Friend of NCHN Award

The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

Esther2024 Recipient: ESTHER HAMMERSCLAG


Esther Hammerschlag was recognized as the 2024 Friend of NCHN during the National Cooperative of Health Networks Awards Program held on April 11, 2024 in Little Rock, AR. The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

Esther has been an Individual Associate Member of NCHN since 2015. Prior, she was an NCHN member as the leader of a health network in Craig, AK. Over the years Esther has shared her expertise with NCHN by presenting at NCHN Conference and Leadership Experience events, and serving as a Grant Coach in NCHN's Grant Coaching & Review Service program.

In 2022 she volunteered her time and talent to assist NCHN in writing a federal service proposal. She recently facilitated strategic planning with the NCHN Executive Director and Board of Directors. During NCHN’s Annual Conference in Little Rock, Esther facilitated a panel presentation on grant writing. Esther has also given of her time and talent to assist the NCHN Executive Director with brainstorming grant opportunities and service ideas.

Erin Kochan

2023 Recipient: ERIN KOCHAN 


Erin Kochan was recognized as the 2023 Friend of NCHN during the National Cooperative of Health Networks Awards Program held on April 13, 2023 in Albuquerque, NM. The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

Erin’s introduction to the National Cooperative of Health Networks (NCHN) was in 2017, when she attended NCHN’s Leadership Experience as a staff member of the Illinois Telehealth Network. In 2019, her next position was not with a network, so Erin immediately joined as an individual associate member of NCHN and has maintained that status to date.

 Her involvement with and support of NCHN has been solid and consistent. She has served on every conference planning committee since 2019.  She has attended every conference and every Leadership Experience since 2017. She has successfully recruited her current employer to submit conference presentation proposals and be a conference exhibitor.

 Erin is a strong advocate for NCHN. She does not hesitate to encourage others to join NCHN and enthusiastically explains the benefits of being involved with the Association. 

Kap Wilkes2022 Recipient: KAP WILKES 


Kap Wilkes, from Cromwell, was recognized as the 2022 Friend of NCHN during the National Cooperative of Health Networks Awards Program held on April 28, 2022 in Fort Lauderdale, FL. The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

 Kap has supported NCHN over the years while working for the National Rural Health Resource Center. She presented at several NCHN conferences and was the lead in the two-year Rural Health Network Sustainability Assessment Study in collaboration with NCHN and Evalytics, LLC. After leaving the National Rural Health Resource Center, Kap remained connected and involved with NCHN by becoming an Individual Associate Member and facilitating learning at NCHN events. She facilitated NCHN's first ever Educational Bite in February 2021. At NCHN's first ever virtual conference in April 2021, Kap facilitated two roundtable discussions. Two months later she facilitated a post-conference call with NCHN members to aid in building a bridge from the conference content to practice implementation. Yesterday she presented the session, “Riding the Wave to Give Us Strategic Perspectives”. Kap has willingly and competently shared her time, knowledge and expertise to support NCHN members.




 Bill Auxier, from Tampa, was recognized as the 2021 Friend of NCHN during the National Cooperative of Health Networks Awards Program held virtually on April 21, 2021. The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

 Bill first became involved with NCHN during the COVID pandemic. He readily volunteered to assist with the support of network leaders by offering his service as a leader on the weekly NCHN COVID-19 Innovation and Support calls. As follow-up support to the network leaders that participated on Bill's call, he provided his services to those leaders' network members.  Bill's expertise and knowledge of rural health and his willingness to work with network leaders was a welcomed addition to NCHN's pool of resources. Bill developed a four-call series on leadership for rural hospital network leaders. These hospital network leader roundtable calls have been well attended and receive positive feedback from participants. Additionally, Bill readily agreed to present the opening keynote at this year’s NCHN Annual Educational Conference.

 Bill has eagerly shared his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm in every interaction he has had with NCHN. His involvement has been a much appreciated, value- added benefit for NCHN and its members.

Jordan Tenenbaum2019 Recipient: jordan Tenenbaum 

Creve Coeur, MO

NCHN’s Friend for 2019 is Jordan Tenenbaum, Executive Vice President with Allevant Solutions. Jordan exhibited for the first time at the 2014 NCHN Conference in St. Louis. He has continued to exhibit at each conference since that time. He is always willing to assist as needed in the exhibit area. At last year's conference in Atlanta, he did not hesitate to assist with the opening, interactive activity. Jordan provides outstanding door prizes as well as lanyards for conference name badges.

Jordan willingly shares his expertise with health networks across the nation. In 2015, Jordan was the opening speaker at NCHN’s Leadership Summit where he addressed the 60 Leadership Summit participants on “6 Ideas of Brave Leadership: You are a Brave Rural Health Network Leader.” Jordan can be seen interacting with members, not only at the exhibit area, but during meals, receptions and evening networking events. NCHN is truly appreciative of Jordan’s support of our association and membership. 



MaryKayChess2018 Recipient: Mary Kay Chess

Ph.D., Bainbreidge, WA

Mary Kay Chess, PhD, from Bainbridge Island, Washington was recognized as the 2018 Friend of NCHN during the National Cooperative of Health Networks Awards Breakfast held in Atlanta, Georgia on April 18, 2018. The Friend of NCHN Award is given to recognize a program, institution, agency, or individual that has advocated for or provided extraordinary support to the Association.

 Ms. Cassalyn David, the Network Director of Santa Cruz County Adolescent Wellness Network in Arizona and a member of NCHN’s Awards Committee presented Dr. Chess with her award. Here is an excerpt of her descriptive introduction.

 “Members of the awards committee and NCHN all share the experience of receiving leadership training and support from Dr. Mary Kay Chess. She has had a significant impact on me as a network director, and I see the ripple effects of her work across my own network, those of us here today, and our field. She gives her time generously and shares her wisdom in a way that makes everyone in the room or on the phone feel smarter. Mary Kay blends compassion and accountability to serve as a professional role model for network leaders. Network Land can be a complicated place, full of unexpected road blocks and land mines. She skillfully coaches us to be effective leaders, and our communities, both the professional community represented here today and the real-world communities we live in, are healthier thanks to her work.”


 Mary Kay supports NCHN as an Individual Associate Member, Educator and Consultant. In these roles she:

  • Develops, designs and provides leadership development training both in-person and remotely
  • Provides consultation to individual network leaders
  • Facilitates peer learning dialogue among network leaders
  • Is spearheading, through Saybrook University, the launching of the Leadership and Organizational Transformation Experience, for NCHN members

 Mary Kay has worked with innovators and leaders in rural and urban networks and complex healthcare systems. She is a convener of individuals deeply curious about- facing issues through creativity, innovation and wonder.  She finds individuals with courageous ideas, connects these individuals and hosts conversations and board meetings around gnarly challenges. The results are inspiring and invigorating ideas for creating sustainable approaches to move us all forward on issues. 

 Dr. Chess holds a faculty position in the Leadership and Management program at Saybrook University in Seattle, Washington and has been an Executive Leadership Consultant for eleven years. She earned her PhD, in Transformational Learning and Change from California Institute of Integral Studies. 

Friend - RHIhub  2017 Recipient: Rural Health Information Hub

Grand Forks, ND

 RHIhub assists NCHN with its mission to support and strengthen health networks by collaborating to share resources and knowledge. Successful projects, services and models of NCHN membership are shared via RHIhub’s Rural Health Models and Innovations.  Sharing of this type helps expand the reach of the wealth of knowledge available within health networks.  This sharing facilitates leadership development and network growth. Additionally, RHIhub staff are regular  attendees/exhibitors at NCHN’s Annual Educational Conferences.The Rural Health Information Hub, formerly the Rural Assistance Center, is funded by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy to be a national clearinghouse on rural health issues.  The RHIhub serves as a guide  to improving health for rural residents. This is done by providing access to current and reliable resources and tools to educate people about rural health needs and assist those working to address those needs. The  RHIhub assistance includes:1.Planning: Find toolkits and program models that show what works in rural communities. 2. Developing: The online library offers easy access to thousands of resources from organizations across the United States.  3.Learning: Gain insight and understanding of the issues affecting rural America through topic guides, timely news, and updates, 4.Connecting: Find others who have passion and expertise in rural health issues.

NRHRC2016 Recipient: National Rural Health Resource center

 Duluth, MN

The National Rural Health Resource Center (The Center) provides technical assistance, information, tools and resources for the improvement of rural health care. It serves as a national rural health knowledge center and strives to build state and local capacity. As the nation’s leading technical assistance and knowledge center in rural health, The Center serves as a catalyst for improved health care delivery in rural communities. Since 1985, The Center has worked closely with thousands of clinics, hospitals, health care professionals, rural health networks, organizations and associations in all 50 states. The Center enjoys solid and long-term relationships with many federal and national agencies as well as many organizations and associations. Developing partners and alliances, such as those listed below, aids in the creation of synergy and improves effectiveness of The Center as it seeks to fulfill its mission and vision.The National Cooperative of Health Networks (NCHN) mission is to support and strengthen health networks.  The Center assists NCHN is meeting their mission by collaborating to share resources and knowledge. The Center's staff works with NCHN staff to gather and disseminate information about health networks' programs, services, successes, struggles and approaches. This sharing helps spread the wealth of knowledge among health networks throughout the country and facilitates leadership development within them. The Center Staff also regularly deliver presentations at NCHN's educational conferences. This not only strengthens the knowledge of network staff it also continues to develop and strengthen relationships with healthcare leaders throughout the country.

FORHP2014 Recipient: Federal Office of Rural Health Policy

Rockville, MD

Since its creation in 1987, ORHP has played a significant role in ensuring that rural communities have access to quality health care. “One of the many ways in which ORHP supports rural health is by providing grants to fund the planning, development, and implementation of health networks,” said Rebecca Davis, Ph.D., Executive Director of NCHN. “No other organization has been as vital to the success of the health network model as HRSA’s Office of Rural Health Policy.”

Ron and Ruth Anne Wheeler2013 Recipient: Ron and Ruth Anne Wheeler

Hardinsburg, KY

Anyone who has attended the NCHN Conference for the past 5 years recognize Ron and Ruth Anne Wheeler, the smiling faces at the registration desk and the competent handlers of all conference AV needs.   This week, they will have been married for 46 years. They are always happy and willing to help in any way that they can before, during, and after the conference. In addition to handling the AV and registration desk, they are active bluegrass enthusiasts, musicians, and they are involved in numerous community projects. In their spare time, they enjoy their 3 grandsons and their granddaughter. 

Alan Morgan2012 Recipient: National Rural Health Association

Leawood, KS


 The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) is a national nonprofit membership organization with more than 20,000 members. The association’s mission is to provide leadership on rural health issues.  NRHA membership consists of a diverse collection of individuals and organizations, all of whom share the common bond of an interest in rural health.

NRHA has more than 20,000 members whose mission is to provide leadership on rural issues through advocacy, communications, education and research. READ MORE 


VCOM logo2011 Recipient: Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine

Virginia Campus, Blacksburg, VA

 The decision to establish the College was made after the leaders of the Harvey W. Peters Research Foundation and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) studied the health care needs of Virginia. That study revealed that the Southside and Southwest geographical areas of Virginia had an extreme health care shortage, with 30 counties considered to have critical shortages (HPSA) designations and greater than 70 having medically underserved areas (MUAs).

VCOM is a non-profit, private 501 c-3 charitable organization initially funded by several foundations that were established by the late Marion Bradley Via to benefit Virginia Tech and Southwest Virginia. Marion Bradley's son, Edward Via, was the person instrumental in funding this initiative. John Rocovich J.D., LL.M. and Sue Ellen Rocovich, D.O., Ph.D. were the individuals instrumental in founding the Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, laying all the groundwork to establish the College. At the time of initial development, VCOM’s vision was to provide healthcare for Southwest Virginia, Western North Carolina, and the Appalachian Region, and to promote biomedical research with Virginia Tech. READ MORE 

Heman Marshall2010 Recipient: Heman Marshall

Roanoke, VA

In the past four (4) years, Heman Marshall, III, has contributed many hours of volunteer service to NCHN, including extensive work with the NCHN Board of Directors and By-Laws Committee. Marshall has presented at numerous NCHN Conferences and Regional Meetings and has provided training for Human Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) network grantees, in conjunction with NCHN’s annual conferences. As a Principal with Woods Rogers Attorneys at Law, Marshall has served as the Coordinator of the firm’s Health Law Practice Section since its inception in the early 1980’s and was the initial Chairman of the Virginia Bar Association Health Law Section and the Virginia State Bar Antitrust, Franchise and Trade Regulations Sections, and is currently a member of the Governing Counsel of the Virginia Bar Association Health Law Section. He has lectured extensively to attorneys and health care professionals and numerous topics. In addition, Marshall is a published author and is listed in the “Best Lawyers in American” under the categories of both Health Care Law and Antitrust.  He was recently made a member of “Outstanding Lawyers of America” and s a fellow of both the Virginia Bar Foundation and the American Bar Foundation.

“Heman has been a valuable asset to NCHN and our work over the past four years,” stated Rebecca J. Davis, Ph.D, the Executive Director of NCHN.  “Without his support and dedication to the Association over the past four years, our significant growth and expansion would not have been possible. He has contributed many hours of volunteer work to NCHN and our members that has enabled us to streamline our Business Partner Program application process, update and amend our by-laws, and provide direction on Health Information Technology and its implementation into health network s across the nation. We are greatly indebted to Mr. Marshall for his support, leadership, and his unselfish volunteerism to the Association.”