Editors note: Beth Bowling of the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health contributed information for this article.
HAZARD — The 2016 Paul Mason Memorial Award was given to Fran Feltner, DNP, during the 68th Annual Conference of the Kentucky Public Health Association, which was held in Owensboro this year.
Feltner is a native of Leslie County, who has worked for more than 30 years in rural health care. Currently Feltner serves as the director of the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health in Hazard.
The award is named for Paul Mason who served as a state representative for Kentucky’s 91st District for more than a decade and was a tireless advocate for the region, championing important legislation to address poor health and poverty. KPHA presents an award each year in his memory to honor a Kentuckian who has made a significant contribution to benefit our most vulnerable population; the indigent and uninsured.
Feltner has made great strides in improving rural healthcare by working with Kentucky Homeplace, a nationally recognized community health worker program. The program began in the mid-1990s as a demonstration pilot to help rural Kentuckians most in need to access health, social and environmental services. Under Feltner’s leadership, the continues to grow and evolve, becoming a unique program that today provides outreach to underserved residents in 27 rural Appalachian counties.
According to Feltner, empowerment is one service at the heart of the Kentucky Homeplace model that is greater than all the others.
“Our CHWs have the training and skills to help clients in their community gain knowledge and confidence to take charge of their own health and wellbeing. This is and investment in humanity that is impossible to quantify,” said Feltner.
In addition to Kentucky Homeplace, Feltner has made countless other contributions to positively impact the health of Kentuckians. Through her work at the UK CERH, she has also been integrally involved with educational efforts to provide training for medical residents, graduate students, and others. She has served as a principal investigator and co-investigator on numerous health disparities research studies in collaboration with bench scientists, social scientists and clinicians at UK. She has authored and co-authored articles about rural health for peer-reviewed journals. Feltner is a compelling spokesperson for the public health of vulnerable populations and has been called to testify in Washington D.C. before multiple congressional subcommittees in support of federal patient navigation bills.
Feltner and her programs have been recognized with a number of distinguished honors and awards including the Southern Health Association’s Charles G. Jordan Memorial Award in recognition of her contributions to public health, the 2015 Health Impact Award from Congressman Hal Rogers, a successful “Model in Innovations” by the Rural Assistance Center, the University of Kentucky’s A. Paul Nestor Creativity Award recognizing fiscally efficient management, Healthy People 2020 for Kentucky Homeplace’s Improving Colorectal Cancer Screening Rates Through Tailored Community-Based Approach, and the 2008 Outstanding Rural Health Program Award from the National Rural Health Association.
“It is truly an honor to receive the Paul Mason Memorial Award and to be counted among those who continue his passion and vision for helping others. I also want to share this honor with my colleagues and team members and acknowledge their unwavering support and commitment to the same vision,” said Feltner.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.