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2023 Community Health Hero Awards

Updated: Jan 24

Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) and North Country Health Compass Partners are pleased to introduce the recipients of the 2023 Community Health Hero Award.

One Health Hero was chosen in each of Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties, and all three were honored Wednesday afternoon during an award luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn, Watertown/1000 Islands. The 2023 Community Health Heroes are:

  • Jefferson County – Scott Stern, MD, Primary Care, North Country Family Health Center

  • Lewis County – Rebecca Paté-Johnson, Family Advocate, CAPC Head Start

  • St. Lawrence County – Jayme Smith, PsyD, Senior Director of Behavioral Health Services, St. Lawrence Health System

“These three exceptional individuals have had a profound impact on countless lives,” explained Pat Fontana, FDRHPO Deputy Director and emcee of Wednesday’s event. “The selection committee wholeheartedly acknowledged the authentic passion and unwavering dedication that Dr. Stern, Rebecca, and Jayme consistently bring to their work. Their contributions in their respective fields undeniably enhance the health and well-being of the residents in our region.”

The Community Health Hero Award – given in honor of National Rural Health Day (November 16, 2023) – recognizes North Country residents who have demonstrated outstanding public service and a commitment to improving the health and wellness of their community. Nominations were accepted from the community-at-large, and winners were selected by members of North Country Health Compass Partners.

At the luncheon, each Health Hero was presented with a plaque after being congratulated by their peers and keynote speaker Denise Young, Chief Executive Officer of the Watertown Family YMCA.

“Rural healthcare has some unique challenges, and each of the Community Health Heroes have found ways to help address those challenges and get people the help they need,” stated Kayla Burns, FDRHPO Population Health Coordinator. “They truly are selfless individuals, giving of their time, talent, resources, and expertise to make the North Country a great place to live.”

Here is some background on each of the recipients:

Scott Stern, MD

Dr. Stern has a passion for providing care to rural and underserved populations, and his work for the past seven years at North Country Family Health Center (NCFHC) has enabled him to work to improve the health and wellness of some of the most underserved people in the North Country. His career has focused on breaking down barriers to care, especially for patients suffering from substance use disorders. Because of his passion, Dr. Stern offers integrated medication-assisted treatment (MAT) as part of his primary care services. He provides MAT to approximately 90 patients at any given time. They are from different socio-economic backgrounds and career fields; they could be our neighbors, friends, and family members. Dr. Stern is the reason that hundreds of patients have been able to feel welcomed and cared for while seeking treatment for their addiction within their primary care office.

As one patient stated, "It is exceedingly difficult to be taken seriously, listened to, and treated with compassion given my unique needs. I'm always safe at NCFHC, and being treated with dignity and respect, makes such a huge difference in a world that can sometimes be hostile and dangerous for people like me."


Dr. Stern also loves to teach future healthcare providers, including physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, by creating an optimal learning environment at NCFHC. In fact, NCFHC gained two new healthcare providers as a result of Dr. Stern's guidance and mentorship while they were in training with him. As one student explained, "I was lucky enough to spend nine weeks under Dr. Stern's supervision. I feel more prepared to start my career knowing that I learned from one of the best family practice physicians in the area." (From Dr. Stern's nomination by Joey Marie Horton, CEO, North Country Family Health Center)

Rebecca Paté-Johnson 

Rebecca isn't the type to sit on the sidelines. If she sees something that needs to be done, she typically is the one to jump in. Her enthusiasm and motivation inspire others to get involved and contribute to solutions. This quality makes her a stand-out both in her career and in her numerous volunteer roles.


In her nine years at Head Start, she ensures that children receive medical, dental, hearing, vision, and nutrition screenings. Through collaboration with other community-based organizations, such as North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council and Cornell Cooperative Extension, she links families to necessary resources to ensure their needs are being met. One of her accomplishments was to start a garden at Head Start in Carthage, where vegetables from the garden are used in children's meals at school. She created a gardening handbook for families to detail how nutritious plants can be grown in any space and how they can be used in meals.


Rebecca's volunteer engagements include Safe Schools Endeavor (SSE), Beaver River Central School's (BRCS) Safety Committee, and Adirondack Foothills Cycling Club (AFCC). She is a committee member of SSE, whose mission is to strengthen school safety through projects, programs, and grants, including funding anti-bullying programs, mindful space projects, trainings for school personnel, and the physical safety and security of students and staff. She volunteers her time and resources to help write grants for funding and acts as a liaison between schools that receive grants to answer questions and offer guidance. As an extension of SSE, she is a member of BRCS' Safety Committee. In this role, she advocated for change in pickup/drop-off procedures and the elimination of unsupervised school access during the school day.


Rebecca is also a founding member of the AFCC, for which she helps coordinate cycling events to encourage individuals of all ages to engage in this happy and healthy activity. She chaired a committee to partner with the Mennonite Meat Canner Lewis County Project to grow their biking event and is also collaborating with Encompass Recreation to bring an inclusive "All Kids Bike" program to the area. (From Rebecca's nomination by Joe Paté, Director of Healthy Families, North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council)

Jayme Smith, PsyD

Jayme has worked tirelessly to elevate the quality of behavioral health services offered in St. Lawrence County. She has strategically planned and put in motion efforts to expand substance use disorder and behavioral health services for children, adults, and families. In 2022, St. Lawrence Health Behavioral Health Services cared for over 2,600 patients, completing over 22,000 outpatient visits and 298 patients in inpatient drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs. Northern Tier Providers Coalition recently presented Jayme with the Nichole Baily Achievement Award as an employee who exemplifies high standards and expectations, while demonstrating loyalty, compassion, and patience.  


Jayme is frequently called upon during times of crisis to assist with post-traumatic counseling services for community-based organizations that have faced difficult situations, including schools, emergency departments, and EMS providers. She is a member of the Bridge to Wellness Coalition and recently became a Crisis Intervention Trainer (CIT) for our local law enforcement agencies. Jayme also serves on the St. Lawrence County Community Services Board. (From Jayme's nomination by Katherine Schleider, Interim Associate Chief Operating Officer/Senior Vice President, Special Projects, Gouverneur Hospital) 

For more about National Rural Health Day, visit

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