Wayne County joined thousands of other counties across the country in celebrating National Rural Health Day on Thursday, Nov. 17, with representatives from the PA Office of Rural Health, Wayne Memorial Hospital & Health System, Wayne Memorial Community Health Centers, The Wright Center for Community Health, The Himalayan Institute, The Cooperage Project, the Area Agency on Aging and Wayne Tomorrow!
National Rural Health Day provides an opportunity to “Celebrate the Power or Rural” by honoring the selfless, community-minded and determined spirit that prevails in rural America. It showcases the efforts of rural healthcare providers, organizations, the PA Office of Rural Health and stakeholders dedicated to addressing the Social Determinants of Health and the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face today and into the future.
Wayne Memorial Hospital CEO James Pettinato welcomed the recognition of the importance of rural health care at a time when it faces real dangers. He noted that in the three years since Wayne Memorial Hospital became part of the pilot for the PA Rural Health Model, a handful of rural community hospitals have closed their doors.
Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak, President & CEO of The Wright Center, said their Hawley Center opened to address the Opioid Crisis in the community and found an important partner in Wayne Memorial, which helped them achieve federal look-alike status for the Hawley Clinic. “We’ve done a lot of good together, embracing the opportunities,” she said.
“I truly believe that solutions in health care will come from rural, and we are so pleased to have the privilege to work in a such a thriving system,” Dr. Thomas-Hemak stated.
Dr. Carrie Deremers of PureRejuv Wellness Center at the Himalayan Institute applauded the holistic nature of the recognition, which included efforts to address the mental side of health. “People have an incredible power to health themselves,” she explained.
Amanda Master of The Cooperage Project, and representing the Wayne Tomorrow! Health & Wellness Task Force, agreed with the importance of bringing together the holistic and the clinical to fight diseases of despair and build connections and community. Masters also works in the schools presenting the Bright Kids Mindfulness Program for The Cooperage Project.
Marie Alexander who coordinates health & wellness activities for the Area Agency on Aging talked about their efforts to address these topics with senior citizens through a variety of speakers and specialized programs on disease management and fall prevention. The centers also offer exercise programs, and “Mondays with Marie,” a half-hour exercise program on Facebook Live started during the isolation of the pandemic. It continues to build followers as caregivers started using it with for their patients and loved ones.
PA Office of Rural Health Executive Director Lisa Davis joined Wayne County for the celebration for the second year in a row. In 2021, she came to deliver the Rural Health Care Leader of the Year Award to Dave Hoff, and in 2022, she returned to recognize Norma Nocilla, Clinical Operations & Quality Director for the Wayne Memorial Health Care Centers, with the same award.
Davis said she was delighted to visit Wayne County on such an auspicious day, noting it was the first place she visited after starting at the PA Office of Rural Health in 1999. “It was my first experience of a robust, integrated health care system and what it can do for the community,” she explained. Davis also cited Wayne Memorial’s many firsts, from its mobile units for oral and women’s health to the implementation of Electronic Medical Records to taking on the challenge of the Rural Health Model.
Commissioner Chairman Brain Smith thanked the various groups for attending, noting that all play an important part in the healthcare web, from the youngest children to our honored seniors. Commissioner Joe Adams said all those who attended are a part of a network or continuum of services that are important to the area’s overall quality of life.
Commissioner Jocelyn Cramer said that each organization has separate and diverse missions dealing with different aspects of health care, “but when we exercise our ‘Wayne Tomorrow! Muscle’ we all work together.”
This year marks the third time, Wayne Tomorrow! has celebrated National Rural Health Day in Wayne County. “Each year we identify more and diverse partners who are all doing extraordinary things to address the issues surrounding the health and overall well-being of our residents,” said Community Network Specialist Mikki Uzupes.
Seated (from left) – Dr. Carrie Deremers (Himalayan Institute), Amanda Masters (The Cooperage Project), Lisa Davis (PA Office of Rural Health), Dr. Linda Thomas-Hemak (The Wright Center), Marie Alexander (Area Agency on Aging); James Pettinato (CEO Wayne Memorial Hospital). Standing (from left) – Commissioner Brian Smith, Lisa Champeau (WMH), Kathy Shepperd (citizen); Carol Kneier (WMH), Norma Nocilla and Robert Fortuner (WM Community Health Centers), Commissioner Jocelyn Cramer, Dave Hartung (Human Services), Clarissa Wimmers (Pantry), Dr. James Cortez (The Wright Center) and Commissioner Joseph Adams.