National Rural Health Day - November 19, 2015

Nationa Rural Health Day, 2015Arizona Governor Douglas A. Ducey has proclaimed November 19th as Rural Health Day! Arizona Center for Rural Health (AzCRH) joins the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) and other state/national rural stakeholders in celebrating National Rural Health Day on November 19, 2015.

A big shout out to four Arizona rural hospitals for being awarded Top Performance Leaders in Quality by NOSORH!

  • Carondelet Holy Cross Hospital
  • Banner Page Hospital
  • White Mountain Regional Medical Center
  • Payson Regional Medical Center

Click here to see the complete list of awards received by Arizona rural hospitals!

► And in special celebration of National Rural Health Day, AzCRH solicited nominations from around the state for Arizona Rural Health Champions. We will be highlighting these dedicated individuals throughout the year.

To nominate YOUR Arizona Rural Health Champion, click here. Nominations are accepted on an ongoing basis. We will be celebrating Rural Health Champions every month as a means of celebrating National Rural Health Day as well as celebrating rural health everyday

Presenting our first three Arizona Rural Health Champions!

Jennie Becenti harvesting cholla budsJennie Becenti, 2015 Arizona Rural Health Champion
(submitted by Alison Hughes)

It is an honor to nominate for Arizona Rural Health Champions Ms. Jennie Becenti, MPH, Tohono O’odham Tribal member and Executive Director of the Tohono O’odham Department of Health and Human Services.

Since Ms. Becenti graduated from the UA College of Public Health MPH Program, she has accomplished amazing feats in advancing the health care of Tohono O’odham Tribal members, and has done so in partnership with a variety of Tribal and non-Tribal agencies.  These include Indian Health Service, Tohono O’odham Community College, Archie Hendricks Nursing Home, Cenpatico, Pima County Health Department, Southeast Arizona Health Education Center, and many others.  

Ms. Becenti is fluent in the O’odham language, a skill which enables her to communicate easily with the Nation’s elders during her regular visits to the 11 Districts throughout the Nation, nine of which are located in remote desert areas.
Ms. Becenti has created the first strategic planning process in 20 years that encompasses 10 divisions within DHHS, and involves meeting with over 300 employees – the first time ever in the history of the Nation that so many employees have been engaged in a strategic planning process.  The process is now an ongoing activity among DHHS employees.

She initiated the use of electronic health record systems in partnership with Indian Health Service, a system gradually being implemented within all 10 DHHS divisions, and which enables swift, efficient access to client information and enhances health services.

She was instrumental in arguing successfully with I.H.S. to increase the tribal shares funding assigned to the Nation, a feat that is quickly leading to self-determination planning and partnerships between DHHS and I.H.S. and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Another creative initiative generated by Ms. Becenti was the introduction of an annual cholla bud harvest by DHHS employees for the purpose of teaching Tribal members the importance of using traditional, nutritional foods in their diet. Cholla buds contain rich sources of Vitamin C.  After harvesting they are cleaned and dried and used in salads, and a variety of other recipes.  Food demonstrations are given by DHHS staff to tribal members and the cholla harvest is freely distributed.  See photograph of Ms. Becenti harvesting cholla buds.  In addition, Ms. Becenti was also instrumental in establishing a garden project through which tribal members learn to grow and harvest traditional foods such as O’odham squash, sugar cane, water melon, and corn.

Over the past four years of administering DHHS she has enjoyed the full confidence of the Tribal leadership, including the immediate past and newly elected administration to implement her vision of a new future for the health of the Nation.  She was first appointed to her position by Chairman Ned Norris, and re-appointed by current Chairman Edward Manuel.

Overcoming staff resistance to change has been a major challenge over the past four years.  Ms. Becenti has resolved this challenge through creative departmental reorganization and revising staff assignments which effectively use employee skill sets.

Cristina BrentleyCristina Brentley, 2015 Arizona Rural Health Champion
(submitted by Bernadette Hernandez)

I am writing to nominate Cristina Brentley for the Arizona Rural Health Champions Award. It is my great honor and privilege to do so.

Cristina is clearly an outstanding student, ranking first in her senior class at Nogales High School. I believe she is also an outstanding leader in her hometown. Cristina was born and raised in Rio Rico, Arizona. Her community is a hybrid society split by the Mexican-American border. Residents are economically disadvantaged and face language, culture and legal barriers to well-being. Cristina recognizes the health disparities in her rural community and acts to affect positive change.

Cristina is a founding member of the Positive Youth Leadership Team (PYLoTs), a youth leadership program in Mariposa Community Health Center’s Adolescent Wellness Network. In this unique program, teens work with professional youth service providers to address adolescent health disparities. She developed the group’s original policies and procedures, ensuring youth were empowered to act as leaders alongside the adults. Recognizing that youth are often treated in a top-down approach and given lists of rules to follow, Cristina instead suggested a “Please and Thank You” list, a more collaborative and respectful approach to creating group norms. It is a seemingly small step, but it exemplifies Cristina’s work to ensure teens are treated with dignity. These ideas are having a ripple effect by spreading to programs throughout the county.
The projects that Cristina helped create address health dipartites that adolescents in her community face on an everyday basis. From our collaboration, I can conclude that Cristina has a strong motivation for volunteering and improving the wellness of youth in her hometown. She and her peers created the “STEP up” bullying prevention workshop, after learning how early children in her community suffer from bullying. She and the PYLoTs decided to develop a program where they would teach students as bystanders to prevent and decrease bullying in their schools. Again, Cristina focused on innovative ways to empower youth. Instead of a didactic model, the workshop engages participants in creative problem solving that leads to more effective education.

Cristina BrentleyCristina participated in Mariposa Community Health Center’s Summer Youth Institute, where she completed over 140 hours of training in character development, teen dating violence, career planning, substance abuse, nutrition, HIV/ AIDS education, tobacco prevention, public speaking, and health research. She is Chapter President of the Future Business Leaders of America, representing her community at state and national conferences and competitions. Cristina also volunteers as a children’s art instructor at a local gallery, and is an Executive Officer in the Air Force Junior ROTC.

Her desire to serve her community extends to her career goals. Having grown up in a low-income, single-parent household, she is dedicated to becoming a physician or pharmacist and working in a rural, low-income Spanish-speaking community. In many ways Cristina has exceeded the challenging requirements and expectations for the award. Cristina's ambitions and intelligence make her highly deserving of the honor and opportunity bestowed by the Arizona Rural Health Champions.

Jim Dickson, Copper Queen Regional HospitalJim Dickson, 2015 Arizona Rural Health Champion
(submitted by Daniel Roe)

Jim Dickson, Chief Executive Officer of Copper Queen Community Hospital (CQCH), is an ideal candidate for the rural health champion award.  His work with the hospital and rural health clinics, and his ongoing commitment to providing the residents of rural southern Arizonan with affordable and excellent healthcare, is innovating and unparalleled.

As Chief Executive Officer, Jim has tremendous responsibility for the hospital’s success, but still manages to take on new projects and give back to his community.   Jim’s work has tremendously improved the healthcare options for the residents of southern Arizona who live in remote areas.  Many of these people do not have health insurance and are not fluent in English.  Under Jim’s guidance, CQCH provides residents with top-notch medical care in their own backyards.

Jim and CQCH have pioneered several important changes and additions.  CQCHs Telemedicine program connects local residents with leading physicians across the state to better diagnose and treat conditions.  The Telemedicine program includes Teleburn, Telecardiology, Teleconcussion, Telepediatrics, Telestroke and Teletrauma.  With Telemedicine patients are able to go to a CQCH hospital or clinic and via video technology be diagnosed without the hassle and added cost of transportation.  This helps patients receive faster treatment in a familiar environment, and without the worry of excessive medical costs.

In addition, Jim and Copper Queen Medical Associates (CQMA) operate three rural health clinics in Bisbee, Douglas, and Palominas.  Each aims to serve all who walk in the door, regardless of their insurance status.  The three clinics also demonstrate Copper Queen’s commitment to providing health services to the underserved populations by offering extended hours (seven days a week in Douglas), a healthcare team with a variety of providers, and on-site X-ray and diagnostic testing.

Under Jim’s supervision, CQCH has also established the Positive Bill program, which recognizes that financial circumstances can often be barriers to receiving healthcare services, especially for rural residents.  This program makes sure that everyone is able to access the care they need by providing as much as a 50 percent discount on healthcare services, offering a sliding fee scale for treatment at clinics, and for those eligible, an option to apply for charity care status to cover hospital charges.

Jim is serving the rural residents of southern Arizona by improving healthcare services, providing solutions to overcome language and cultural barriers, and providing healthcare to anyone regardless of their financial situation and location.  In addition to the changes and additions described above, Jim is diligently working to expand healthcare services in the Douglas area with the recent closure of that community’s hospital.  Jim is passionate about providing quality healthcare to southern Arizona and finds a solution to every problem.  He truly embodies a rural health champion.