News release: MDH and partners honor rural Minnesota health care professionals

News Release
June 27, 2019

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MDH and partners honor rural Minnesota health care professionals

At the Minnesota Rural Health Conference in Duluth this month, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) and partners recognized dedicated health care professionals who have made significant contributions to the health and well-being of their rural communities.

The Minnesota Rural Health Association and Duluth-based National Rural Health Resource Center joined MDH to present the 2019 Minnesota Rural Health Awards to the following honorees:

  • Rita M. Plourde, CEO of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic in Grand Marais, received the Rural Health Hero award.
  • The Ortonville Area Health Services Obstetrics, of Ortonville, received the Rural Health Team award.
  • Terry J. Hill, Senior Advisor for Rural Health Leadership and Policy with the National Rural Health Resource Center, received a Rural Health Lifetime Achievement award.
  • Robert S. Ross (“Doc Bob”), a family medicine practitioner with Ortonville Area Health Services and Big Stone Health Care Foundation, of Ortonville, received a Rural Health Lifetime Achievement award.
  • Michelle Allred received the Emerging Rural Health Leaders Award.

The Minnesota Rural Health Conference presents the Rural Health Awards each year to honor the work done in service of rural Minnesota. The MDH Office of Rural Health and Primary Care, the Minnesota Rural Health Association and the National Rural Health Resource Center host the conference. More information is available online at Minnesota Rural Health Conference.

Rural Health Hero Award

Rita M. Plourde, MA, Chief Executive Director of Sawtooth Mountain Clinic (SMC), received the 2019 Minnesota Rural Health Hero Award. SMC is the sole provider of primary health care for more than 100 miles. Under Plourde’s administration, Sawtooth Mountain Clinic has consistently maintained its status as a federal Health Center that can meet the needs of their communities regardless of their ability to pay. Despite its geographic remoteness, Plourde’s successful recruitment and retention of physicians and other health care professionals has enabled SMC to provide primary care, public health, Indian health and behavioral health within one facility.

Rural Health Team Award

At a time when many small hospitals are no longer able to offer obstetric (OB) care, Ortonville Area Health Services (OAHS) OB/ER has collaborated with local hospitals in Minnesota and South Dakota to provide high quality OB for their shared rural populations. OAHS, a Critical Access Hospital, is located on the border of Minnesota and South Dakota. Appointments are shared between facilities to fit the needs of pregnant women and telehealth allows for neonatal and obstetric care available at the push of a button. These partnerships allow for OB delivery of care that addresses the unique needs of women in their own rural settings.

Rural Health Life Achievement Awards

Terry J. Hill, MA, Senior Advisor for Rural Health Leadership and Policy at the National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center), based in Duluth, received a 2019 Rural Health Lifetime Achievement award. Currently, Hill serves as adjunct faculty at the College of St. Scholastica, where he teaches Performance Management. He founded and directed The Center, the Northern Lakes Health Care Consortium, as well as the Northeast Minnesota Telehealth Network. He has led national demonstration projects in the areas of quality improvement, emergency medical services, rural veterans’ health, community and health network development, health information technology and health provider recruitment and retention. Hill has authored numerous articles and papers on a wide range of rural health topics and has testified before U.S. Congressional committees.

Robert S. Ross (Dr. Bob), MD, Family Medicine Practitioner, Ortonville Area Health Services and Big Stone Health Care Foundation, Ortonville, received a Rural Health Lifetime Achievement award. Within 8 years of finishing his residency and returning to his hometown, he became the senior partner of the practice and has been there since, committed to providing quality health care to Ortonville and beyond. Dr. Bob is a parent, a foster parent, the local high school sports physician, the church nursery attendant, the Big Stone County Coroner, a mentor to University of Minnesota Medical School Rural Physician Associates Program and a Charter Board Member of the Big Stone Health Care Foundation which provides scholarships to students wanting to work in health care.

Emerging Rural Health Leader Award

Michelle Allred, RN, BSN is a seasoned nurse with extensive experience in intensive care units, critical care and surgery. Originally from Washington, Michelle has been practicing nursing in Minnesota for the past 14 years in a rural healthcare setting. To Michelle, the importance of rural health is that it brings quality healthcare to individuals who may not otherwise have access to care. Currently, Michelle is pursuing a MSN-Family Nurse Practitioner degree. She plans to work at a rural health facility after graduating in 2020.

-MDH-


Media inquiries:

Harry Steffenhagen
MDH Communications
651-201-4755
Harry.Steffenhagen@state.mn.us