Steamboat Springs Sue Birch, former CEO of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, received the 2011 Be More Award from Rocky Mountain PBS at a luncheon Thursday.
The award goes to a “civic, community, business or nonprofit leader who has demonstrated outstanding innovative leadership and direction in one of the following fields: education, health, public affairs, news or the arts,” according to a news release from Rocky Mountain PBS.
In the release, Rocky Mountain PBS said Birch “has been instrumental in ensuring a more inclusive and pragmatic health care system, facilitating the delivery of critical health services to the poor and underserved. Through her leadership at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, she pioneered a model for providing health care in rural communities.”
The release also cited Birch’s work spearheading the Aging Well program, the establishment of the hospice in Steamboat and “the most recent federally qualified health center in Craig.”
“Her innovative leadership is most evident in her ability to notice gaps in existing health care delivery, set policy and secure funding to develop sustainable solutions that provide quality health care to all,” the release stated.
The other finalists this year were Gailmarie Kimmel, co-director of BeLocal Northern Colorado; and George Sparks, president and CEO of the Denver Museum of Nature & Science.
Birch said she was honored to receive the award.
“There are lots of people that are equally if not more deserving,” she said.
Birch had led the VNA since 1994 before being selected in December to take a position in Gov. John Hickenlooper’s cabinet. She was confirmed in February as executive director of the state’s Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.
Birch noted that it’s not difficult to focus on helping others in a beautiful place like Northwest Colorado.
“I feel very supported and certainly proud to represent our region. … We have such a caring culture up in the Northwest, and it makes it kind of easy to be demonstrating that kind of behavior when you have the quality of life things going on that we have.”
She also encouraged people to reach out and help one another.
“Pay it forward, give, give, give, is what I tell people,” she said.