Three north country residents honored as community health heroes

WATERTOWN, NY  – Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) and North Country Health Compass Partners are pleased to introduce the recipients of the 2021 Community Health Hero Award. One Health Hero was chosen in each of Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties. This year’s Community Health Heroes are:

  • Jefferson County – Asim Kichloo, MD, Chief of Hospital Medicine, Samaritan Medical Center

  • Lewis County – Suzanne Matuszczak, Licensed Practical Nurse (Retired), Volunteer

  • St. Lawrence County – Andrew Williams, MDChief Medical Officer, Community Health Center of the North Country; Associate Chief Medical Officer, St. Lawrence Health; President, St. Lawrence County Board of Health; Assistant Clinical Professor, University of Rochester School of Medicine

The Community Health Hero Award – given in honor of National Rural Health Day (November 18, 2021) – 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 the North Country Health Compass Partners.

“Rural communities often face unique challenges that can have a lasting impact on overall health and wellness, a current example being the COVID-19 pandemic that continues to disproportionately impact our region,” states Pat Fontana, FDRHPO’s Director of Population Health. “The purpose of the Community Health Hero awards is to recognize special individuals in our rural communities who have done extraordinary things to help mitigate those health challenges and provide a better quality of life for rural residents. We are fortunate to have Sue Matuszczak, Dr. Williams, and Dr. Kichloo caring for the North Country community.”

Here is some background on each of the recipients:

Dr. Asim Kichloo is a Hospitalist and Chief of Hospital Medicine at Samaritan Medical Center. Over the past year, Dr. Kichloo has served as Director of Samaritan’s COVID-19 unit. According to his nominators, “he has embraced this role with all its risks, responsibilities and exposure to death, because he feels a great responsibility to help those around him. He is selfless and dedicated not just on good days but in times of uncertainty and tragedy. This benefits his patients, their families, and even the staff around him who look to him for reassurance and leadership.” Dr. Kichloo helped to spearhead a live television call-in event, “The Doctors Are In: COVID-19 Questions and Answers,” during which over 250 calls were answered by a panel of physicians in the span of two hours. In addition to his work during the COVID pandemic, he mentors and educates doctors-in-training as Program Director of Samaritan’s Internal Medicine Residency Program.

“The best part of caring for our patients, especially in COVID times, was to connect with them at a very different level. At this time, we did not only take care of patients as physicians, but we had to take care of them as family members as well. When their family members could not come and visit them; when their loved ones could not come and feed them, there were a lot of times when we did it personally. And I think that was the most beautiful part of what we did.”

To view Dr. Kichloo’s Community Health Hero video, follow this link:

Suzanne “Sue” Matuszczak is a Lewis County native, working in the healthcare field in Lewis County her entire career, including being a nursing instructor at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES. Sue’s students have shared what an inspiration she was to them, helping many single moms complete their continuing education through her mentorship. As soon as COVID vaccines became available, she assisted Lewis County Public Health in vaccinating community members. According to her daughter (and nominator), “She is a huge advocate for individuals to get vaccinated and took it upon herself to reach out to her friends and family to let them know when she was working so she could give them the vaccine. In addition to her passion for caring for humans, she volunteers every day at the Lewis County Humane Society. She is also a member of Lewis County Friends of Hospice.”

To view Sue’s Community Health Hero video, follow this link:

Dr. Andrew Williams holds many roles, including Chief Medical Officer for Community Health Center of the North Country, Associate Chief Medical Officer at St. Lawrence Health, President of the St. Lawrence County Board of Health, and Assistant Clinical Professor at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. Dr. Williams spends a great amount of time providing care to many members of the Amish Community in St. Lawrence County, where he provides care, offers professional advice and educates the Amish without offending their way of life. During the pandemic, he provided lifesaving education on physical distancing and mask-wearing to the Amish community.  According to his nominator, Dr. Williams’ “leadership throughout the COVID pandemic has been mission-critical to the response of healthcare providers in St. Lawrence County and the entire North Country region. Decisions were always based on the facts available, and not delivered through fear tactics, but via measured and well-designed responses to the situation on the ground.”