Longtime UM Director Honored With Health Care Award

March 26, 2014

MISSOULA – Lawrence L. White Jr., a former University of Montana College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences faculty member, recently was named the 2014 recipient of the Montana Rural Health Initiative Franklin S. Newman Rural Health Leadership Award. White recently retired from his position as director of Western Montana AHEC at UM.

The award formally was presented to White, in absentia, at the Northwest Regional Rural Health Conference in Spokane, Wash., on March 19. It will be presented personally at the May meeting of the Western Montana AHEC Advisory Board on May 2 at UM.

As the recipient of this year’s award, White has devoted his career to the betterment of health care in western Montana, including its rural areas. Although retired, he continues his efforts to identify projects and collaborate with a vast array of partners to bring these projects to fruition. He personally has worked in rural areas as a member of critical access hospital boards and as an interim CEO. He also has participated in teaching leadership and management skills in rural health care settings and helped to develop future public health leaders for Montana.

White began his health care career in the U.S. Air Force, where he served as a Medical Service Corps officer for eight years in U.S. Air Force hospitals and dispensaries around the world. Upon discharge, he vice president of Marian Health Center in Sioux City, Iowa, assistant administrator at St. Anthony Hospital in Amarillo, Texas, and became president of Missoula’s St. Patrick Hospital and Health Sciences Center in 1980. In his 23-year career there, he led the development of the regional hospital and health system that continues to serve many rural areas in western Montana. During his tenure as CEO at Providence St. Patrick Hospital, he served as a board member of Clark Fork Valley Hospital in Plains, of St. Joseph Medical Center in Polson and Community Hospital of Anaconda.

Upon retirement from Providence St. Patrick Hospital, White served as a consultant to businesses, health care facilities and universities on projects related to rural health care organization and delivery. He also served as interim hospital CEO at three rural facilities. In 2006, he joined the faculty of the School of Public and Community Health Sciences within UM’s College of Health Professions and Biomedical Sciences as a research associate professor. He taught courses in health care reform and in administration and management of health care systems in the master’s of public health and certificate programs.

In 2007, he became the founding director of the Western Montana Area Health Education Center, retiring from that position in December 2013. During his tenure with the Western Montana AHEC, he led the organization in the development of a number of programs that directly benefit rural Montana. The K-12 programs include Hands on Health, Curriculum in a Box, Research & Explore Awesome Careers in Health Care, MedStart, Future Health Professionals, health-science teacher training and job shadowing opportunities.

For health professions students, he helped create rural clinical rotation support and coordination of fourth-year medical student rotations in rural areas. For health care professionals, he developed access to live grand rounds broadcasts, leadership and management skills development (LEAP and PATH), a distance-coding course and the rural mental health program. He also was instrumental in the development of the Family Medicine Residency of Western Montana, which started its first class of residents in July 2013.

The award reflects the lifetime achievements of Newman, who represented the spirit of Montana during his nearly 50 years of health care service to rural communities in the state. He 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.

Newman served his country in the U.S. Marine Corps and was a founding member of the Big Sky Wind Drinkers running club. Newman counseled hundreds of young people interested in careers in medicine and other health professions. Up until his death at age 80, he taught in the WWAMI Targeted Rural Underserved Track at Montana State University and worked at the Montana Office of Rural Health/AHEC.

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Contact: Martha Robertson, K-12 program coordinator, Western Montana Area Health Education Center at UM, 406-243-4746, martha.robertson@mso.umt.edu.