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Penny A. Ingham to leave prenatal/perinatal council

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It’s clear that Penny A. Ingham’s passion is public health.

The North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council executive director will end her 18-year career with the nonprofit this summer to become the full-time director of the Lewis County Public Health Agency.

Mrs. Ingham already is the latter agency’s part-time interim director, working 10 hours per week.

Lewis County legislators on Tuesday night appointed the Lowville resident to the post on a full-time basis, effective Sept. 2, and extended her interim status to that date.

The move allows Mrs. Ingham — one of five applicants for the job — to complete her schedule with the Watertown clinic and take planned vacation time, according to Legislature Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan.

The appointment was made contingent on gaining state Department of Health approval, but Mr. Tabolt said that should not be a problem, given her strong credentials. “It looks like everything is legit,” he said.

She has a bachelor’s degree in human services from Iowa State University and a master’s degree in public health from the Yale University School of Medicine.

“My master’s degree is in public health, and I’ve always had an interest in how communities (achieve) health,” she said. “We have to understand the communities where people live. We need to fill in the gaps or needs to help someone reach their optimal health.”

Mrs. Ingham began her Prenatal/Perinatal Council career in 1995, shortly after she said there was a push for programs to help maternal and child health.

As state funds are drying up, Mrs. Ingham said, those programs are diminishing.

“We’re at a very critical time in the next year to see what services are still in place in rural Northern New York,” she said. “Access to care also seems to be an issue. For rural areas, particularly in the north country, keeping providers and a system of health care consistently offered is a challenge.”

Mrs. Ingham, who lives just outside of the village of Lowville with her husband, John, said that while her intent was to become the full-time director of Lewis County Public Health, it was contingent upon the county Board of Legislators formally appointing her to that position. She understands the state Department of Health also must approve her qualifications as a public health director.

She said she is excited to work further with the public health agency, as it will have a broader reach.

“It’ll be interesting working across the entire lifespan, versus just prenatal/perinatal,” she said. “Every place I’ve worked has served a region rather than just one county, too.”

Before joining the Prenatal/Perinatal Council, Mrs. Ingham was the director of the Onondaga Council on Alcoholism/Addictions Inc., Syracuse.

Meanwhile, a search for a new full-time executive director of the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council has commenced, according to board President John C. Waterhouse.

While the board is happy to see Mrs. Ingham further develop her career, Mr. Waterhouse said, the next few months will be challenging for the council.

“Penny was with us for 18 years; you don’t develop a learning curve that quickly,” he said. “It’ll be tough to fill those shoes. We’ll be looking for someone with proven leadership skills.”

Candidates should be familiar with grant application writing, public health and prenatal/perinatal issues, Mr. Waterhouse said.

Times staff writer Steve Virkler contributed to this report.

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