The National Association of Rural Health Clinics (NARHC) has selected Theresa and Stephen Ulrich, MD, to be this year’s recipients of the 2017 Ron Nelson Award. The award is named after Ron Nelson, a rural health trailblazer, who was so troubled by the limited access that rural communities had to both funding and medical services that he founded the National Association of Rural Health Clinics and his work in rural health formed the basis of the federal Rural Health Clinics Act, enacted in 1978. The Ron Nelson Award is the NARHC’s highest honor and recognizes outstanding leadership, dedication, and commitment to the medically underserved through the advancement of the Rural Health Clinic program.
Dr. Ulrich has been practicing medicine for 36 years. He is the owner and lead physician of Perry County Family Practice, a longtime NARHC member and Independent Rural Health Clinic in New Lexington, OH. Dr. Ulrich is also a certified clinical instructor and volunteer faculty with the Ohio University Heritage College of Medicine and he acts as a contract medical director for Genesis Health Care System’ Wellness Wins. He also currently serves as medical director of Perry Behavioral Health Choices a public agency involved in treatment of substance use disorders. He was awarded the 2015 Family Physician Mentorship Award by the OAFP Foundation. Dr. Ulrich is an Iraq War Veteran who retired recently after 30 years of military service in the Navy and the Ohio National Guard. During his 30-year military career, serving in the guard since June 1987, Dr. Ulrich held medical officer positions at all levels including command of the 143rd MASH unit from 1994-96 and was deployed to Iraq from October 2005-January 2006 as a flight surgeon and again from November 2006-August 2007. Dr. Ulrich has said, “I have no plans retiring from my service to my patients.”
Theresa Ulrich has worked in a Rural Health Clinic for over 30 years and is currently the administrator of Perry County Family Practice. She originally formed the Mental Health segment of the practice and coordinated mental health hospitalizations and outpatient mental health care. Mrs. Ulrich has spent significant time studying regulations related to Rural Health Clinic status and worked to influence the direction of Rural Health regulation. She is also a longtime supporter of the NARHC and has served on numerous committees which determined conference agendas. Mrs. Ulrich has provided support and guidance to new start up Rural Health Clinics in association with the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) Office of Rural Health. Along with two other members of the team, she attempted to visit every rural health clinic in Ohio, helped plan statewide meetings, and was in close contact with ODH. Mrs. Ulrich reviewed the proposed regulations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services of both Rural Health Clinics in 2008 and the withdrawn proposed regulations of Health Professional Shortage Areas. Her comments on the proposed regulations for Rural Health Clinics were used for the state comments on the same proposal. She also worked with and was able to influence payment issues for Rural Health Clinics in the State of Ohio.
The award ceremony will take place on Tuesday, October 17, at the 2017 NARHC Fall Institute in Indianapolis, IN.