FAIRMONT — Sharon Lansdale, president and CEO of the Center for Rural Health Development, said former West Virginia Senator Roman Prezioso was an advocate for health care in West Virginia throughout his tenure in office.
She said he supported the organization when it was starting out as well as several of its initiatives to help rural West Virginians find access to health care.
“During Sen. Prezioso’s tenure at the legislature, he was always one person that was willing to listen and consider the issues any time we brought forth an issue,” Lansdale said. “We were starting back in the early 2000s a loan fund... Sen. Prezioso and others in the legislature really stepped up and said, ‘We need this in West Virginia.’”
Prezioso’s years of support for the Center for Rural Health Development recently paid off as Lansdale and the Center honored the former senator with its Rural Health Leadership Award. The organization has a policy in place prohibiting giving the award to those currently in elected office.
“It’s very rare for legislators to listen as well as he did,” Lansdale said. “We always counted him a champion for rural health, but we don’t recognize sitting legislators, so when he was getting ready to retire we said, ‘Oh wow, top of our list.’”
Prezioso, who served on the Health and Human Resources Committee while in the Senate, said he is grateful for the honor but was only trying to do what was best for West Virginians during his time in office.
“You try to get out there and educate West Virginians and give them all the health care infrastructure you can,” Prezioso said. “It’s a big job, and that’s where the Center for Rural Health came in, and I have worked with them ever since. They had a great concept and I think they are making a difference.”
Past winners of the Rural Health Leadership Award include Bob Walker, a vice chancellor for rural health with the Higher Education Policy Commission, former West Virginia Delegate for District 19 Don Perdue and former Delegate for District 15 Margarette Leach.
Over the years, Prezioso has been a point of contact for the Center for Rural Health Development, and he said he tried to listen to officials from the organization when they made suggestions relating to health care in the Mountain State.
“That’s what government should be doing, and that’s what legislators should be doing is looking out for the public health of the state of West Virginia,” Prezioso said. “It was a great partnership that I had with those people; they had a great idea and I was in a position where I could help.”
Prezioso also said working on health care was one of his most important initiatives while in office, and he will continue working however he can to improve access now that he is retired.
“I’ve done a lot of things in government; that was probably the most rewarding thing I did do,” Prezioso said. “You actually see people working in partnership with government, the public sector, the private sector and trying to get things done and working on a worthwhile goal that economically was the right thing to do.”
Prezioso was first elected to the West Virginia House of Delegates in 1988 where he served until 1996 when he successfully ran for the West Virginia Senate where he served from 1996 through 2020 when he retired.