Each year, the Nebraska Rural Health Association honors people who have contributed to rural health care through leadership at its annual conference. These awards recognize individuals and organizations who take on leadership roles in healthcare and their communities. Each year, the Nebraska Rural Health Association solicits nominations for four awards and you input is very valuable to us.
The Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner Award recognizes an individual that is a direct service provider who provides direct patient care such as physicians, nurses, physician assistants, nurse practitioners and others. This individual must exhibit outstanding leadership in bringing and/or improving health services in rural Nebraska. Factors taken into consideration include providing outstanding care; collaboration and multi-disciplinary teamwork; involvement in the community; involvement in education; and lasting contribution to the rural health care system.
The Rural Health Achievement Excellence Award recognizes an individual in the health care industry or leadership and noteworthy initiative in promoting the development of community oriented rural health care delivery. Factors for selection should include: distinctive efforts to promote and/or improve rural healthcare and provide lasting contributions to health care. This award recognizes noteworthy initiatives in the development of community-oriented rural health care delivery.
The Rural Health Distinctive Consumer Advocate Award: It is important to recognize that rural health care delivery systems will survive only with the involvement of rural consumers. This award honors an individual consumer, who is not an employee in the health care or health insurance industry, for active participation within his or her community and/or region regarding rural health service delivery issues. For example, the award winner may have testified to the state or national legislature on rural consumers’ health care needs or made lasting contributions to rural health care in their community, region, or state. The nominee should be current on rural consumer health care issues and must have shown leadership in community and education regarding health care changes, needs, or improvements.
Awards will be presented at the annual Nebraska Rural Health Conference in September.
To nominate an individual or organization for a 2013 rural health award, click here.
2012 Award Recipients
Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner -
Dr. Steve Nagengast
The Outstanding Rural Health Practitioner Award recognizes an individual who is a direct service provider and who has exhibited outstanding leadership, care, and collaboration in improving health services in rural Nebraska. Those eligible for this award are individuals who provide direct patient care. This year the award goes to Dr. Steven Nagengast of Lincoln, NE. Currently Dr. Nagengast visits hospitals in Auburn, Nebraska City, Crete, Syracuse, Osceola and Lincoln, NE. Dr. Nagengast has demonstrated over and over again his commitment to rural Nebraska by his actions. He brings the best of medical and surgical care delivered in a kind and unassuming manner, putting his patients and their families at ease. Dr. Nagengast also enthusiastically shares his knowledge and experience with healthcare trainees and new staff. He is a patient and kind mentor for all healthcare team members.
He willingly travels to rural hospitals for emergency surgical care as well as scheduled surgical cases. One snowy night he returned to Auburn for an emergency surgical procedure on an elderly gentleman. Dr. Nagengast said, “It is much easier and more comfortable for me to drive in the snow than for him to make the trip in an ambulance.” Joe Lohrman, CEO of Annie Jeffrey Hospital and NeRHA president said, “Dr. Nagengast is willing to go the extra mile for the patients he serves and has never left a facility abandoned or without surgical coverage, ensuring patients will have care close to home.”
Dr. Nagengast is a compassionate and humble man. He visits with all patients in an unhurried and understanding manner, never leaving questions unanswered or confusing for the patient or their family.
Outstanding Rural Health Achievement Award–
This award recognizes individuals for leadership and noteworthy initiative in promoting the development of community-oriented, rural healthcare delivery. This year the award goes to Rebecca Rayman of Columbus, NE. Rayman is the Executive Director of East-Central District Health Dept and of the Good Neighbor Health Center. Her leadership and initiative in promoting the development of community oriented rural healthcare delivery is without parallel.
As an outgrowth of her dedication to serving the community health needs in the 3 county Columbus areas, Rayman started the Health Department from a paper start in November of 1998 and became its first Executive Director. She not only tackled funding, office space, hiring staff, ordering equipment, establishing policies and procedures, garnering partnerships, tailoring programs to needs, and setting quality standards, but also oversaw rapid growth of the department so that now it is the 3rd largest health dept in the state from a fiscal and encounter status.
In April 2003 Rayman became the Executive Director of the Good Neighbor Community Health Center. Again, she established a new entity from nothing – all to serve low – income patients with nowhere else to turn. Rayman’s tireless work to significantly impact the health status of the underserved has made a lasting difference in the East-Central District. In 2011, Good Neighbor Community Health Center served nearly 6000 patients, providing high quality primary healthcare in a culturally-competent way, addressing issues of low income and utter poverty, little to no health insurance, and a higher incidence of chronic disease.
Rayman was made Vice Chair of the 2011 establishment of a state-wide Primary Care Association for community health centers to support the quality and help grow that number of health centers in NE. The Health Center Association of NE is the newest association of its kind in the US. Her leadership and contributions to the Health Center Association of NE have led to tremendous achievements in its 1st year.
Outstanding Rural Health Achievement Award–
Since 1990, Dennis Berens has been the coordinator of Nebraska’s Rural Health Office, in Lincoln, NE, with responsibility for improving the state’s rural health care. In July of this year, Berens made the decision to step down from that position but his work will leave a lasting legacy.
After getting his undergraduate and graduate degree from Concordia College Seward, Neb., in 1971, Berens went to work as a teacher and athletic director at local schools. He continued teaching for 10 years. Berens then took a position as co-publisher of the town’s only newspaper, The Seward County Independent, became open in 1976, he took the job and remained there for the next 14 years. In his role as co-publisher, Berens became more conscious than ever of the plight of America’s rural communities and the need to preserve them as a precious, living resource. While at the paper, Berens chaired several Chamber of Commerce committees, became a member of county, district, and state advisory boards, and in 1995 helped establish the Nebraska Main Street program, which is dedicated to preserving Nebraska’s small towns.
As a result of his efforts in rural economic development, Berens’ work came to Nebraska Governor Kay Orr’s attention. In 1990, she offered him the post of Coordinator at the Nebraska Department of Health’s Office of Rural Health. He took the job, perceiving the great need for better rural health care and seizing the chance to do something about it. He was instrumental in forming the Rural Response Partnership—a consortium of public and nonprofit groups that provided a network of mental health services to rural residents, in response to the continuing rural crisis brought on by the fall crop prices (due to worldwide abundance of food) and hence in land values, and to natural disasters such as the long drought that afflicted Nebraska during the 1990′s and continues to this day.
Perhaps the largest program Berens has worked on is the Nebraska’s Critical Access Hospital Program —a category of hospitals initiated in 1997 under the federal Medicare Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, providing for hospitals with two dozen beds or less, and geographically far from a major hospital, to realize cost savings through flexibility in staffing and other means.
He served as President of the National Rural Health Association (NRHA) in 2010. In addition to serving on NRHA committees and presenting at educational conferences, Berens is a member of the National Rural Health HIT Coalition and has served on the National EMS/Trauma Advisory Board for Health Resources and Services Administration.