2022 Award Recipients


Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year Award:


>>  St. Lawrence Health Clinical and Rural Health Department



St. Lawrence Health (SLH) Clinical and Rural Health Research Department was founded in
2015 with the goal of providing access to state-of-the-art health care options to North
Country residents. Prior to this, residents of St. Lawrence County had to travel to Syracuse,
Rochester, or Burlington – all at least two hours away – to access clinical trials to treat their
medical conditions. This places an unfair burden on rural residents to travel long distances
(often with a family caregiver), to bear the costs of travel and lodging, and to leave their
local support networks at the times they need them most. By establishing a Clinical and
Rural Health Research Department in St. Lawrence County, they wanted to provide the best care close to home.

SLH Clinical and Rural Health Research Department has been instrumental in bringing
clinical studies and trials to St. Lawrence County’s rural population. These studies and trials
have facilitated innovative approaches to medical treatment options for the community.
SLHS Clinical and Rural Health Research Department provides inclusive educational
opportunities through webinars, programing, and surveys. It provides support to local
physicians to conduct clinical trials and collaborates with students and faculty SUNY
Potsdam, Clarkson University, St. Lawrence University, and SUNY Canton. The impact that
the SLH Clinical and Rural Health Research Department makes is exemplary and could be
replicated to increase equitable access to advanced therapeutics in other rural

Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year Award:

>>  Dr. Sahi Karras

The New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) is pleased to announce that Dr. Sahi Karras has been selected as the winner of the 2022 Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year award. Zahi Kassas, MD, is a Pediatric Specialist in Wellsville, NY with over 27 years of experience in pediatrics and internal medicine. He graduated from Amer U. Beirut Medical School in 1994 and began his rural practice in Wellsville, NY, a small town in Allegany County, in 1998.

Kassas’ Pediatrics’ mission is “to provide children in our community with the best medical care possible, and to do so with a warm, caring, and enthusiastic feel. It is our goal to provide the best quality of care.” Dr. Kassas embodies this mission. He can be found in his office at all hours of the day or night, including weekdays, weekends, and holidays, caring for children. Every family receives his personal cell-phone number to call with questions or concerns 24-hours a day, 365-days a year. When Dr. Kassas walks into an exam room, his gentle demeanor, bright smile, and compassion is not only a
habit, but is the true essence of an Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner.

Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year Award:

>>  Dr. Lennart Johns

Dr. Lennart Johns, Dean of the Lewis School of Health Sciences, grew up in a rural
community and understands the healthcare needs and challenges inherent in rural settings.
Under his leadership, Clarkson University has diligently worked through the process of
becoming a NYS Course Sponsor for EMS Educational Programs and is currently offering
classes. This new program enhances emergency medical services instruction using
state-of-the-art resources including a simulation lab, and separate practical skills rooms.
Students are exposed to realistic, practical training experiences preparing them to address
the needs of each patient at the point of care while strengthening the local rural health
system by engaging with local hospitals, EMS departments, and first responders.

Dr. John’s support has been instrumental from the start of the emergency medical program
at Clarkson. Moving forward the program, he will work closely with local hospitals and EMS
agencies to bolster the rural health care system in St. Lawrence County. The addition of an
emergency medical technician training program is a necessary offering and an exciting
opportunity that aligns with the Lewis School of Health Sciences’s mission to enhance the
healthcare system in rural communities and improve the quality of life for all North
Country residents.

2021 Award Recipients

Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year Award:
>>  Dr. Collins Kellogg

The New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) is pleased to announce that Dr. Collins Kellogg has been selected as the winner of the 2021 Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year award. Dr. Kellogg has been recognized with this award for his dedication to improving the rural healthcare delivery system across Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. Furthermore, Dr. Kellogg has gone to great lengths throughout the Covid-19 pandemic to ensure his patients maintained their care, via telephonic and videoconference visits that suit the rural community.    

A Lowville native, Dr. Kellogg received his medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He has served his community by leading and taking part in many important healthcare projects, serving on boards, and implementing new programs. In 2008 he assumed ownership of Watertown Urgent Care. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 from Samaritan Medical Center.

Outstanding Rural Health Program Award:
     >> Mobile Crisis Assessment Team

The New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) is pleased to announce that the Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (MCAT) has been selected as the winner of the 2021 Outstanding Rural Health Program Award. MCAT has been recognized with this award for its impressive success record at addressing the social and geographical isolation of rural residents by bringing desperately needed behavioral health services directly to their homes, schools and places of work. MCAT’s use of small, nimble, mobile teams providing in-person and telephonic crisis services to residents in Columbia and Greene Counties has allowed them to reach such achievements, as well as meet their primary program goals of avoiding hospitalization (Emergency Department or Inpatient), minimizing police intervention, and linking crisis callers to long-term service providers in the community. 


The Mobile Crisis Assessment Team (MCAT) is operated by the Mental Health Association of Columbia and Greene Counties Inc. It was established in July of 2015 through funding by the New York State Office of Mental Health for 8 hours per day, per county. In July of 2017 it was expanded by funding from the Better Health for Northeast New York (DSRIP program) for 14 hours per day. In that time, MCAT has had over 90,000 phone calls and served over 6,000 unique individuals. The teams are comprised of licensed professionals and paraprofessionals, all from various different backgrounds who are dedicated to serve our community.

Senator McGee Rural Health Award:
     >>  Jack Salo 

The New York State Association for Rural Health (NYSARH) is pleased to announce that John (Jack) Salo has been selected as the winner of the 2021 Senator McGee Rural Health Award. Mr. Salo has been recognized with this award for devoting his career to the needs of rural communities and for his vision to recognize and advocate for the multiplicities of rural life situations that impact health. As a pioneer in rural health innovations, Salo has impacted not only the health status of rural communities, but the economic viability of rural communities. A standout example of Salo’s innovative nature was his recognition that rural advocacy is best achieved with partnerships, and thus his subsequent development of personal and organizational relationships that facilitated a collective focus on improving health, food security, transportation, and local economies across the Rural Health Network’s service area. Salo’s work on behalf of rural populations will continue to be felt in the region served by Rural Health Network and New York State into the future. 

Jack Salo is a rural advocate who has worked in South Central New York State for over 35 years.  Jack’s experience includes leading health, human service and youth development organizations, including 16 years as Executive Director of the Rural Health Network of SCNY.  Jack was responsible for establishing the first Day Treatment and Day Training (Habilitation) Programs for Achieve (formerly Broome-Tioga ARC).  Additionally, Jack worked as a vocational evaluator and case manager for Delaware County ARC. As a rural health advocate, he has worked 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 Getthere (transportation services); Rural Health Service Corps (AmeriCorps and VISTA services) and The Food & Health Network of S.C.N.Y.

2020 Award Recipients

Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year Award:
>>  Dr. Collins Kellogg

Andrew Fox Williams, MD was recognized with the Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year for his contributions to the North Country community during the COVID-19 pandemic. His dedication in time and knowledge to this pandemic response demonstrates his sincere commitment to the core values of public health and quality care that Dr. Ogden exemplified.

Dr. Williams worked day in and day out to ensure all stakeholders were included in key decisions, and to also ensure that there was a balanced approach to the pandemic. He has combed the literature to work with clinical teams and use evolving medical treatments for our COVID-19 patients. Dr. Williams also worked tirelessly to bring more COVID-19 tests to the county to help with our COVID19 response, get people back to work, and students back to school whenever safely possible.  

Throughout all of this, Dr. Williams continues to see patients in the Community Health Center of the North Country, providing excellent medical care to some of our most vulnerable patients in the community.  Dr. Andrew Williams is a primary care physician, the Medical Director of the Community Health Center of the North Country, President of the St. Lawrence County Board of Health, and Associate Medical Director for Canton-Potsdam Hospital within the St. Lawrence Health System.

Outstanding Rural Health Program Award:
     >> Rural Outreach Center

The Rural Outreach Center breaks the cycle of rural poverty in southwestern New York by accompanying people to self-sufficiency using a robust, comprehensive, two-generation model based on empowerment and accountability. This model recognizes the close intersection between poverty and health.

Under the leadership of Dr. Frank Cerny, the Rural Outreach Center offers wrap-around services in collaboration with over 80 partners, including hospitals and other health care providers. The Center uses a multimodal transportation service model to address accessibility. Immediate needs are assessed, and resources accessed – social services, utility forbearance, food pantries, and other assistance as needed.  Once stabilized, individuals are asked if they would like to participate in programs to move away from their current circumstances. This engagement is the core of the model and the programs offered are the foundation of the participant’s success.

There are over 40,000 people in poverty in the rural zip codes from which the Rural Outreach Center’s participants come. Rural poverty is called the invisible poverty because it is dispersed across a wide geographic area, exacerbating the socio-economic disadvantages and accompanying health disparities.

Senator McGee Rural Health Award:
     >>  Donna Kahm

Donna Kahm works to foster collaboration among community agencies to enhance the health and wellness of residents living in rural southwestern New York.  She works with a wide variety of community agencies to develop and administer programs that promote access to health care and continuing medical education and directs numerous initiatives that identify and overcome barriers to quality of care and quality of life.

In 2016 Kahm was responsible for initiating the Cribs for Kids program through her participation in the HFWCNY’s Health Leadership Fellows program to respond to unsafe sleep-related infant deaths.

Getting rural EMS providers the training they need to enhance their skills and level of care has always been difficult, but Kahm has strived for this to be a top priority. Her work led to the creation of a Regional Paramedic Program that uses distance learning technology to allow this advanced training in a rural community.

Donna has served as the President & CEO at Southern Tier Health Care System since 2007. In her role, she is responsible for administering and directing the rural health network, which encompasses Allegany, Cattaraugus, and Chautauqua counties.

Senator McGee Rural Health Award:
     >>  Tina Cobb

Tina Cobb is acknowledged as a leader for her insight and know-how as well as for her devotion to improving rural health. Cobb is a tireless advocate, at every level, ensuring that rural issues are never forgotten. She is regarded as an expert not only in maternal/infant and adolescent health, but in the overarching issues impacting rural communities, such as access to insurance and health care, lack of transportation, and prevention services.

Cobb has been an active member of multiple local, regional and statewide coalitions, boards, and networks committed to addressing the social determinants of health through systematic and individual level change. A few of these include the New York State Council on Adolescent Pregnancy, New York State Perinatal Association, and the Association of Perinatal Networks. She has also assisted local hospitals and health departments with the Community Health Improvement Plans and Assessments.

Cobb has been the Executive Director of the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council, Inc. (NCPPC) for over seven years, and has been with the organization for more than 20 years. The agency serves Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties.

2019 Award Recipients

Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year Award:
     >>  Dr. Robert Dweck

The New York State Association for Rural Health is pleased to recognize Dr. Robert Dweck, a dedicated family practitioner for over 30 years.  He came to this rural area through the National Health Service Program to help pay off his student loan. He soon realized that this was not only a community where he could stay and raise a family, but most importantly, one that really needed him. Dr. Dweck opened his own practice in Millerton in 1987and, in 1990, joined two other practitioners to form the Foothills Family Health Center, which then became the Dutchess Medical Group. This practice was unique in the area, accepting Medicaid and offering a sliding fee schedule for patients who lacked insurance coverage. In 2001, he worked with Hudson River Health Care (HRHCare) to transition the practice into HRHCare’s network of Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), where he serves as Site Medical Director.

For the past few years, he has participated in a rural health immersion program for medical students, giving them the opportunity to shadow rural health providers. These students gain a better understanding of the needs and issues that face those living in medically underserved rural communities.

Dr. Dweck was nominated by Jeffrey Palmer of Hudson River Health Care who wrote “Dr. Dweck is active in the Eastern Dutchess community where he participates in Somos la llave del futuro , supporting the Hispanic population in the area. More recently, he has been part of the Open Community Project that helps protect immigrant rights. He is also a supporter of the NorthEast Community Center in Millerton.  With strong convictions, a powerful sense of justice, a passion for health care for the underserved, and a good heart, Dr. Robert Dweck embodies all of the qualities that make him an ideal candidate for the Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year.”

Outstanding Rural Health Program Award:
     >> Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force

The New York State Association for Rural Health is pleased to recognize the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force as the Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year.  The nomination, submitted by Julie Gutowski, included information about an emergency department screening process used at local hospitals that helps to identify people using opioids that then connects patients with Peer Advocate or Recovery Coach in addition to a referral for treatment.  The Task Force operates a tri-county crisis line.  Their combined efforts have resulted in a measurable decrease in drug overdose visits to local hospitals as well as opioid related deaths between 2017 and 2018.

The goal of the Genesee-Orleans-Wyoming Opioid Task Force is to address the growing opioid crisis in the tri-county area.  Through active collaboration and engagement, the Task Force envisions a community free from opioid related deaths and overdoses.  The GOW Opioid Task Force currently has over 350 members from across the tri-county region. Members represent various sectors of the community, including public health, mental health, human services, local government, substance use disorder treatment and recovery agencies, law enforcement, EMS, faith-based groups, health systems and medical practitioners, education, businesses, concerned individuals, families, and individuals in recovery.  There are six active work groups that meet regularly to address the needs of the community.  For more information please visit:

Senator McGee Rural Health Award:
     >>  Dr. Richard Terry

The New York State Association for Rural Health is please to recognize Dr.  Richard Terry who currently serves as the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs at the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine (LECOM at Elmira) and Chief Academic Officer at Lake Erie Consortium for Osteopathic Medicine Training (LECOMT).   This award recognizes Dr. Terry’s long and distinguished commitment to medical education, highlighted by his recent tireless efforts to expand LECOM programs to fill a critical need for physicians for underserved rural populations in the Southern Tier of New York.  Dr. Terry previously served as the Designated Institutional Official at Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, which hosts nine ACGME accredited programs and supports 126 residents and fellows.  Previously, he served as the Assistant Dean of Regional Clinical Education at LECOM where he built numerous rural clinical rotation sites as well as graduate medical opportunities in primary care.

Dr. Terry was nominated by Thomas Santulli, President of Southern Tier Economic Growth and former County Executive for Chemung County.  “In addition to the increased access to health service providers for our populations that have high poverty levels with corresponding medical needs, the impact of this project will have far reaching positive economic consequences for our community as well” he wrote.    “Dr. Terry’s steadfast commitment to improving access to high quality health services in our community has and will continue to improve the quality of life of the residents of the Southern Tier for years to come.  It is because of Dr. Terry’s unparalleled efforts I strongly urge NYSARH to recognize his contributions by presenting him with the Senator McGee Award for Rural Health Service.”

2018 Award Recipients

Dr. Gary Ogden Rural Health Practitioner of the Year Award

Robert Delorme, MD – Primary Care, Hamilton Family Health Center, Hamilton, NY

Dr. Ogden would be proud of Dr. Delorme’s health leadership in Southern Madison and Northern Chenango Counties.

Dr. Delorme exemplifies the rural family physician in that he understands the multiple cascading challenges patients and providers face in receiving and delivering rural primary care. Whether it be medical or social issues, Dr. Delorme has taken a personal approach to medicine – being available at all times of the day or night to meet the needs of his patients.

Dr. Delorme believes that Community Memorial Hospital should continuously improve and evaluate. Thanks to his philosophy and hard work, Community Memorial Hospital has been able to open five Family Health Centers in rural communities and achieve PCMH NCQA Level 3 designation for all of them.

Senator Patricia M. McGee Award

​Karen Madden, Director of the Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health

Karen Madden embodies all of the characterics of the Senator Patricia M. McGee Award.  Ms. Madden has dedicated her career to advocating for rural health on a national level.

Ms. Madden has been the Director of the Charles D. Cook Office of Rural Health since 2000. She was a member of the National Advisory Committee on Rural Health and Human Services from 2012 to 2015 and a member of the Policy Board of the National Rural Health Association.

In addition to the many accomplishments of her career, this award recognizes Ms. Madden’s critical role in the development of National Rural Health Day–November 15–with the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health.

Outstanding Rural Health Program of the Year
​Rural Academic Partnership under the leadership of Dr. Zsuzsa Meszaros

There is a severe shortage of psychiatrists serving rural communities. To remedy this, the Department of Psychiatry at SUNY Upstate Medical University developed a novel rural academic partnership that creates a relationship between residents and a rural host for all four years of their residency.

Participating partner organizations currently include Samaritan Medical Center, United Health Services Binghamton General Hospital, Oswego Health and Mohawk Valley Health System.


Celebrate past recipients by visiting our Past Award Recipient page.