News release: MDH and partners honor rural hospital CEO and mobile health program

News Release
June 25, 2013

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MDH and partners honor rural hospital CEO and mobile health program

This year's "Rural Health Hero" and "Rural Health Team" awards were presented today in Duluth at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference. Cook Hospital CEO Al Vogt, a longtime hospital administrator and advocate for rural health received the Rural Health Hero award. The mobile health team of Open Door Health Center, based in Mankato, received the Rural Health Team award.

"Minnesota has one of the best rural health systems in the country and it's because of the commitment and passion of people like Al Vogt and the team at the Open Door Health Center," said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger.

Rural Health Hero Award
Vogt, a resident of Cook, received the 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.

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.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents the Rural Health Hero and Rural Health Team awards each year. This year's conference, "Rural Health: Engage," was hosted by the Minnesota Department of Health's Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Resource Center. More information about the conference is available at


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications