Benjamin Olmedo a physicians’ assistant and MSHF board member, has been selected as 2014 REAL Award winner.
Olmedo is one of 26 awardees in 13 countries for the REAL award, which was created by Save the Children and the Frontline Health Workers Coalition. The REAL award recognizes the contributions of healthcare workers who save lives every day. Olmedo works with the Chickaloon Village Health Clinic and with Southcentral Foundations’s Valley Native Primary Care Center in Wasilla. Olmedo was nominated by the Chickaloon Traditional Village Council.
“It’s a great honor to be basically be nominated by the community to recognize the efforts we try to do to keep everybody healthy.”
Olmedo says the award is based on his work with the clinics in Wasilla and Chickaloon. He says that he sees a range of illnesses during his work, but his primary focus is to prevent disease.
“More, it’s the prevention of illnesses, being able to improve vaccination rates, to prevent diseases, and kids from getting sick. And I think that one of the great opportunities that I have, being in a smaller community, is being able to integrate myself in the community, really getting to know people. Not just in the clinic, where maybe they’ll come in from crisis to crisis, but outside the clinic and be able to see them when they are well, and keeping them well. And, I think honestly, the award is more of a recognition of that, is being able to prevent people from un-necessisarliy having to go to the hospital, or having to go into town, you know, keeping them healthy in their communities. “
He says part of his role is public outreach.
“And here we not only work with tribal members, we work with non-tribal members. We see everybody in the community, regardless of ability to pay. If people don’t have insurance and can’t pay, we have a sliding fee scale. So really, we serve a safety net role as well.”
Olmedo has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says his military service helped to point him toward his current career.
“We were on patrol and our medic actually got stung by a scorpion. And we were all kind of obviously concerned and we picked up our tactical communications on satellite, and the person I talked to on the other end, was a PA, our battalion PA. And that right there that night solidified it for me. For me, that’s definitely want I want to do.”
He received his physician’s assistant credentials, which allows him to provide primary care in collaboration with a physician. He says his aim has always been to work with underserved populations.
“You either love, or you don’t necessarily love rural medicine. And, I absolutely love and kind of thrive on it. That’s one of the great things, that you never know kind of what your day’s going to bring. Some days we come in and there’s not a whole lot going on, maybe not a lot of people on the schedule. But you never know who’s going to walk through the door, what people are going to need. “
And, former Mat Su Regional Medical Center and Mat Su Health Foundation Board member Craig Thorn has been honored with the Bert Hall Award for Commitment to the Health of the Community. Craig Thorn says
“The award also brings recognition to those who serve in the health industry in a volunteer capacity. We all know people who work at the hospital, or in the doctor’s office, or nurses, and they are all very important. But I think there’s a lot of people behind the scenes who work in the industry and do it in a back room, quiet yet important sort of way and the Bert Hall Award recognizes those folks for the hard work that they put in. “
The award is presented annually by the MSHF to someone who exemplifies commitment to improving the health of people in the Mat Su Borough. Thorn has been a president of the Palmer Chamber of Commerce and the Palmer Rotary Club and a board member of United Way of Mat Su. He has a simple philosophy of community service
“I think that we are called, as we are put in positions of influence, that we are called to help other people. And so, I think that we have a responsibility to give back to our community. And I think, especially in the Mat Su that it is particularly hard for a lot of people to be really involved, because almost half of our population commutes one way or another either in Anchorage or to the North Slope, or elsewhere, and when you are doing that, sometimes that interferes with being involved in the community. “
Thorn has since stepped down from both board positions to pursue personal interests.
“I had been pretty active and involved in the hospital and the foundation one way or another for the last eight or nine or ten years, and it’s time in my life for me to pursue other things do other things, particularly for my church, and the time came and it was a good run, and I was pleased to be of service.”
Thorn is a life long Alaskan, born in Seward. He lives in Palmer and works for First National Bank.