News release: MDH and partners honor cancer charity and telehealth pioneer

News Release
June 30, 2015

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MDH and partners honor cancer charity and telehealth pioneer

The 2015 "Rural Health Hero" and "Rural Health Team" awards were presented today at the Minnesota Rural Health Conference in Duluth.  The awards honoring outstanding service to rural Minnesota communities were presented by the Minnesota Department of Health, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the Duluth-based National Rural Health Resource Center.

The board of directors of the Angel Fund, a volunteer-run organization supporting individuals with cancer in numerous communities on the Iron Range, received the Rural Health Team award.  Maureen D. Ideker, a longtime leader in bringing telehealth services to rural Minnesota communities and director of telehealth for the Essentia Health system, received the Rural Health Hero award.

“Minnesota has one of the best rural health systems in the country thanks to the commitment and ingenuity of people like Maureen Ideker and the team at the Angel Fund,” said Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger. “These award winners exemplify the many ways people work to strengthen rural communities and the health systems that serve them.” 

Rural Health Hero Award

Ideker, a Sunburg resident and registered nurse, received the Rural Health Hero award for her more than 20 years of leadership developing telehealth services as a way to improve health care access for rural Minnesotans. After a long career as director of nursing at Tri-County Hospital in Wadena, Ideker became an early and enduring advocate of telehealth and the infrastructure needed to maintain it, including broadband capacity, funding and training services in rural areas. Ideker has had many roles in which she has advocated for telehealth including as a manager of major grants, rural nurse educator, service developer, policy advisor, and in her current work at Essentia with numerous rural hospitals and clinics. This extensive experience has made Ideker the state’s “resident expert” on telehealth and how to make it work for rural Minnesota. 

Rural Health Team Award

The 2015 Rural Health Team award went to the volunteers on the board of directors at the Angel Fund in Hibbing. This fund was originally established by the Hibbing Area Chamber of Commerce Women’s Innovative Network to provide financial support to women undergoing breast cancer treatment. In 2012, the Angel Fund expanded its mission to serve women, men and children afflicted with any kind of cancer. Today, the all-volunteer organization supports individuals and families throughout the Iron Range as they face cancer treatment and survivorship. The fund holds multiple fundraisers each year to supply non-traditional items such as gas cards for transportation, medical supplies not covered by insurance, and assistance with other daily living expenses. In 2014, the organization helped over 138 individuals in over 30 northern Minnesota communities.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents the Rural Health Hero and Rural Health Team awards each year. This year's conference, "Partnerships in Progress," 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. See 2015 Minnesota Rural Health Conference (link was removed because it was obsolete) for more information.


For more information, contact:
Scott Smith
MDH Communications