Pennsylvania Bureau of Rural Health Honors Rural Health Champions


Rural Health Hero of the Year Award

Glenn Sterner, Ph.D., of Penn State Abington, received the 2022 Rural Health Hero of the Year award on November 14. The award recognizes an outstanding leader who demonstrates a personal and professional commitment to the rural health needs of their community, works with organizations to develop or expand a program that meets an identified need and goes beyond the call of Duty.

Sterner was praised for his leadership and coordination among organizations across the state. In addition to being a champion and advocate for rural communities, his work on substance use, human trafficking, and various health issues has had significant impacts on rural residents of Pennsylvania.

He uses an innovative approach to solving multiple problems, securing funding, and has worked in partnership with state and local law enforcement agencies to deploy resources. Sterner is an influential advocate in several fields and consistently demonstrates his recognition of rural health issues across Pennsylvania. In his current work, he assesses the impact of opioid facility funding in Pennsylvania, with a focus on long-term stakeholder engagement to maximize the impact of opioid facility funding in Pennsylvania communities.

Sterner founded the nonprofit organization Regional Interdisciplinary Collaborative Working to Address Human Trafficking. He is also part of an interdisciplinary team to increase access to prevention programs in rural counties through the Penn State PROmoting School-community-university Partnerships to Enhance Resilience program, with a focus on connections between prevention and supply reduction initiatives in communities. Sterner developed the Story Powered initiative to address stigma in communities for conditions that are discriminated against, 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 Senator Elder Vogel Jr., who serves the 47th District of 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 address an identified need in their district or statewide.

Vogel was honored for recognizing and addressing the mental health needs of the farming community and bringing state and community attention to this important issue. As a fourth-generation farmer, Vogel is well aware of the importance of this problem and the missed calls for help. He continues to chat, share helpful resources, and advocate for the farming community. Vogel is also a strong advocate of telemedicine for agricultural and rural communities. He has sponsored legislation that defines telemedicine and offers rural areas the opportunity to receive specialist care, including mental health services, without traveling outside the community.

National Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

The 2022 State Rural Health Leader Award was presented to Denny Hutchison, Membership Chairman and Past Chairman of the Somerset County Farm Bureau, and Member of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Agricultural Promotion Committee, Somerset County, on November 15 . This award recognizes an outstanding leader who has organized, directed, developed, or expanded an exemplary multidimensional rural health program or initiative that benefits rural Pennsylvania.

Hutchison was credited for his superb community outreach and statewide call for support for mental health needs in local farming communities. Hutchison was praised for his help in developing a crisis line and underwriting training that focuses on learning about stressors in the farming community, recognizing and helping a person in crisis and the development of mechanisms to alleviate stress.

During COVID-19, Hutchison raised awareness in the Somerset County farming community, 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 warning signs of stress and depression. He is currently working with the PFB to raise awareness and make the treatment more accessible to farmers in Pennsylvania.

Hutchison is also Treasurer and Member of the Executive Council of the Somerset County Chamber of Commerce, Member of the United Way of Laurel Highlands Board of Directors and Member of the Township of Paint Planning Committee.

Rural Health Leader of the Year Award

The 2022 Rural Health Leader of the Year award was presented Nov. 17 to Norma Nocilla, director of clinical operations and quality at Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, Honesdale. The Rural Health Leader 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 achieve it.

Nocilla has been recognized for her extensive leadership, quality and performance improvement experience in healthcare. She has worked in a variety of roles that not only gave her insight into the needs of her community, but also state and national issues. Nocilla provided clinical integration oversight for four large practice groups across eight sites and 17 providers, achieving primary care medical home certification at all sites, which puts patients at the center of care and builds relationships between patients and clinical care teams. She shows interest and appreciation for her colleagues and recognizes the influential role they play in helping WMCHC provide 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 2022 recipients of the 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 achieve it.

ELAA was honored for the cooperative effort between four volunteer fire departments that have been operating for over 20 years. The fire companies have a Basic Life Support ambulance seven days a week with paid emergency medical technicians who are responsible for covering 911 emergency medical calls and vehicle accidents for 10 municipalities in rural Pennsylvania.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, this organization has provided important services for the region as the number of calls has increased dramatically. Without these companies providing the services, many of these calls would have gone unanswered. The ELAA is made up of the Hughesville Volunteer Fire Company, the Muncy Area Volunteer Fire Company, the Picture Rocks Volunteer Fire Company, and the Muncy Township Volunteer Fire Company. The association is fully funded by the four fire companies which guarantee the salaries of the EMTs and provide the equipment and building for the service needed in rural Pennsylvania.

The Family Health Council of Central Pennsylvania and the organization’s Women, Infant, and Children Tapestry of Health SUN Smiles program also received the 2022 Rural Health Program of the Year award, presented Nov. 17 to Shamokin Dam. SUN Smiles was praised for developing a comprehensive program that formed partnerships between FHCCP, Central Susquehanna Opportunities, Snyder-Union Community Action Agency and the 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 routinely screened for their dental needs and referred to community health workers as needed for assistance with Medicaid enrollment, making appointments, transportation, payment for services, etc.

In the first 11 months of the program, SUN Smiles screened 2,028 WIC clients and referred 700 clients to CHWs and 400 clients to dental care; 154 program clients received dental services at the FHCCP partner dental provider site. In addition to care navigation, oral health education and fluoride varnish days at WIC offices are key components of the program.

About the Pennsylvania Bureau of Rural Health

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

PORH offers expertise in 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 of 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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