In honor of National Rural Health Day, the Montana Office of Rural Health/AHEC and Montana Rural Health Association requested nominations for the Dr. Frank Newman Rural Health Award.  Dr. Newman represented the spirit of Montana in nearly 50 years of service to rural communities and healthcare in our state.  

Dr. Newman was instrumental in founding the Montana WWAMI Medical School Program, the Montana Office of Rural Health, the Montana AHEC, the Montana Family Medicine Residency Program, and many other programs.  He served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps, and was the founder of the Wind Drinkers running club. Dr. Newman counseled hundreds of young people interested in a career in medicine and other health professions.  He was actively teaching in the WWAMI Targeted Rural Underserved Track at Montana State University, and working at the Montana Office of Rural Health/AHEC until his death at age 80 on Veteran’s Day, 2011.

Congratulations to our 2022 Dr. Frank Newman Rural Health Award Winners!

Rural Clinician Leadership

Photo of Amy Lepage

Dr. Amy LePage                                                    

Central Montana Medical Center - Lewistown, MT

Born and raised in Lewistown, Dr. LePage completely understands the advantages and disadvantages of a rural community, including those in healthcare. Dr. LePage returned to Lewistown after several years of practicing Emergency Medicine in other locations. Upon her return, she dove right into education and awareness of healthcare among the youth.

Dr. Lepage takes a keen interest in the youth. She was a pivotal person in creating our high school EMT program where high school kids can take CMMC’s EMT class for credit and be an EMT right out of high school. Why did she do this? Her dedication to rural…the criticality of needing these positions in rural Montana. Exposing these kids to healthcare & medicine is a great opportunity to grow our own for many healthcare professions, and Dr. LePage knows this all too well

Rural Health Leadership


Dr. William Gallea and Jennie Nemec, RN

Montana Comprehensive Advanced Life Support (CALS) - Helena, MT 

Providing healthcare to rural communities throughout Montana, Dr. Gallea and Jennie came to the conclusion that limited resources, difficulty recruiting staff, especially specialized staff, and infrequent high acuity events presented challenges to rural healthcare, impacting their ability to provide consistent high quality patient care. They searched for a solution that was efficient and effective both fiscally and through patient outcomes. They discovered the CALS program developed in Minnesota. They invested their time and resources to research the CALS Program and in 2012 traveled to Minnesota to take a CALS course. They determined the new program was well suited for Montana’s rural healthcare facilities, to improve clinician skills and build confidence to improve patient outcomes. Dr. Gallea and Jennie worked with the Minnesota CALS program to become certified instructors and brought the program back to Montana. They have tirelessly recruited, trained, and mentored healthcare clinicians to be CALS Instructors. They have acclimated their knowledge and skills to utilize their creativity to build training materials that provide a realistic, simulated learning environment for course participants to enhance knowledge and skill acquisition. They have traveled throughout Montana, teaching and transporting course equipment in anything large enough that would roll down the road. They adapted their teaching to present courses in a variety ofenvironments that reflect the uniqueness of rural Montana. Through their tireless commitment to mentor rural healthcare clinicians to gain knowledge and improve skills, they continue to reflect Dr. Frank Newman’s spirit in their service to rural communities and healthcare throughout Montana.

Future of Rural Health

Photo of Bailee Adler

Bailee Adler, OT 

Deer Lodge Medical Center - Deer Lodge, MT 

Bailee Adler grew up in the small community of Avon, MT. She attended the local high school in Deer Lodge and then went on to attend college to pursue a career in Occupational Therapy. Last year she completed her degree and returned to our community to share her passion and help those in need with Occupational Therapy. Bailee took on the task of being the first and only OT in our facility. In one year she has built a program for patients from 0 to 100 years in age. Bailee currently works with IP, OP and at the localschool to bring high quality care in occupational therapy. Bailee is truly an individual that can see the need for her services in our small community and has touched, and made great healthcare improvements for our patient. She is committed to providing care in herhometown and giving back to those she has grown with.


Lifetime Achievement Frank Newman Award

Photo of Mary Hegelson

Mary Helgeson, Retired Director

Eastern Area Health Education Center - Billings, MT

Mary joined RiverStone Health in 2008 as a student placement coordinator. At RiverStone Health, Mary coordinated the hospital rotations of various medical students, physician assistants and pharmacy students. In September 2011, Mary was promoted to director of the Eastern Montana Area Health Education Center (AHEC) at RiverStone Health. In her role as Eastern Montana AHEC Director, Mary oversaw the 27 counties of eastern Montana where she was committed to expanding the healthcare workforce, maximizing diversity and facilitating the distribution of healthcare workers especially in rural and underserved Montana communities. Mary utilized skills gained as an elementary educator to put on the Great Hospital Adventures puppet show, to introduce elementary kids to healthcare professionals. Mary utilized her talent of linking local resources and organizations to introduce high school students to healthcare careers through collaboration with community healthcare facilities and conducted one day Reach and Explore Awesome Careers in Healthcare (REACH) camps and five-day MedStart Camps throughout the eastern Montana region. Mary has advocated for rural healthcare by her commitment and leadership in projects like HealthCARE Montana where she not only served as AHEC Director but assumed the role of Workforce Coordinator with the goal of maximizing combined resources and interests to create a streamlined and efficient system of healthcare training and job placement, with long-term sustainability in mind for the participants, employers and training providers.

Mary has been an example of what it means to be a leader. Mary has taken on the leadership role of various organizations throughout her community. Mary has been a mentor for many newcomers to the Montana AHEC family. Mary committed to rural healthcare in Montana by taking the time to assure new leaders in the AHEC family have the knowledge and understanding to provide guidance to those interested in rural healthcare and rural healthcare providers. Mary has also demonstrated the role of champion with her amazing marketing and persuasive skills which she has demonstrated on numerous occasions as a guest writer for the Billings Gazette. In Mary’s role as Eastern Montana AHEC Director, she like Dr. Newman met a lot of people along the way, that helped her develop a solid network of connections which she leveraged to improve healthcare in rural Montana.


We’re proud to recognize these award winners and, in the spirit of Frank Newman, their dedication to rural health.