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If you are a High School Senior or Non-Traditional learner in good standing who has completed one or more NAHEC programs, and has been accepted and will be entering a healthcare training program within the next semester cycle, you may be eligible for the Bruce C. Potter Memorial Scholarship!

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The mission of the Northern Area Health Education Center, Inc. (NAHEC) is to improve health and health care through education.


As part of the larger New York State AHEC System, NAHEC is one of nine centers throughout the State of New York. NAHEC serves Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence, Franklin, Essex, and Clinton counties. Together with the Statewide office in Buffalo and regional offices in Syracuse and Manhattan, the New York State AHEC System offers statewide capacity for addressing health care workforce needs. At the national level, NAHEC is a member of the National AHEC Organization (NAO).

NAHEC Staff:

  • Richard K. Merchant, CEO
  • Anita Merrill, Center Director
  • Michelle Oakes, Career Readiness Counselor
  • Milagro Peters, Special Projects Coordinator
  • Whitney Brockway, Career Readiness Counselor


NAHEC is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors comprised of leaders in business, education, and health care. The NAHEC Board is guided by input from four Regional Advisory Boards (RAB’s), which consist of representatives from Clinton/Essex; Franklin; St. Lawrence; and Jefferson/Lewis counties. The NAHEC Board considers information, requests, and opportunities from the Regional Advisory Boards as it pertains to the priorities, direction, and funding of the Center.

NAHEC Board Members:

Christopher P. Morley, Ph.D., MA, CAS
Christopher P. Morley, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of Family Medicine, Public Health, and Psychiatry at the State University of New York (SUNY) Upstate Medical University, with a courtesy appointment at the Maxwell School of Syracuse University as an Associate Professor of Public Administration. Dr. Morley serves SUNY Upstate Medical University as the Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Family Medicine, as a course director and core faculty member of the Central New York Master of Public Health (CNYMPH) program, and as a co-investigator on several research and educational grants. Relative to NAHEC, Dr. Morley serves as the Director of the Central Region Office of the New York State AHEC System (NYSAHEC), and is a non-voting member of the NAHEC Board of Directors.

Irving S. Caplan: Nominating Committee Chair, NAHEC
Irving S. Caplan served as a Councilman for the Town Board of Malone. Currently he serves many organizations including the New York State Board of Professional Medical Conduct and the Franklin County Empire Zone Board. He served 12 years as a supply officer in the United States Army Reserve. Irv is the Chair of the Franklin County Regional Advisory Board for NAHEC.

Paul D. Dingman: Secretary, NAHEC
Paul D. Dingman is the co-owner and general contractor at Adirondack Construction. Mr. Dingman was a School Administrator for the final 20 years of a 36 year-career in the Plattsburgh City School District. He also served as an Adjunct Professor of Mathematics at SUNY Plattsburgh. Paul is the Chair of the Clinton-Essex Regional Advisory Board for NAHEC.

Brenda A. Hewitt, RN, BSN, CLC
Brenda A. Hewitt is an Army Public Health Nurse serving as a Maternal Child Health Specialist at the United States Army Medical Department at Fort Drum. Prior to that, she served in the United States Army as a Nurse Corps Officer in Heidelberg Germany, Fort Benning Georgia, Fort Irwin California, and deployed to Bosnia.

Stacey Zeigler, PT, DPT, GCS
Stacey Zeigler is a Clinical Associate Professor of Physical Therapy at Clarkson University and is the Founder/Owner of her private practice, Fun in Aging Physical Therapy, PC. She presents nationally and internationally on healthcare leadership and patient autonomy and is active on local, state and national committees pertaining to the healthcare needs of the future. Stacey is the Chair of the St. Lawrence County Regional Advisory Board for NAHEC.

Rod Boula: Chair, NAHEC
Rod Boula has over 30 years of senior leadership experience in healthcare. Rod is the Administrator and CEO of the Elizabethtown Community Hospital, serving in that capacity since August, 2004. Prior, Rod held senior executive positions at Alice Hyde Medical Center (Malone), Clifton-Fine Hospital (Star Lake), and Regional Hospital Services (Rochester). Rod is a co-founder of the Wilderness Healthcare Foundation and has served that organization for over 10 years. A member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) since 1984, Rod held numerous officer roles including the presidency from 2001-2003. Rod is the recipient of numerous leadership awards, including the Bronze Follmer, Silver Reeves, and Gold Muncie Merit Awards from HFMA and the Munroe Leadership Award for Rural Hospitals from the American Hospital Association. Rod currently serves as a board member of the Hospital Association of New York State (HANYS) and as an Executive Board member of the Iroquois Healthcare Association. Rod is a veteran of the U.S. Army (1975-78) and has received many military honors and awards for his leadership above and beyond the call of duty. Rod is currently licensed by NYS as an Adirondack Guide. He also serves as the Region 5 Director of the NYS Conservation Council.

Eve Van de Wal: Vice Chair, NAHEC
Eve Van de Wal joined Excellus BlueCross BlueShield in 1998. She held several management positions before being appointed regional president in 2008. She has more than 25 years of diverse experience in healthcare delivery and health insurance. Prior to joining Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, she enjoyed a successful career in critical care and coronary care nursing. Eve serves on the board of directors of numerous community organizations including Adirondack Bank, Northern Area Health Education Center, United Way of the Valley and Greater Utica Area, Mohawk Valley Economic Development Growth Enterprises Corporation (EDGE), and the Community Foundation of Oneida and Herkimer Counties. She also serves on the Madison County Health Assessment Steering Committee, Utica College Risk Management Insurance Advisory Committee and HealtheConnections Regional Health Planning Committee.

Hugh Bonner, Ph.D; FASAHP: Treasurer/Finance Committee Chair, NAHEC
Dr. Hugh Bonner was named Dean and Professor of the College of Health professions at SUNY Upstate Medical University in 1995. Dr. Bonner is a nationally recognized leader in health professions education specialized accreditation, currently serving as the President of the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP). Dr Bonner has served continuously on the NYSAHEC Advisory Board since its establishment in 1997. He also serves on the Oswego- Madison County Advisory Committee for CNYAHEC. Dr. Bonner earned his baccalaureate degree from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis; a masters degree from California State University, East Bay; and his Ph.D., from University of California at Berkeley.

Soham Patel, MD: By-laws Committee Chair, NAHEC
Soham Patel, MD, is active in North Country medical practice initiatives and organizations. Dr. Patel practiced Neurosurgery in Plattsburgh for over 20 years. He is a diplomat of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh. Dr. Patel is a founding member of the Board of Directors for the Northern Area Health Education Center, Inc., and he has served on the NAHEC Board continuously since its inception. Dr. Patel was appointed to the College Counselors of the State University of New York, College of Plattsburgh, by the Governor of New York State where he served from 1997-2009.

John A. Fallon III, Ph.D.
John A. Fallon III, is the Associate Vice President for Economic Development and Community Engagement at Ball State University. With the exception of three years as CEO of NPower Indiana, Inc. in Indianapolis, Dr. Fallon spent his entire career in higher education. In addition to teaching graduate and undergraduate courses and conducting research, Dr. Fallon served in a variety of administrative capacities and was President of universities in Iowa, New York, and Michigan.

Paul Grasso, Jr.
Paul Grasso is the President and Chief Executive Officer of The Development Corporation (TDC) in Plattsburg, New York. Before joining TDC, Paul served as the Executive Director of the North Country Workforce Partnership, Inc. and the North Country Workforce Investment Board, the region’s designated workforce development planning agency. He has over 20 years’ experience developing workforce and economic development programs in the United States, Europe, and the Middle East. He has a broad range of experience overseeing workforce and economic development initiatives, and in developing and maintaining strategic partnerships with educational institutions and businesses focused on providing a skilled and qualified workforce and improving local economies. Paul also serves on the Plattsburgh Housing Authority, SUNY Plattsburgh’s School of Business and Economics Business Advisory Board, the Corporate Board of Directors for Champlain Valley Physicians’ Hospital, the Glens Falls National Bank Advisory Board, and the North Country Regional Economic Development Council where he is Chair of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. He has a degree in Political Science and Public Administration.

Mark Webster, FACHE
Mark Webster is President and CEO of Claxton-Hepburn Medical Center. Mark Webster has over 30 years healthcare leadership experience in Tennessee, Pennsylvania and New York. He serves on numerous healthcare governing boards, including the Healthcare Association of New York State and Empire-Metro Voluntary Hospitals of America, as well as Chairman of North Country Healthcare Providers.

Richard K. Merchant, CEO
For the past twelve years, Richard K. Merchant has held the post of Chief Executive Officer of the Northern Area Health Education Center, Inc. Richard earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology from Michigan State University and his master’s degree in forensic anthropology from the University of Florida. Richard worked on his doctoral degree in medical anthropology at Texas A&M University. He currently holds an appointment as Assistant Professor at Clarkson University, Department of Physical Therapy. While serving in his post at NAHEC, Richard has activated multiple community partnerships to address the healthcare workforce issues of northern New York. He also serves as a member of the Board for the Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization.

Contact Information:

For more information on NAHEC and NAHEC initiatives, please contact the office at 105 Main Street, Canton, NY 13617 or telephone us at: (315)379-7701.