Rural Health Networks Announces Rural Health Champions

FULTON, NY – The Rural Health Network of Oswego County recently recognized two community members for their exceptional leadership and their work as advocates for Oswego County health providers and residents.

Community volunteer Laura Smith was awarded the Rural Health Network’s Rural Health Champion Award for her dedication to improving services for those with vision and hearing loss. Above from left are President of AURORA of CNY Debra Chaiken, Laura Smith, Coordinator of Community Health for Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Leanna Cleveland, and RHN Program Specialist Virginia Bough.

Laura Smith, a community volunteer with the Oswego County Visually Impaired Network and AURORA of Central New York, and Cindy Solazzo, LPN with Farnham Family Services, were awarded the Rural Health Network’s Rural Health Champion Award for their dedication to improving services within the county.

The awards were presented by Coordinator of Community Health for Oswego County Opportunities (OCO) Leanna Cleveland at separate luncheons honoring the award winners.

Smith retired as the Assistant Dean of Student Services and Continuing Education at SUNY Oswego.

While at SUNY Oswego, Smith was recognized by the Continuing Education Association of New York for her innovative leadership and directing the growth of SUNY Oswego’s continuing education department.

Since her retirement Smith has worked tirelessly as a community volunteer with AURORA of CNY and continues to be an advocate for those with vision and hearing loss. She founded the Oswego County Book Club, a valuable resource and social outlet for isolated individuals with vision loss, and was instrumental in the development of the Oswego County Visually Impaired Network. Under her leadership it has grown to be an important resource as a social, support, and educational network for people in Oswego County with vision loss.

“Laura has been a true champion for Oswego County citizens,” said Anne Costa of AURORA of CNY, Inc. “She is a woman ahead of her time in addressing the social determinants of health long before it was an identified priority. When she encountered a need Laura developed programs to address that need and improve the overall health and well-being of residents. Laura tackles social needs and problems head-on with a positive, gentle style that exudes compassion and commitment to her community.”

Coordinator of Community Health for Oswego County Opportunities Leanna Cleveland (second from left) presents Farnham Family Services Director of Operations Cindy Solazzo, LPN (c) with the Rural Health Network’s Rural Health Champion Award for her contributions to improving health services in Oswego County. Also pictured are Program Specialist Virginia Bough of the Rural Health Network (l), Farnham Clinical Services Director Mary Jo Proietta-Halpern, and Farnham Executive Director Eric Bresee.

Farnham Family Services Director of Operations Cindy Solazzo, LPN joined the agency in 1990 as a school therapist.

Solazzo soon took leadership of Farnham’s adolescent program.

“Cindy is a natural leader,” said Farnham Clinical Services Director MaryJo Proietta-Halpern LCSW-R, CASAC. “People are drawn to her inherent sense of fairness and kindness. Cindy is a compassionate, empathetic listener. She is very thorough and is committed to honesty, integrity, discretion and doing the right thing.”

As director of operations Solazzo has been a champion of appropriate communication with family and criminal courts.

“Cindy has created systems, checks and balances, and efficiencies that have served Farnham and our clients well over the years and will continue to do so in the future,” said Proietta-Halpern.

One of Solazzo’s most notable contributions to Farnham Family Services was the development of an acupuncture program.

Her research regarding the application of acupuncture in addictions, which included a trip to an acupuncture detox program at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx, reinforced the benefit of acupuncture for Farnham’s clients and led to the establishment of an acupuncture program at Farnham.

“Cindy is our agency’s guiding light for difficult decisions,” added Proietta-Halpern. “She ensures that we consider the perspective of the client while aligning with various regulatory bodies. Cindy’s level of integrity brings credibility to our field and to the agency.”

The Rural Health Champion Awards are part of the Rural Health Network of Oswego County’s observation of National Rural Health Day, which is November 21.

Established by the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, National Rural Health Day recognizes that rural communities are wonderful places to live and work and have unique healthcare needs.

National Rural Health Day celebrates the “Power of Rural,” bringing to light the unique healthcare challenges that rural citizens face and showcasing the efforts of rural healthcare providers, state offices of Rural Health and other rural stakeholders to address those challenges.

It’s also an opportunity to honor the selfless, community-minded, “can do” spirit that prevails in rural America.

“We are proud to be able to salute Laura and Cindy for everything they do for our communities,” said Cleveland. “They truly make a difference and are worthy recipients of the Rural Health Champion Award.”

Operating under the auspices of Oswego County Opportunities, the Rural Health Network is a consortium of health care providers and human service providers in Oswego County.

Working together the members take a collaborative approach to addressing major health issues that exist in Oswego County.

For more information on the Rural Health Network of Oswego visit the Rural Health Network pages on the OCO website, www.oco.org.