Health care executive and philanthropist Donato Tramuto, a former Ogunquit selectman, received the Robert F. Kennedy Ripple of Hope Award on Tuesday night for his charitable work in improving health care with affordable solutions, such as providing hand-held electronic devices preloaded with specialized medical information to medical workers in Haiti and other areas in crisis.

Also honored at the New York gala were former Secretary of State and first lady Hillary Clinton, actor Robert De Niro and singer Tony Bennett.

The Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights gives the Ripple of Hope Award to people working toward social change in the spirit of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy’s commitment to equality, justice and basic human rights.

Tramuto said the award was particularly moving since he admired RFK when he was a child struggling with hearing loss.

“I immersed myself in the writings of RFK and through those writings I thought about what I could become,” he said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. “I thought, if I ever get the strength, I would try to do what he did.

“I was bullied. I was made fun of. I was told I wouldn’t amount to anything. But 50 years later, I was on stage with three American giants,” he said, referring to Tuesday’s award ceremony. “It was surreal.”

Tramuto, a longtime health care executive, is chief executive officer and chairman of Physicians Interactive, a Reading, Massachusetts-based company with 350 employees that uses online health care networks to provide up-to-date information on drugs and products. The site is used by 3.5 million physicians. The company does not disclose its revenue.

Tramuto said the death of his sister-in-law during childbirth inspired some of his health care work, because he believes she could have survived if her obstetrician had better access to information about her condition. He also credits his own struggle with hearing problems as a strong motivation. He lost his hearing at age 7, and only partly restored it after a series of operations over 10 years.

He founded the Tramuto Foundation in memory of friends killed on Sept. 11, 2001, when the plane they were on was flown into the World Trade Center. Tramuto had been scheduled to fly with them, but changed his flight the day before.

“With each event in my life I could have adopted bitterness, but I decided to make good out of it,” Tramuto said Tuesday.

The Tramuto Foundation has made more than 40 grants and has a goal of giving away $1 million by 2015 to an array of causes, including university scholarships, a grant to teach English to an entire Cambodian village, improving accessibility for the hearing-impaired at the Ogunquit Playhouse and American Museum of Art in Ogunquit, and funding the Frannie Peabody AIDS clinic in York County.

Tramuto created Health eVillages in 2011 in partnership with the Robert F. Kennedy Center after the massive earthquake in Haiti. The organization provides hand-held devices with medical information to allow health care workers up-do-date information and to help them make treatment decisions.

“It was not me being recognized tonight, but the work we are doing in so many countries,” Tramuto said in the interview. “My message tonight was when you collaborate, you can create so many ripples of hope. This is about collaboration.”