Pennsylvania Rural Health Advocate Receives Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award

Kelly Braun, RDH, MSDH, rural primary care and integration coordinator at the Pennsylvania Office of Rural Health (PORH), received the 2023 Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award from the PA Coalition for Oral Health (PCOH). The award was presented on Nov. 17 at a ceremony held in Harrisburg, PA, during the 2023 Pennsylvania Oral Health Summit.

The Individual Innovative Oral Health Champion Award recognizes an individual who has demonstrated notable efforts on behalf of oral health progress in Pennsylvania and who, through innovative and outstanding contributions, has improved oral health in Pennsylvania at the local, regional or state levels.

In her position with PORH, Braun leads technical assistance activities for Rural Health Clinics (RHC) in Pennsylvania and rural health care integration, with a special emphasis on oral health. She is a registered dental hygienist and a public health dental hygiene practitioner.

The nomination, submitted by Eve Kimball, MD, a pediatrician from Wyomissing, PA, who serves as the secretary of the PCOH Board of Directors, lauded Braun for epitomizing the qualities inherent in great leaders: integrity, honesty, humility, passion, clear focus and drive for excellence. Since joining PORH in 2016, Braun has focused her passions for oral and rural care to advance the health status in rural Pennsylvania, other states and across the nation, Kimball noted.

Braun’s significant contributions to rural health services include launching a primary care/oral health integration model that is now the “Gold Standard” for other states implementing similar programs. Braun provided extensive input into the development of the Pennsylvania Oral Health Plan and the 2024-2028 Pennsylvania Rural Health Plan. She provides input into oral health legislation in the state and led a research project that compared the oral health status of rural and urban low-income Pennsylvania children.

Technical assistance on oral health issues given to the National Rural Health Association resulted in a robust national policy brief on the implications of oral health on health status.

Braun extends her knowledge of oral health through continuing education programs for health care providers, including community health workers and clinics across the state; promoting oral health screenings in K-12 settings with school nurses; and serving as a mentor to other states seeking to integrate oral health and primary care. She utilizes her clinical skills as a public health dental hygienist by volunteering at oral health “pop up clinics” across the state.

Finally, Braun has created significant credibility for PORH as a trusted source of oral health technical assistance and information and facilitated expanded collaborations with PCOH and the broader oral health community in the state and nationally.

On receiving the award and recognition, Braun said, “This work would not be possible without the support of amazing partners from across the state of Pennsylvania and beyond. Collaboration has truly been the key to success.”

The PA Coalition for Oral Health is a diverse group of leaders from across the state from schools of public health, philanthropic organizations, businesses, dental organizations, health insurance firms, advocacy organizations, state agencies and other champions. More information is available at

PORH was formed in 1991 as a partnership between the federal government, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Penn State. The office is one of 50 state offices of rural health in the nation and is charged with being a source of coordination, technical assistance, networking and partnership development.

PORH provides expertise in the areas of rural health, population health, quality improvement, oral health and agricultural health and safety. PORH is administratively located in the Department of Health Policy and Administration in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State University Park. Visit to learn more.