Beth O'Connor, Virginia Rural Health Association (VRHA) Executive Director (VCOM affiliate), was named the 2019 Community Star for Virginia! Each year on National Rural Health Day, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health (NOSORH) honors a healthcare professional in each state who has been nominated by a colleague with the award. The organization shares inspiring stories of the men and women who make a difference in the health communities they serve.
When the call for nominations opened, NOSORH wanted nominees who cultivate an innovative rural health landscape and infrastructure. A person who develops a leadership capacity to grow a rural population health and health equity, they help build capacity for rural data-driven program planning and decision making, contributes to rural health innovation, education collaboration, and communication.
Beth O'Connor, M. Ed, has been in her position as the Virginia Rural Health Association Executive Director since 2005. Throughout her years in the position, she has been responsible for coordinating statewide education events, actively partnering with the State's Office of Rural Health (SORH), facilitating rural health policy development, and publishing a weekly rural health e-newsletter. She has been working to secure public and private funding opportunities to improve the health of rural Virginians. Along with her responsibilities, she hosts the Virginia Rural Health Voice podcast which discusses rural health issues at the grassroots level and how state and federal policies play out in our local communities.
When nominated for the awarded some of her many accomplishments were noted to show how Beth has impacted the community. Some of these accomplishments are the creation and management of the Virginia Rural Health Clinic Coalition including an Annual Summit, operations management for Once Care of Southwest Virginia, and the implementation of the Virginia Rural Hospital Flexibility Program projects. She also was able to secure federal funds to address the opioid crisis, which helped develop an app to teach patients about the risks of opioids.
When asked about receiving the award, Beth said, "I was deeply honored to have received this award, helping the people of rural Virginia has always been a reward itself. All of these accomplishments are made possible through the unwavering support of VCOM."