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Student members of the LHU COVID-19 Institutional Response Team receiving the Rural Health Program of the Year Award. Kneeling, from left, are Sydney Schramm and Christina McMahon. Back row from left, are Pollyana Caneta, McCartney Register, Davis, MaKenzi Etters and Jack Doyle.

Lock Haven, Pa. – Lock Haven University recently received the Rural Health Program of the Year award, presented by the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), for their response to the COVID-19 virus.

The Rural Health Program of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary health program that addresses an identified need in a rural community utilizing unique, creative, and innovative approaches.

The award was presented during Rural Health Week in Pennsylvania, Nov. 15-19. The week encompasses Nov. 18, which is National Rural Health Day, established in 2011 by the National Organization of the State Offices of Rural Health. Both events celebrate “The Power of Rural” by honoring rural American residents, health care providers, and communities.

The nomination, submitted by Dr. Beth McMahon, LHU emerita professor and member of LHU’s COVID-19 Institutional Response Team, lauded LHU for developing a comprehensive, evidence-based approach to addressing and mitigating COVID-19 in the university environment.

“I applaud the efforts of our campus community to Protect the Nest and mitigate transmission of the virus on campus through regular testing, offering vaccination clinics to the LHU Family and the Lock Haven community,” said Bashar Hanna, LHU interim president.

“Because of their meticulous planning and execution of these efforts, LHU has been able to keep our positive case rates low, allowing us a return to face-to-face instruction and giving students a more normal campus life, which is important to their overall-experience here at The Haven. Congratulations to our Haven Family for receiving this well-deserved award.”

During the late spring and summer of 2020 LHU established special expert teams to investigate an approach to providing a safe and effective method of delivering an academic experience.

Team findings were reported at the end of summer 2020, and the LHU COVID-19 Institutional Response Team was formed. This cohesive team of key university representatives were able to shift gears rapidly or change course during unpredictable developments. Diverse talent and informed perspectives lead to a quick and effectively executed mitigation strategy. Students were engaged immediately in delivering messaging and creative solutions to address the uncertainties of a global pandemic.

“Lock Haven University implemented a creative and population-driven robust strategy of behavior-based prevention including educational campaigns, student lead vaccine challenges, faculty and student research, engagement of hundreds of students in COVID mitigation efforts, the institution of low-density student housing, COVID-19 testing, rapid detection, case investigation, isolation, contact tracing and quarantine strategies,” McMahon said. 

A “Be the Solution” grant was developed and is funded by faculty and staff with a goal to award student engagement and action in identifying and developing creative solutions to complicated challenges.

“It is such an honor to present this award to the entire Lock Haven University community,” Davis said. “Not only do I applaud them for their efforts to address the COVID-19 pandemic, I also am in full support of their decision to postpone the award ceremony to a time when the safety of students, staff and faculty, can be assured. I’ll look forward to another opportunity to visit the beautiful and welcoming Lock Haven campus.”

PORH formed in 1991 as a joint partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking and partnership development. PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, population health, quality improvement, oral health and agricultural health and safety.

Each year, PORH presents awards to recognize rural health programs and individuals who have made substantial contributions to rural health in Pennsylvania. To learn more about the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health, visit porh.psu.edu.

Lock Haven's award was presented by Lisa Davis, director of PORH and outreach associate professor of health policy and administration at Penn State, on Nov. 15, on campus.

An awards ceremony at LHU was previously planned for Nov. 15 but was postponed to mitigate the potential for COVID-19 transmission. It will be rescheduled for a time when the ceremony can be held outdoors.

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