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 2020 Dr. Frank Newman Rural Health Award Winners!

Rural Clinician Leadership


Dr. James Upchurch                                                       

Crow/Northern Cheyenne Hospital, Bighorn Valley Health Center
Hardin, MT

Dr. James Upchurch embodies Dr. Newman’s commitment to rural health and support for health professions in rural/frontier Montana. Dr. Upchurch’s practice and leadership has reached many aspects of healthcare in rural communities throughout Montana. Dr. Upchurch is board certified in Family Medicine with an added qualification in Geriatrics and has a master’s degree in education and human development. He is a licensed paramedic and has served in the U.S. Army Special Forces. Dr. Upchurch has promoted the health and well-being of rural/underserved communities in his family medicine practice by providing a full range of care for Indian Health Service at Crow Agency and Bighorn Valley Health Center in Hardin Montana. His advocacy for healthcare professions has extended beyond the hospital setting through his support of Emergency Medical Services.

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Dr. Mike Sura

Central Montana Medical Center
Lewistown, MT

To exemplify the spirit of Dr. Frank Newman, a physician must have a unique set of characteristics. A set of characteristics that is only found in a select few. Characteristics such as honorable, ethical, optimistic, dedicated, influential, humble…to name just a few. When I think of Dr. Mike Sura, all of thescharacteristics are innate in him. He effortlessly leads CMMC and Lewistown to greater aspirations in rural healthcare and never seems rattled by any obstacle that comes his way.

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Dr. Anne Millard

Frances Mahon Deaconess
Glasgow, MT

Dr. Millard is the lead clinical faculty in Glasgow for our Montana WWAMI Targeted Rural Underserved Track, teaching TRUST students who have a passion for rural or underserved medicine. As such, Dr. Millard works with students longitudinally off and on during the first three of their four years of their medical education. Not only does this create a strong teacher-student bond, it provides students with the knowledge of what it means to be a rural clinician. Her commitment to her patients, her students and to her colleagues has created a solid teaching site, with two other physicians now serving as clinical faculty for the UWSOM. As a dedicated physician in rural Montana, she is keenly aware of the physician and healthcare workforce needs in the state and how important the WWAMI program is in serving that need.

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Rural Health Leadership


Maria Clemons, Executive Director

Northwest Community Health Center
Libby, MT

Maria’s leadership is rooted in the foundational beliefs of the health center movement, and her impact extends beyond the four walls of the health center throughout Northwest Montana. Over the years, she has provided leadership for many of her community’s needs; helping people affected by the asbestos, a high number of teen pregnancies, ensuring access to affordable prescription drugs, and shower and laundry facilities for those in need. Maria is a fierce, thoughtful, and innovative advocate for her community.

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Dr. Gordon Bell

Frances Mahon Deaconess
Glasgow, MT

Dr. Gordon Bell is my all time Healthcare Hero. Dr. Bell arrived in Glasgow, MT after completion of an internship to serve his National Health Service Corps commitment in 1978. He went on to spend his entire 39 year career serving the people of Glasgow and Valley County. His leadership of the medical community in Glasgow helped produce an amazing positive culture that resulted in improved healthcare outcomes. He worked hard to stay up to date with the most modern medical knowledge and helped to elevate the quality of care delivered by all of the providers.

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Future of Rural Health


Dr. Kelly Smith

Barrett Hospital & Healthcare
Dillon, MT

Dr. Smith precepts RUOP, TRUST and WRITE students in Dillon. Clerkship-wise, she teaches TRUST/WRITE students in the clinic and hospital setting, providing one-on-one oversight in the clinic and for obstetrics care. Her time commitment to teaching WWAMI students is over 400 hours annually. She is committed to Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship-style teaching, which works particularly well in a rural setting. She attended the most recent Consortium of Longitudinal Integrated Clerkships conference held in Vancouver, BC Canada in 2019. As a young female physician in such a rural outpost as Dillon, she serves as a role model for her students. 

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