Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health Honors Rural Health Champions

Rural Health Hero of the Year Award

Glenn Sterner, PhD, of Penn State Abington, received the 2022 Rural Health Hero of the Year Award on Nov. 14. organizations to develop or expand a program that addresses an identified need, and goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Sterner was praised for his leadership and coordination between organizations across the state. In addition to being a champion and advocate for rural communities, her work on drug abuse, human trafficking and various health conditions has had a meaningful impact on rural residents of Pennsylvania.

He uses an innovative approach to resolve multiple issues, secure funding, and work in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies to deploy resources. Sterner is an influential advocate in many areas and continues to demonstrate his recognition of rural health issues throughout Pennsylvania. In his current work, he is evaluating the impact of the opioid settlement fund in Pennsylvania, with an emphasis on long-term stakeholder engagement to maximize the opioid settlement fund’s impact in Pennsylvania’s communities.

Sterner founded the non-profit organization Regional Interdisciplinary Collaborative Working to Address Human Trafficking. He also serves on an interdisciplinary team through Penn State Promoting School-Community-University Partnerships to Increase Access to Prevention Programs in Rural Counties, Emphasizing Links Between Prevention and Supply Reduction Initiatives in Communities. Sterner developed Story Powered Initiatives to address stigma in communities for discriminatory conditions including substance use, human trafficking, hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS.

Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award

The 2022 Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award was presented Nov. 15 to Sen. Elder Vogel Jr., who serves in the 47th District in Beaver, Butler and Lawrence counties. The Rural Health Legislator of the Year Award recognizes an outstanding Pennsylvania legislator for their work and support of rural health initiatives that meet an identified need in their district or across the state.

Vogel was honored for identifying and addressing the mental health needs of the agricultural community and bringing statewide and community attention to this important issue. As a fourth-generation farmer, Vogel is well aware of the importance of the issue and doesn’t stop crying for help. He continues to drive discussion, share helpful resources, and advocate for the farming community. Vogel is also a strong advocate of telemedicine for agriculture and rural communities. He sponsored legislation that defined telemedicine and provided opportunities for rural areas to receive specialized care, including mental health services, without having to travel outside the community.

State Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

The 2022 State Rural Health Leader of the Year Award was presented on November 15 to Denny Hutchison, Somerset County Membership Chair and former Somerset County Farm Bureau President and member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Agricultural Promotion Committee. This award distinguishes an outstanding leader who organized, led, developed or expanded an exemplary multi-pronged state rural health program or initiative that benefits rural Pennsylvania.

Hutchison was credited with her groundbreaking community outreach and statewide call for support for mental health needs in local farming communities. Hutchison was commended for her help in developing a crisis line and underwriting training that focused on learning about stress in the farming community, identifying and helping someone in distress, and developing mechanisms to reduce stress Is.

During COVID-19, Hutchison raised awareness in the farming community in Somerset County, discussing rural stress and the mental burden on farmers and their families. He contacted veterinarians, feed and equipment dealers and others who interact with farmers to alert them to the warning signs of stress and depression. He is currently working with PFB to raise awareness and make the treatment more accessible to Pennsylvania farmers.

Hutchinson also serves as a board member of the United Way of Laurel Highlands, as treasurer and executive board member of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, and is a member of the Paint Township Planning Committee.

Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

The 2022 Rural Health Leader of the Year Award was presented Nov. 17 to Norma Nokila, director of clinical operations and quality at Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers in Honesdale. The Rural Health Leader of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need of a rural community, using unique, creative and innovative approaches to do so.

Nocilla was recognized for his extensive background in health care leadership, quality and performance improvement. She has held various roles that have given her insight into the needs of not only her community, but state and national issues as well. Nocilla oversaw the clinical integration of four large practice groups across eight sites and 17 providers, earning all sites Primary Care Medical Home certification, which puts patients at the center of care and integrates patient and clinical care Builds meaningful relationships between teams. She shows concern and recognition for her colleagues and acknowledges the influential role WMCHC plays in providing exceptional services to the counties and organizations served by the health center.

Rural Health Program of the Year Award

East Lycoming Ambulance Association is one of the recipients of the 2022 Rural Health Program of the Year Award, presented Nov. 17 in Hughesville. The Rural Health Program of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need in a rural community, using unique, creative and innovative approaches to do so.

ELAA was awarded for a cooperative effort among four volunteer fire departments operating for more than 20 years. Fire companies staff the Basic Life Support ambulance seven days a week with paid emergency medical technicians, which is responsible for covering 911 emergency medical calls and vehicle accidents for 10 municipalities in rural Pennsylvania.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, this organization is providing vital services to the area as the number of calls has increased a lot. Without the services provided by these companies, many of those calls would have gone unanswered. ELAA consists of Hughesville Volunteer Fire Company, Muncie Area Volunteer Fire Company, Picture Rocks Volunteer Fire Company and Muncie Township Volunteer Fire Company. The association is funded entirely by four fire companies that subsidize EMT wages, and provide equipment and buildings for essential service to rural Pennsylvania.

The Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania and the organization’s Tapestry of Health Sun Smiles program for women, infants and children also received the 2022 Rural Health Program of the Year Award, presented Nov. 17 at Shamokin Dam. Sun Smiles was commended for developing a comprehensive program that forged a partnership between FHCCP, Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Snyder-Union Community Action Agency, and Susquehanna River Valley Dental Health Clinic.

The program was created to improve oral health outcomes for economically marginalized clients of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC clients in Snyder, Union and Northumberland counties. All pregnant and postpartum women and children who are WIC clients are regularly screened for dental needs and referred to community health workers as needed to assist with Medicaid enrollment, appointment scheduling, transportation, payment for services, and more is sent to

In the first 11 months of the program, Sun Smiles screened 2,028 WIC clients and referred 700 clients to CHW and 400 clients to dental care; 154 program clients received dental services at FHCCP’s partner dental provider sites. In addition to care navigation, oral health education and Fluoride Varnish Days at WIC offices are key elements of the program.

About the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health

PORH was formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the country and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical support, networking and partnership development.

PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, population health, quality improvement, oral health and agricultural health and safety. PORH is administratively located in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park.

Each year, PORH presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit

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