Was instrumental in bringing health care to Northern Oswego

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Oswego County Business



2008 Healthcare Hero
Muriel "Mame" Clark
Lifetime Achievement

Remote rural areas are often described as "underserved," lacking the critical medical services necessary to keep their population in optimal health. While that designation may still technically apply to northern Oswego County, it's certainly a lot less underserved today thanks to a 13-year effort by Muriel "Mame" Clark.

Clark belatedly retired as executive director of Northern Oswego County Health Services, Inc. (NOCHSI) in 2007. She left behind a facility with twice as much square footage as the one she inherited. It's also a more financially robust institution bringing in twice as much in federal grants while operating in the black. Most importantly, the Village of Pulaski and its neighboring communities have affordable access to medical specialties that might not be available if not for Clark's efforts. This is especially important considering that NOCHSI provides care at sliding fees for uninsured patients.

"Mame gave stability to (NOCHSI) financially and organizationally," wife and husband physician team Patricia and Jay Chapman write of their former administrator. Clark's career brought her in contact with different facets of the medical industry. Her work experience includes stints with Empire BlueCross BlueShield, and a turn as a Medicare consultant. Ironically, she didn't get the executive directorship of NOCHSI the first time she applied for it in 1994, or even the second time after the initial hire failed to pan out. The staff advocated for her, however, and she would soon begin her transformational tenure.

By the late 90s, NOCHSI was rapidly outgrowing its small, poorly maintained building. With physicians giving up their offices to make room for patients, Clark set out on an ambitious project to double the size of the health center. It took most of her 13 years to bring the plan to fruition, but now the health center not only has enough room for its staff, it has additional room that it rents to specialists for their own private practices.

In 2007, NOCHSI was the county's 38th largest employer. Clark's tactical expansion helped bring services like mammography, bone density testing and affordable dentistry to the North Country. Her legacy reaches out to the surrounding community as well thanks to the successful school-based health clinics she helped launch in Sandy Creek and Pulaski. Students at those districts now have unprecedented access to health care at their schools.

Each clinic is staffed by a nurse practitioner or physician assistant, allowing diagnoses and prescriptions to be made on site. Students with chronic health conditions can also have their illnesses more closely monitored.

Clark is on to other adventures now with her husband—and 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award winner Corte Spencer—but her legacy will live on at NOCHSI for the foreseeable future. "Obviously I didn't do it alone," Clark told Oswego County Business Magazine last year. "I've worked with some really great people."

Clark says retirement is a difficult thing to prepare for. She still sits on the Oswego County Board of Health and the Community Service Board. "I'm very honored," says Clark, "and honestly I'm a bit tickled that Kathy (Smith) is my co-nominee. We've worked together for many years. That makes this special." (By Chris Motola)