2 from Orleans County named to Health Leadership Fellowship program

By Ginny Kropf, correspondent Posted 20 March 2024 at 4:28 pm

Renee Hungerford of Community Action, Karen Kinter of Oak Orchard Health join intensive program lasting 18 months

Photo by Ginny Kropf: Renee Hungerford, left, and Karen Kinter have both been accepted into the prestigious Health Leadership Fellows program by the Health Foundation for WNY.

ALBION – Two women in leadership positions in Orleans County have been chosen for a very prestigious honor by the Health Foundation of WNY.

Karen Kinter, CEO of Oak Orchard Health, and Renee Hungerford, CEO of Community Action of Orleans & Genesee, recently learned they had been accepted into the Health Leadership Fellows program for Cohort 11.

Both women said applying for that honor had been on their minds for a long time, and without the other knowing about it, they each applied this year.

The application is followed by an extensive interview process, in which the accepted individuals are chosen. Kinter and Hungerford learned of each other’s selection when the list was published.

The Fellows program’s goal is to strengthen collaboration among hundreds of nonprofit professionals who serve young children and older adults in western and central New York.

Their belief is, “When leaders at local nonprofits collaborate and share a sense of purpose, they can work together to solve the region’s toughest health issues.”

Hungerford noted she and Kinter already have a working relationship.

“We have already partnered with each other through my Axis of Care, and I used to work at Oak Orchard Health,” Hungerford said. “Healthcare is a frustrating system, and I want to help fix it.”

Kinter was amazed that two people from Orleans County would be accepted into the program at the same time.

“Both Renee’s and my organization are quite large here in this area, but they don’t compare with the size of city organizations,” Kinter said.

Two others from Orleans County also completed the program recently: Paul Pettit from the Orleans and Genesee County Health Departments and Dean Bellack of Medina, the former United Way director in Orleans County.

Bellack earned the honor because of relationships he developed with outside foundations while director of United Way of Orleans County and weekly phone and Zoom calls with non-profit agencies.

“We are going to be with a bunch of people who want to do innovative projects,” Hungerford said. “We will be asked to come up with a project based on solving healthcare issues in our area.”

The program lasts 18 months, during which time participants will be asked to attend four sessions of two or three days each in a residential setting, away from their jobs.

“They want to be sure our full focus is on this,” Hungerford said.

“I’m very excited that Renee and I will go through this highly regarded program together,” Kinter said. “It will allow us to strengthen both our organizations and communities. Through our collaboration along with many other regional healthcare leaders, we’ll be able to improve the care and services we provide. The recent opening of the Warming Center in Albion was a great example of community collaboration. Oak Orchard Health was happy to be part of that effort.”

“The Health Leadership Fellows Program is important for our community and the people we serve,” Hungerford said. “I look forward to learning and collaborating with Karen and all the other regional health leaders. The issues we face in healthcare are complex and this program gives us the tools to develop initiatives to help.”

Topics addressed will include personal leadership, leading change, communicating as a leader and results-based leadership and collaboration. Each cohort of fellows is made up of about 40 professionals from health-related and safety net organizations throughout western and central New York.

Their graduation is scheduled for November 2025.

The Health Foundation of WNY has been funding community health since its inception in 2002. Since awarding its first grants in 2004, the Foundation has awarded more than $30 million to fund programs in 16 counties in western and central New York. Funding has been focused on programs that improve health outcomes for two of the most vulnerable and underserved populations in the region – older adults and children from birth to age 5 who are impacted by poverty.