AHA Names Rural Hospital Leadership Team Award Winner and Finalists

WASHINGTON (February 1, 2023) – The American Hospital Association (AHA) today announced Bolivar General Hospital and CEO Ruby Kirby, R.N., in Bolivar, Tenn., as the 2022 recipient of the Rural Hospital Leadership Team Award. The award recognizes small or rural hospital leaders who guide their hospital and community through change and innovation. The awardees display outstanding leadership, responsiveness to their community’s health needs and a collaborative process that has led to measurable outcomes. The award will be presented at the 36th annual AHA Rural Health Care Leadership Conference, which will be held Feb. 19-22 in San Antonio.

Bolivar General Hospital is a 25-bed critical access hospital serving Hardeman County and surrounding communities. In addition to leading Bolivar Hospital, Kirby is CEO of Camden General Hospital, also an affiliate of the Western Tennessee Healthcare network. As chair of the public-private Hardeman County Health Council, she led completion of a community health needs assessment that concluded many residents were at risk of chronic and acute health conditions. This was reflected in many of the emergency department visits for congestive heart failure and other conditions that Bolivar Hospital observed.

Working with community partners, the University of Tennessee and with the support of a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant, a plan was developed to increase access to healthy foods and exercise options. Activities included construction of a playground that had not been updated since 1974, a permanent food distribution designation at First Baptist Church in Middleton and a new grocery store in a community that lacked a full-service grocer for many years.

Following this implementation, the obesity rate in Hardeman County dropped from 40% to 35% within two years, and the obesity rate among students dropped from 46% to 44%. Bolivar Hospital and partners in Hardeman County are continuing their work to engage local employers in healthy eating and exercise, along with an increased focus on child health.

The AHA Rural Hospital Leadership Team Award also recognized Cheshire Medical Center in Keene, N.H. and CEO Don Caruso, M.D., as well as Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital and Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital in Oregon, and CEO Lesley Ogden, M.D., as finalists.

Cheshire Medical Center, a member of Dartmouth Health, is a non-profit rural community hospital serving more than 75,000 patients in southwestern New Hampshire and the only designated Medicare Dependent Hospital in the state. Dr. Caruso is a family physician who has practiced for close to 30 years. The community health assessment and other data pointed to persistent behavioral health needs, and New Hampshire ranked third nationally in opioid-involved overdose deaths. Under Dr. Caruso’s leadership, the hospital launched the Doorway at Cheshire Medical Center to facilitate treatment and make referrals for substance use disorder. Dr. Caruso and colleagues also launched a community mental health center to increase access to primary care and a behavioral health consult team to fill gaps in psychiatric service. Following these initiatives, overdose deaths began to decline. 

Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital and Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital are non-profit critical access hospitals serving rural coastal Oregon. The COVID-19 pandemic brought new challenges to this historically underserved community, but effective outreach and partnership produced an early 80% vaccination rate in Lincoln County. The hospitals also set up a new Family Medicine Rural Residency Training Program that matched three first-year residents in 2022. A new oral health co-location program was also developed and resulted in placement of an advanced practice dental hygienist within each hospital to consult on oral health needs in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

The dynamic leadership teams at Bolivar General Hospital, Cheshire Medical Center, Samaritan North Lincoln Hospital and Samaritan Pacific Communities Hospital highlight the many ways in which hospitals and health systems continue to expand beyond their four walls to meet the needs of their communities in innovative ways.


Contact:        Sean Barry, sbarry@aha.org
                      Ben Teicher, bteicher@aha.org


About the American Hospital Association
The American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA advocates on behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides insight and education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at www.aha.org.