation services, referral and appointment assistance, health education, and cultural competency and medical interpretation training to Chicano/Latino people in south central Minnesota.
  • 1999
Drs. Keith Moulton and Roger Parsons of the Moulton and Parsons Clinic in St. James for their fifty years of caring for the people and community of St. James.

Rural Health Hero Award Winners:

  • 2012
O.J. Doyle, of St. Paul, received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award after working over two decades on legislative efforts and innovation to strengthen the state's EMS system, particularly in rural areas. Most recently, he helped Minnesota become the first state in the nation to establish a new health care provider type: the community paramedic. Community paramedics work alongside EMS personnel to address low-intensity and preventive cases, effectively increasing a community's primary care capacity while also freeing up its EMS providers for more urgent situations. Trained as a paramedic and now a lobbyist for a variety of EMS clients, Doyle was instrumental in helping Community Paramedic legislation become enacted in 2011 with strong bipartisan support. He also helped create the Minnesota EMS Regulatory Board and the Minnesota Statewide Trauma System, and worked to secure funding for a variety of EMS functions in rural areas, including those for volunteer ambulance personnel and rural ambulance research.
  • 2011
Therese Zink, M.D., of Zumbrota, received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for promoting rural health in Minnesota and across the county. Dr. Zink is a member of the University of Minnesota faculty, a published author, and a family physician in Zumbrota. As a faculty member and associate director of research and evaluation at the University of Minnesota Medical School, Dr. Zink teaches third-year medical students who are part of the Rural Physician Associate Program (RPAP). The Minnesota Legislature and the University founded RPAP in 1971 to train more rural and primary care physicians. Over the past five years, Dr. Zink has analyzed the outcomes of RPAP, demonstrating the program’s success training rural and primary care physicians and showing its potential as a model nationwide.
  • 2010
Colleen Spike,St. Peter, received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for her role as a champion of small rural hospitals. Her nursing background, compassion and holistic approach to care are evident in the value she places on collaboration. Under Spike’s guidance as chief executive officer, River’s Edge Hospital & Clinic grew from a 38-bed facility to a 30-acre health care campus providing care for St. Peter, all of Le Sueur and Nicollet counties and portions of Blue Earth and Sibley counties.
  • 2009

Tim Rice, Staples, received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for his contributions in strengthening medical services in central Minnesota. Rice is president of Lakewood Health System, which has grown from one hospital and 200 employees under his direction to an independent, integrated system of five primary care clinics, senior services and 800 employees. According to the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services, Lakewood has set the national standard for the medical home model, also known as a health care home.

  • 2008

Gary Wingrove received the Minnesota Rural Health Hero award for his contributions in strengthening emergency medical services (EMS) in rural Minnesota and nationally. Wingrove is 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.

  • 2007

Ray G. Christensen, M.D., is a board-certified family physician and cofounder of the Gateway Family Health Clinic in Moose Lake. Dr. Christensen helped develop the trauma system in northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, the Arrowhead EMS Association, the Northern Lakes Health Care Consortium, Minnesota Center for Rural Health, Minnesota Office of Rural Health and Primary Care and the Rural Health Resource Center. He has advocated for rural health through the Minnesota Health Care Commission, Area Health Education Center and Regional Coordinating Boards. He served as president of the Minnesota Rural Health Association and is currently the Clinical Services Chair for the National Rural Health Association. Dr. Christensen currently serves as assistant dean for Rural Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth campus, mentoring family practice students, and was the driving force behind the Minnesota Summer Internship in Medicine Program.

  • 2006
Gary L. Davis, Ph.D., L.P., associate director of the Center for Rural Mental Health Studies at the University of Minnesota Medical School Duluth, championed the telemental health service that now exists in Northland Medical Center in Bigfork, Scenic Rivers Health Services in Cook and the Littlefork Medical Center in Littlefork.
  • 2005
Wilfredo Apostol, M.D. has played a major role in the health care and community life of Lyon, Redwood, Murray and Cottonwood Counties over more than 30 years.
  • 2004
Marie Comstock's contributions continue to benefit the residents of Roseau County and surrounding areas.
  • 2003
Darrell Smith of Grand Marais for his dedication and commitment to the residents of Cook County.
  • 2002
Rick Failing, hospital administrator of Kittson Memorial Healthcare Center in Hallock.
  • 2002
Mel Nefstead of Staples for his work as a rural health advocate in his community and statewide since 1968.
  • 2001
Dr. Darrell Carter, Granite Falls family physician and founder of the Comprehensive Advanced Life Support (CALS) Program.
  • 2000
Anne Roberton, a retired emergency medical technician and former director of the Rushford Ambulance service.
  • 1999
Warren Larson, Community Liaison Director, North Country Health Services, Bemidji, for his tireless work to counteract violence in schools and communities with kindness and caring.

Updated Monday, March 10, 2014 at 12:18PM

7