how we work

The NYSARH Board of Directors serves on a voluntary basis and is made up of a group of individuals committed to improving the health status of rural New Yorkers.  A committee structure comprised of active volunteers supports achieving the goals of the organization.

2023-2024 NYSARH Board of Directors


President: Mike Pease

CEO of The Chautauqua Center (TCC)

Mr. Michael Pease is the CEO of The Chautauqua Center (TCC), a Federally Qualified Health Center located in Chautauqua County, New York. He earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Healthcare Administration and is a nurse, as well. During the past 25 years, Mr. Pease has worked for various organizations in both clinical and supervisory roles. The past 15 years, he has worked for TCC and has been involved with the center since its inception. Throughout his career, Mr. Pease has been responsible for developing, implementing, and evaluating a full array of services. He enjoys change management as a key aspect of ensuring organizations not only survive but thrive in the ever-fluctuating, high-pressure healthcare sector. Mr. Pease is a life-long learner, and he believes that to be a meaningful contributor to society we need to grow each day. Mr. Pease has been a long-time resident of Chautauqua County and currently lives in Cherry Creek with his wife of 23 years. He is very active in the community and participates on a number of local, regional, and national boards of directors. In his free time, Mr. Pease enjoys the outdoors and being active.

Vice President: Alison Coates

Adjunct Instructor, Physician Assistant Studies, Clarkson University

Alison Coates has been a NYSARH Board Member since 2019, and has served on a number of committees during her tenure. She was the co-chair of the 2020 NYSARH Conference which embraced a new, virtual format during the COVID-19 pandemic. Ali holds the office of Secretary, is currently the Chair of the Education Committee, and is the co-Chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Membership subcommittee.

Ali was selected as one of sixteen National Rural Health Association Rural Health Fellows for 2021-22. In this program, Ali is participating in constructing a policy paper setting out a national agenda for rural health workforce strengthening.

In her current pursuit of a PhD in Management, in the Health Systems specialization, at University of Ottawa, Ali’s work focuses on community assets and engagement in rural health systems planning. Ali holds a BSc (Honours) degree from Mount Allison University, a MBA in Healthcare Management and a MS in Healthcare Data Analytics from Clarkson University and has held a variety of healthcare leadership roles in clinical research and hospital administration during her career. While completing her MBA and MS degrees, Ali chose to focus on the rural context to understand how core management principles apply in rural health systems.

Treasurer: Nancy Mcgraw, MPH, MBA, LCSW

President & Owner, McGraw Professional Consulting, LLC

Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor, Decker School of Nursing and Health Sciences, Public Health Program, Binghamton University; Caregiver Resource Center Program Coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Sullivan County, NY

Nancy McGraw is a community health planner, consultant, owner and President of McGraw Professional Consulting, LLC. Prior to starting her consultant business, Ms. McGraw served as the Public Health Director for the past 10 years in Sullivan County and also led the Sullivan County Rural Health Network. She has over 25 years’ experience in strategic planning, community and public health planning, needs assessments, grant writing and coalition building. Nancy has been a board member of the New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) for several years and has served on the policy and finance committees, and most recently was elected to serve as Treasurer. She has been involved with local and state level organizations and has contributed to policy development on key mental health and public health issues, including the opioid epidemic, mental health parity, rural health, and access to healthcare services for vulnerable populations.

She currently works full time at Cornell Cooperative Extension – Sullivan County as the Coordinator of the Caregiver Resource Center and is a licensed clinical social worker. She also holds an MBA in healthcare administration from Binghamton University and an MPH from the University at Albany School of Public Health.

Secretary: Melissa Wendland

Director, Strategic Initiatives, Common Ground Health

Ms. Wendland facilitates multi-stakeholder commissions that address systemic challenges in the health care workforce, long-term care, and health inequities among the rural poor. She is a legislative advocate highlighting opportunities at the NYS Department of Health, Department of Education and Assembly. 

Past successes include coordinating a community-wide grant submission that awarded $26.6M to the Finger Lakes region from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation as part of the Affordable Care Act Center for Innovation, facilitating a $3.2M community-wide award to improve care transitions for high-risk Medicare beneficiaries, and designing a neighborhood-based health screening and education clinic.

Melissa’s accomplished facilitation and interpersonal skills distinguish her as an effective leader as she develops trust and collaborative relationships among community partners.

Melissa has presented at the European Association for Communication in Healthcare, the American Association for Communication in Healthcare, the Annual Academy Health Research meeting, and conducted webinars for IPRO and Dorland Health. Her qualitative research is published in the Journal of Academic Medicine, “The Impact of a Program in Mindful Communication on Primary Care Physicians.


Tammy L. Austin-Ketch

Dean and Professor, State University of New York Upstate Medical University College of Nursing

As Dean and Professor at the State University of New York Upstate Medical University College of Nursing, Tammy Austin-Ketch’s background includes a distinguished history of volunteer experience, research, scholarship, and service. She has served in many roles in academia, from program faculty through leadership at the level of Dean. As a nurse practitioner for more than 25 years, Austin-Ketch has spent the majority of her clinical practice career working with vulnerable and underserved primary care populations, including her current clinical practice within a Native American clinic and health center devoted solely to caring for people with developmental disabilities. Austin-Ketch’s research has focused on the unmet needs of cancer survivors and the use of telehealth to reach patients who otherwise may not have access to healthcare.

Ann Morse Abdella

President, A2 Rural Health, LLC

Ann Abdella is a rural community health builder and currently President of A2 Associates, LLC. Prior to starting her consultancy, Ms. Abdella served as the executive director for a Rural Health Network collaborative of providers and community based organizations in upstate New York. While there, she led the establishment of an FQHC, facilitated the clinical integration of a rural independent practice association, and organized one of the first rural Medicare Shared Savings Accountable Care Organizations. Experiences leading up to that included serving as the founding corporate wellness director for the Virginia Farm Bureau, director for a Success By 6 initiative, and public health planner for both a County Health Department and the Seneca Nation of Indians. Having been the Project Director for several FORHP grants, she understands firsthand the myriad challenges Rural Health Networks face trying to leverage limited resources and pull together a variety of fragmented clinical and community-based services into more cohesive systems of care. She is active in rural health advocacy, currently serving as Treasurer for the NYS Association for Rural Health and a member of her community’s Opioid Response Planning Consortium.

Tina Barber

Executive Director for the Community Foundation for South Central New York

Tina Barber, a passionate advocate for rural healthcare, joins the NYSARH Board with a clear mission. Witnessing the accelerating decline and neglect of rural healthcare systems, Tina is determined to be part of the solution. She believes that policy advocacy is crucial to ensuring the survival of rural healthcare and that rural voices must not be overlooked in the pursuit of economies of scale.

Lisa Berard

Open Network Director, Care Compass Network

Throughout her career, Lisa has prioritized advocating for vulnerable individuals in the community, with roles ranging from service provider to executive leader. She has passionately served various vulnerable populations, including youth at risk, individuals with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD), and low-income individuals and families receiving Medicaid benefits. Her current role at Care Compass Network involves promoting collaboration between healthcare and social care providers to enhance the well-being of Medicaid members and communities. Combining her pharmaceutical industry background with years of social service experience, Lisa is well-equipped to bridge communication gaps in the healthcare sector and contribute significantly to NYSARH’s mission of advancing rural healthcare.


Helen Evans

Associate Director, Ardent Solutions

Helen is the Associate Director at Ardent Solutions, joining the organization in 2005. Prior, Helen was employed as a Public Health Educator at the local health department. Helen’s professional interests are health literacy, community needs assessments, and fostering collaborations to address health disparities. Certified in CDCynergy Social Marketing, she is passionate about motivating community leaders to explore methods for improving the healthcare service delivery system and inspiring community members to achieve improved personal health. She is responsible for program development, oversight and evaluation; as well as agency marketing. She currently is working with organizations across the Finger Lakes PPS as an Operation Specialist assisting organizations to help operationalize Health Literacy and Cultural Competence. She is the current President of the New York State Association for Rural Health Board of Directors working to strengthen health services for rural NYS residents. Helen earned her bachelor’s degree in Secondary Education at SUNY Fredonia and is a graduate of the Health Leadership Fellows Program through the Health Foundation for Western New York.

Evelyn Garzetta

Executive Director, Grace Latino/Immigrant Outreach (GLO/GIO)

Mrs. Garzetta is the Executive Director of Grace Latino/Immigrant Outreach (GLO/GIO) Engaging People In Change (EPIC) through Grace Episcopal Church Millbrook, in Dutchess County, NY since 2008.  She works with immigrants living in the Northeast part of Dutchess County helping them to live healthy and productive lives in their community.  As part of this effort, she also chairs the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation Latino/Immigrant Outreach Roundtable Advisory Committee. Through her GLO/GIO labors there are ESL classes in Dover, Millbrook, Millerton, Pine Plains, Pleasant Valley, and Pawling. In 2014 she was one of the honorees at LA VOZ Ten Year Anniversary ‘Fiesta Celebration’.  In 2018 she was an Honoree for the Hispanic Heritage Community Service Award. 

Evelyn is a parishioner at Grace Episcopal Church Millbrook, NY where she is on the  Vestry.  She was the Coordinator of the ‘Food of Life/Comida de Vida Food Pantry’ through its inception and for its first three years in operation. 

Prior to her career retirement in 2008, she was a Facilities Director in charge of fourteen offices throughout the country for a trade magazine publishing firm and, as such, was a member of International Facilities Managers Association (IFMA).

A devoted grandmother of ten, Evelyn and her husband, Joe, are longtime residents of Millerton, New York.

Lennart Johns, Phd

Founding Dean of Health Sciences Lewis School of Health Sciences

Lennart Johns grew up in rural Pennsylvania which allowed for him to understand the reality of the need for expanded rural healthcare options. This led him in his journey , to the Founding Dean of the Lewis School of Health Sciences. While at the University of Vermont, Dr. Johns studied neuro-immunology and the role that cytokines play in the regulation of autoimmunity and injury repair. He is  now working to develop strategies to build a better infrastructure to develop a more sustainable workforce for healthcare.

Karin Pantel

Retired, Hudson Valley Alzheimer’s Educator

Karin Pantel is a retired Registered Nurse of 54 years. Pantel was also an Academic Nurse Educator of Public and Community Health at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Within her community, Pantel co-created OATS (Older Adult Transitional Support) designed to promote health care literacy and behaviors to increase the positive healthcare outcomes for older adults.

Claire Parde

Executive Director, The Healthcare Consortium

Claire Parde is Executive Director of the Healthcare Consortium. She is a member of the Columbia County Community Services Board and Chair of its Alcohol and Substance Abuse Subcommittee, a member of the Columbia Greene Addiction Coalition, a member of Assemblymember Didi Barrett’s Human Services Advisory Council, a member of the Community Advisory Council of the NYSHealth Foundation, a Trustee of Columbia Memorial Hospital, and a Board Member for the Catskill Hudson Area Health Education Center, Twin County Recovery Services, and the New York State Association for Rural Health.
Prior to joining the Healthcare Consortium in 2011, Claire coordinated Community Health and Wellness Programs in Greene and Columbia Counties, and she has worked on issues of poverty, justice, food, and farm system policy. Claire has an undergraduate degree from Rutgers University in Natural Resource Management and a graduate degree from Hunter College in Applied Social Research.

Paul Pettit

Public Health Director, Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments

Paul Pettit has spent his entire life living and working in rural areas.  In his professional career, he has worked for two rural local health departments over the past 21 years.  Mr. Pettit currently serves as the Director of Public Health for Genesee and Orleans County. The Public Health Department is a full-service health department providing all the core public health services, including environmental health which plays a significant role in rural populations.  

Mr. Pettit has also been privileged to serve on several other boards such as the New York Association of County Health Officials (NYSACHO) and the Lake Plains Community Care Network board. This organization is a rural health network and covers Genesee, Orleans, and Wyoming County.  

Mandy Qualls

Health Promotion Coordinator, Binghamton University

Mandy Qualls recently began in her position as the Health Promotion Coordinator at Binghamton University. Prior to this position, she served as the Center Director for the Central New York Area Health Education Center and the head of the Communications Department at the Oklahoma City-County Health Department.

Ms. Qualls received her bachelor’s degree in Health Education from East Central University (Ada, OK) and her master’s degree in Exercise Physiology and Health Promotion from the University of Oklahoma.

Ms. Qualls is an active member in several working groups and consortiums in Upstate New York concerning telehealth and the healthcare workforce. She is also a Certified Health Education Specialist, a lifetime member of the Beta Beta Biological Society, and a member of several state and national public health and health-related organizations.

Victoria Reid

Executive Director, Ellenville Regional Rural Health Network

Victoria Reid joined the Ellenville Regional Hospital team in 2018 as the Executive Director of the Rural Health Network. Ms. Reid earned a Master’s degree in Social Work with a Concentration in Community Organization and Policy Development from the University of Southern California, and a Bachelors in Sociology from Moravian University. With extensive experience in health promotion and education, population health, assessing health disparities, innovative planning activities and clinical quality improvement and reporting, Ms. Reid is responsible for leading the Population Health Department, overseeing collaborative community health programing.

Ms. Reid is a licensed Social Worker, and is a certified Screening, Brief Intervention. Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Trainer, Certified Mental Health First Aid Trainer, and a Naloxone Train the Trainer.

Jack Salo

Recently retired, Jack Salo is the former Executive Director of the Rural Health Network for South Central New York and continues to be a rural advocate. He has worked in South Central New York State for the past 30 years. Jack’s experience includes leading health, human service, and youth development organizations. As a rural health advocate, he works with a wide range of partners to address the root causes of health issues and health disparities. Central to this effort has been providing leadership to develop collaborative, regional projects, including Mobility Management of S.C.N.Y; Rural Health Services Corps (AmeriCorps and VISTA services) and; The Food & Health Network of S.C.N.Y. Jack currently serves on the Board of Directors of the Care Compass Network and Healthlink NY. Jack is a past board member of the Center for Agricultural Development & Entrepreneurship; South Central New York Resource Conservation & Development, Southern Tier East Regional Planning Board, and the Chenango County Planning Board. Jack received his BA degree in Geography and his MS degree in education from SUNY Oneonta.

Shari Weiss

Executive Director, Cayuga Community Health Network

Shari Weiss is the current Executive Director of Cayuga Community Health Network. Weiss has almost two decades of public and behavioral health experience along with a Ph.D. in Public Health and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration. Her background includes working in the field of Substance Use treatment, HIV Prevention and Housing. Shari is also a college professor, an educator, a public speaker, an actor, and a peer reviewer for the National Journal of American Medicine. Recently she was accepted into Cohort 10 of the Health Leadership Fellows.

Douglas Wildermuth

Emergency Medical Service Director at Clarkson University

Wildermuth is the first Director of EMS and Experiential Learning with the Lewis School of Health Sciences and Clarkson University. His 30 years of involvement in Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has enabled him to provide exceptional insight and administration to EMS education programs and help influence a more dynamic healthcare learning experience. He has presented at many national and state EMS conferences and enjoys trying to challenge EMS leaders and educators to make the field more diverse and dynamic.

Elizabeth Weir, MSN

Site Administrator for Ira Davenport Hospital 

In addition to serving on the Keuka Health Care Foundation, Steuben Council on Addictions Advisory Board and healthcare Association of Western and Central New York and Professional Nurses of the Twin Tiers, Elizabeth has  experience in executive hospital leadership, service line administration for Emergency Department and Hospitalist Medicine.

She was the director of multiple medical surgical units, chair of system level quality and shared governance committees and nursing education.She  has worked to provide access to critical healthcare, including initiatives to expand telemedicine, and secure accreditation as a Primary Stroke Center for the Ira Davenport Hospital.


The mission of the New York State Association of Rural Health (NYSARH)  is to improve the health and well-being of rural New Yorkers and their communities.

NYSARH functions as the “voice for rural health.” It is a statewide organization advocating for the health of rural New Yorkers. NYSARH advocates at the national and state levels on behalf of its membership.


  • Operate based on principles of collaboration, coordination, best practices, and leadership development.

  • Identify factors that impact and influence the health status of rural communities.

  • Raise public awareness of rural health issues.

  • Advocate for, and develop, rural health resources.

  • Promote communication and collaboration among health care providers, government agencies, and other organizations.

  • Provide information and analysis regarding the rural perspective to legislators, lawmakers, and rural health providers.

  • Provide meaningful educational programs and events.

  • Develop, organize, and sustain the organizational infrastructure of NYSARH.


If the mission and goals of NYSARH are consistent with your own, or are just attractive to you, we would be happy to have you join our organization and to help it grow.

In numbers there is strength.  Please help the voice for rural health to be heard, join today.

2021 Annual Report

2020 Annual Report


What people say about us

Thank you for being a voice for rural hospitals and rural communities

Kara Kane

Bertrand Chaffee Hospital

NYSARH is a worthy organization – worthy of my membership

Karin Pantel

Hudson Valley Alzheimer's Educator

Janice Shirley

Assistant Professor, Rochester Institute of Technology

Shirley is an experienced Clinical Research Senior Executive, Emergency Medicine Physician Assistant and Sub-Investigator. Additionally, she is a budding Health Researcher with broad expertise in Clinical Medicine and the methodological and regulatory aspects of clinical trials.