Three north country residents honored at ‘Health Hero’ luncheon in Watertown

WATERTOWN, NY  – The Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization (FDRHPO) and North Country Health Compass Partners are pleased to introduce the recipients of the 2019 “Community Health Hero” Award.

One Health Hero was chosen in each of Jefferson, Lewis, and St. Lawrence counties, and all three were honored Thursday afternoon during an award luncheon at the Hilton Garden Inn in Watertown.

This year’s Community Health Heroes are:

  • St. Lawrence County – Rohit Barreto, MDFamily Medicine & Obesity Medicine Physician, Massena Memorial Hospital

  • Jefferson County – Dennis Crowley, Retiree/Community Volunteer

  • Lewis County – Anna Platz, MPH, Public Health Specialist, Lewis County Public Health

“There are many unsung heroes living and working in the North Country, especially when you look at the health and wellness sector,” FDRHPO Executive Director Erika F. Flint said. “The goal of the Community Health Hero Award is to give these hard-working, selfless individuals some well-deserved recognition, and there is no doubt that we have truly found three heroes this year. Our community should be very proud to have Rohit, Dennis, and Anna.”

The Community Health Hero Award – given in observation of National Rural Health Day (November 21, 2019) – 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.

At the luncheon, each Health Hero was presented with a plaque after being congratulated by their peers and keynote speaker Dan Myers, a Lewis County resident and founder of the Double Play Community Center in Lowville, New York. Dan also is a 2017 Community Health Hero Award Recipient.

“A hero embodies the virtues of courage, sacrifice, endurance and integrity,” said Pat Fontana, FDRHPO Population Health Director and emcee of Thursday’s event. “A hero possesses a hard-wired willingness to make daily personal sacrifices for the benefit of the people around them, and there’s something about them that makes you want to be around them and want to be like them. The heroes here today are not sporting a mask or donning a pair of tights and a cape, but they are heroes nonetheless.”

Rohit Barreto, MD, is a physician at Massena Memorial Hospital (MMH) in Massena, New York, where he specializes and is Board-certified in Family Medicine and Obesity Medicine. Originally from Thornhill/Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Dr. Barreto travels ten hours to and from Massena each week to care for his patients. He was key in developing MMH’s Center for Lifestyle and Weight Management. Dr. Barreto is actively engaged with the community through the “What’s App” application to encourage healthy lifestyles, often sharing recipes, tips, and open discussion about wellness. He was nominated by Tina Corcoran, Senior Director of Public Relations and Planning for MMH. In his spare time, Dr. Barreto enjoys spending time with his family in Toronto, motorcycling, comic books, and traveling.

“The most rewarding part of my job is taking care of patients in an under-served community, especially families and the elderly,” Dr. Barreto said. “I also am very fortunate to work with great, like-minded colleagues.”

Dennis Crowley is a well-recognized name in Jefferson County. Though he is retired, he is busy volunteering for a variety of organizations throughout the area, including Cornell Cooperative Extension, Hospice of Jefferson County, and the Watertown Family YMCA, where he is trained to help people enrolled in the Chronic Disease Self-Management and Diabetes Self-Management Programs. Dennis was instrumental in establishing Jefferson County’s only Cancer Support Group. He resides in Adams, NY, holds a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University, and is a Master Gardener. Dennis was nominated by Michelle Graham, Senior Director of Health and Wellness at the Watertown Family YMCA and 2018 Community Health Hero Award Recipient. He enjoys gardening, volunteering and helping people who have cancer.

“The most rewarding part of doing volunteer work is watching people improve their lives,” states Dennis “Through my work, I enjoy helping others and making people laugh.”

Anna Platz, MPH, is a Public Health Specialist with Lewis County Public Health in Lowville, NY. She is a Lewis County native and has worked countless hours on developing and implementing a multitude of Population Health initiatives, including: the Community Crisis Response Team (CCRT), Diabetes Prevention Program, Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs, and the Naturally Healthy Lewis County app. Anna holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Exercise Science and a Master of Public Health Degree in Public Health Practice. She received four nominations, including: Ashley Waite, Director of Lewis County Public Health; Ryan Piche, Lewis County Manager; Eric Virkler, Director of Lewis County Industrial Development Agency (IDA); and Brittany Davis, Marketing and Communication Specialist, Lewis County IDA. In her spare time, Anna coaches varsity and modified girls’ basketball and track. She enjoys running, reading and traveling.”

“In Lewis County, we know how to care for our own, especially when tragedy or hardship strikes,” explains Anna. “I am inspired by the people who utilize programs, such as the Community Crisis Response Team and the Diabetes Prevention Program, when they need them.”

For more about National Rural Health Day, visit