Individuals who have gone above and beyond to improve the health of our states - as nominated by their peers. Read about public health heroes in your state.
The following individuals were nominated by their peers to be examples of individuals who go beyond what is required of their job in order to bring improved health to the state.
|District of Columbia||Oregon|
Dr. Donald Williamson, Alabama’s State Health Officer for the past 20 years, stands out as the foremost public health hero in the state through his significant contributions to public health. In addition to being an advocate for child health and communicable disease prevention and treatment, Dr. Williamson has led the state through numerous disasters and other crises including hurricanes, tornado outbreaks, and the massive Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Under his direction, public health facilities throughout the state have been constructed or renovated in almost all of the state’s 67 counties. Under his leadership, Alabama was the first state to initiate the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Through his support, Alabama has become a leader in health education satellite conferencing.
Sharon Whytal has been a public health nurse for over 18 years with experience in several different public health departments to include difficult postings in bush Alaska and rural Maine. Sharon was instrumental in implementing MAPP of the Southern Kenai Peninsula and was the coordinator for the local effort. Utilizing the MAPP framework, Sharon was successful in bringing together over 50 partner agencies to conduct a full health needs assessment, develop a community health improvement plan and implement such plan. She created an environment that allowed for an empowered community to address health from a broad perspective. She used grace, dignity, discretion and diplomacy in bringing the community together to gather data, interpret data, and affect change. She treats every person she works with as the most important person in the process, making them feel irreplaceable and valued. She worked well beyond the contracted hours, donating many countless hours to the successes. She willingly shared her lessons with others, being quite selfless with her time to spread the news of MAPP and the MAPP of the SKP. Her belief in the process and the community never wavered and was quite contagious.
Sharon's MAPP qualifications and experience has benefited the Kenai and Seward public health centers through professional collaboration and in-service opportunities for the other public health nurses. Sharon also participates on a nationwide NACCHO strategic planning workgroup directed toward supporting local health departments’ use of MAPP. Because Homer has successfully completed one iteration of MAPP and is a rural, western community, NACCHO staff have asked that she share successes and challenges with states that are beginning the first 3 phases of MAPP.
Paula Ciniero, PHN III, Itinerant for the Fort Yukon sub-region, Interior
Paula has been a PHN in Alaska for over 10 years. Paula itinerates to villages throughout the Interior Region providing care including community education on genealogy and nutrition, health impact of immunizations, and historical and current day impact of interpersonal and domestic violence for both the individual and the community.
Paula is a member of a collaborative team that includes the following organizations:
This team has traveled throughout Alaska, in small rural villages such as Beaver and larger communities such as Anchorage and Fairbanks, to share their knowledge and expertise. The team, “Collaborative Partnership to Increase Response to Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault in Tribal Communities”, impacts include:
Dr. Ben Bobrow is the tip of the spear when it comes to fighting cardiac arrest. Dr. Bobrow works part time in one of the busiest hospitals in the country’s sixth largest city, and he is the medical director for the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services and Trauma System at the Arizona Department of Health Services. Through the work he does and the coalition of partners he’s created, Dr. Bobrow has made a significant difference in the survival rates of people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of in a hospital. In Arizona, we’ve seen a tripling of the rate of survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest.
Cardiac arrest is a leading cause of death in the U.S. and survival rates for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest are somewhere between five and eight percent. The Saving Hearts in Arizona Registry and Education program, under Dr. Bobrow’s leadership, promotes a comprehensive system of care for out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. The system includes bystander response, emergency medical dispatcher CPR instruction, EMS provider resuscitation and standardized care at hospitals. Now, Dr. Bobrow is working to help other states set up similar systems and create an index so states can share the data. While he is reticent to take credit for the work he’s done, he’s more than happy to talk about what he’s learned and spread the word!
I am nominating Namvar Zohoori, MD, MPH, PhD, Chronic Disease Prevention and Control Director, Associate Director for Science, Arkansas Department of Health, as a public health hero for outstanding leadership in epidemiology and chronic disease prevention and control. Dr. Zohoori provided Arkansas Public Health with a voice at the national level serving on the Board of the National Association of Chronic Disease Directors and as a member of the National Forum for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention. As Project Director for the Delta States Stroke Network (DSSN), he partnered with chronic disease programs in Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee to address the burden of stroke in the “stroke belt,” where the stroke death rate is 1.5 times the national average. Under his guidance, the Chronic Disease State Plan was produced, charting a course for reducing the burden of chronic diseases in our state. A superb coalition-builder, he brought together a group of over 20 organizations to establish the Chronic Disease Coordinating Council, with the primary goal of ensuring the plan was implemented. He consistently maintained that health programs need to be evidence-based and supported by timely and accurate data and collaborated with colleagues to produce Arkansas-specific reports providing incidence and mortality data and behavioral health statistics on cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, tobacco use, cancer, oral health, and asthma, among others.
Perhaps one of his most outstanding achievements was the development and implementation of the Arkansas Cardiovascular Health Examination Survey (ARCHES), among the first state-level health and nutrition examination surveys to be conducted in the United States. This survey continues to provide our state with valuable state-level data and information for program design and delivery. Most recently, he launched the Arkansas Stroke Registry Program, a major step forward in fighting stroke in the Natural State. He has been an important link between the Department of Health and the Fay Boozman College of Public Health, teaching classes and collaborating on grant proposals. He is an unwavering advocate for lowering the burden of chronic diseases in Arkansas and has done so with grace, integrity and fortitude. Dr. Zohoori recently accepted a position with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta as the Director of the Division of Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention and will be sorely missed.
Wilma J. Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., Public Health Officer, County of San Diego
Dr. Wooten is board-certified in Family Medicine and has a Master's degree in Public Health. She received both professional degrees from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, followed by residency training at the Georgetown/Providence Hospital Family Practice Residency Program in Washington, DC. In 1989, she completed Preventive Medicine Residency with emphasis in Sports Medicine in the joint San Diego State University (SDSU), Graduate School of Public Health (GSPH)/University of California San Diego (UCSD) program. She has been with the County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency since 2001, initially as the Deputy Health Officer and now serving as the Public Health Officer since February 2007. In her current role, she has oversight for almost 500 employees and a budget of approximately $100M, serving a county of 3.1 million residents.
Wilma Wooten champions public health through her spirit of collaboration, her patience, and her forward thinking to represent local public health. Although she has a full time position as health officer of San Diego County, she serves in a volunteer capacity as the President of the California Conference of Local Health Officers. She consistently gives of her time and currently advises the California Department of Public Health by representing the local public health perspective on numerous leadership work groups that include health care reform, tobacco control, emergency preparedness, laboratory system, and climate change. Dr. Wooten also serves on the Board of the Public Health Accreditation Board.
Dr. Wooten’s specific accomplishments as San Diego County’s Public Health Officer include:
Kathleen Matthews is committed to developing a strong public health infrastructure in Colorado among state and local public health agencies, academia and the numerous other partners within the public health system. She is passionate about improving health through environmental protection, and by reducing health care costs by preventing disease and injury through social and behavioral change. Thirty years ago, when Kathleen decided to pursue a career in public health, Colorado did not have any graduate programs in this field, so she completed her studies at the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health. After returning to her home state, she began working toward building a school of public health in Colorado, and after six years of dedicated work, Colorado opened the first school of public health in the Rocky Mountain region.
Following this, she moved to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, to guide the implementation of Colorado’s Public Health Act of 2008, a legislative effort to update Colorado’s statutes regarding local public health agencies. Looking to develop a sustainable system to improve the public’s health across the state, she created an office to provide technical assistance and sought funding to support counties in assessing health status, setting priorities for public health and developing strategies for comprehensive, local public health improvement plans.
Her solid understanding of local and state health structures, local and state politics, and local and state cultures have allowed her to be an exceptional leader in facilitating connections across our local and state public health system. This has been a significant improvement in Colorado as state and local agencies now work together in a coordinated way that is much more effective than working apart. Local health agencies strongly believe this statewide health assessment and planning system, along with strong state and local partnerships can achieve the collective impact needed to improve health and the environment in Colorado.
Over the past year Connecticut experienced three storms of historic proportions, leaving in their wake destroyed homes and businesses, lengthy power outages, and several deaths. Among the public health heroes who responded to these storms is Diana Lejardi, who coordinates risk communications for the state Department of Public Health and played an important role in public health’s response to these natural catastrophes.
Before, during, and after these storms, Diana issued vital health messages and information that served to prepare Connecticut residents for these storms. She prepared and disseminated critical information about developing a plan, ensuring safe food and drinking water, and preventing carbon monoxide poisoning. Messages were evaluated, translated into multiple languages, and distributed through print, web, broadcast, and social media channels to reach a broad and diverse audience. Experts say that effective communication is a resource multiplier during times of crisis, disaster, or emergency. Diana’s timely and credible communications leveraged public health’s effectiveness in responding to these catastrophes, and served to mitigate the public health impact of these devastating storms.
|District of Columbia||
Dr. Saul Levin and the DC Department of Health (DOH) proudly nominate DC Deputy Mayor of Health and Human Services (DM HHS) Beatriz “BB” Otero. Ms. Otero was appointed to the position of Deputy Mayor of Health and Human services in 2011. She has been charged with overseeing 10 health and human services agencies that are responsible for the delivery of health services to District residents. Ms. Otero’s office supports the District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray in coordinating a comprehensive system of benefits, goods and services across multiple agencies to ensure that children, youth, and adults, with and without disabilities, can lead healthy, meaningful, and productive lives.
In response to her charge and role as DM for HHS, BB has played an integral role in establishing successful health systems and priorities that include improved access to healthy foods for residents through famer’s markets, local corner stores, and numerous community events. As a dedicated public health servant and a champion for mothers and children, she has worked tirelessly to implement several key early-child and home visitation programs that aim to provide low-income mothers in the District with access to perinatal services and promote health education. BB’s charisma and passion for helping others is also evident in her many partnerships with DOH. As a believer in health and wellness, BB firmly supports DOH’s mission, and has worked hard to advocate for important health initiatives, such as Live Well DC! and the Creating a Culture of Health and Wellness program. In addition, BB has also been on the forefront of implementing important policies that will help continue to link DC youth to crucial health services through the city’s School Based Health Center program.
For more than 35 years, BB has been a dedicated servant to vulnerable and underserved populations and as a result has been an influential force in the community. She is a vigilant leader who strives to improve health literacy and reduce health disparities District-wide. Her professional portfolio includes creating numerous programs and services geared towards her strong passion for improving the lives of children and youth. Prior to becoming the DM of HHS, BB developed a state-of-the-art bilingual child and family center in Montgomery County, Maryland, where she created a nationally recognized bilingual early childhood program that serves more than 500 children. She also established a DC Bilingual Public Charter Elementary school.
A native of Bolivia, BB is a long-time resident of the District of Columbia and is a highly recognized policy maker, community leader and activist. The future of health is bright in the city, and the Department of Health honors BB Otero for her significant contribution to the great progress made.
Dr. Lillian Rivera administers an $80 million budget and nearly 900 employees in a county with more than 2.4 million residents. Under her leadership, the Miami-Dade County Health Department is the only organization to have won the Governor’s Sterling Award for significant improvement and performance excellence three times.
Dr. Bonnie Sorensen currently serves as the Volusia County Health Department Director as well as the Interim Director for Duval County Health Department. Since September 2012, Dr. Sorensen has also spearheaded the Duval County tuberculosis cluster investigation, where she has successfully coordinated efforts to screen and treat individuals who may have been exposed to the TB germ.
Cliff Dennis, a Respiratory Therapist and Certified Asthma educator at Georgia Health Science University spends most his time caring for patients and providing education to parents, caregivers and organizations throughout the thirteen counties of the East Central Health District.
Mr. Dennis who also co-serves as chairperson for the Central Savannah River Area (CRSA) Asthma Coalition provides on-going asthma education through curriculums such as American Lung Association’s Asthma 101 and Georgia Asthma Management Education for Childcare Setting (a program which he served as content consultant) to Girl Scouts, Health Start staff and parents, local school nurses, public health staff, daycare centers staff and community-at-large through community-based asthma education and awareness events. Mr. Dennis is also a board member for the National Asthma Educators Certification Board where he researches and writes content for the Certified Asthma Educators examination.
During the past three years, Mr. Dennis began serving the East Central Health Public Health District as facilitator for the Physician Asthma Management Education (PACE) Program which was expanded to include other Georgia Public Health Districts.
Because of the time and dedication provided by Mr. Dennis, thousands of East Central Public Health Districts residents have received asthma education which provides them with the knowledge and tools to control and manage asthma and asthma related- issues.
DPH officially submits Debra Adams, R.N., A.P.R.N., district nursing and clinical director with DPH’s South Health District. Earlier this year, Adams won DPH’s Public Health Nursing Practice Excellence Award during National Nurses Week – an award to recognize nurses at the state, district and local levels for their contributions and commitment to public health nursing.
Adams has worked with public health for more than 32 years. Throughout her career she has organized many new programs. In 1982, she and a local physician began a low-cost maternal health program to provide care to indigent pregnant women in Lowndes County. In conjunction with this program, she taught the first Prepared Childbirth Class in public health to women who may never have had the opportunity to participate otherwise.
In 1992, she worked with school administrators and public health staff to establish a comprehensive school health program for all Lowndes County and Valdosta City schools. Adams was responsible for writing several grants to secure funding, along with writing the policies and procedures and training the school nurses. In 2002, Lowndes County Health Department received the Glaxo SmithKline Child Health Recognition Award for the school health programs.
When Adams saw a need in the late 1990s, she created the Primary Care Clinic at the health department to serve indigent clients. She worked with local hospitals to secure lab testing at no cost for clients enrolled in the clinic.
She also wrote a Sickness and Prevention Achieved through Regional Collaboration (SPARC) grant in 2006 to hold the first Vote & Vax Project in Georgia. After working out the kinks with the Board of Elections supervisor and attorneys, this event has continued to be a success in the district as well as throughout the State. Adams continues to serve as a resource to other districts starting their own program.
To ensure women and men in the nursing field are acknowledged for their outstanding work, Adams worked with nurse leaders at South Georgia Medical Center, Valdosta State University and the Georgia Nurses Association to organize a community-wide reception to recognize nurses throughout the community. This annual event has not only served to acknowledge numerous public health nurses, but also educate many in the community on what public health nurses face daily.
Adams is an active member of the Georgia Public Health Association (GPHA), currently serving as nursing section chair. Previously she served as secretary (2009) and vice chair (2010). In 2001, Adams won the coveted GPHA Maggie Kline Award. She was also the recipient of the Award for Excellence in District Nursing in 2009.
Adams continues to be a referral source throughout the state for the creation and revision of policies regarding issues such as immunizations and school health nursing. She works diligently on a daily basis to ensure the communities where we live, work and play are healthier and more informed.
Peter Whiticar, Chief of the Hawaii State Department of Health STD/AIDS Prevention Branch since 1994, is highly regarded for his tireless efforts in support of HIV prevention and care. He is known for his work to promote greater integration of HIV, STD and viral hepatitis services as they may often impact the same individuals at risk. Whiticar is recognized locally and nationally for his passion and determination advocating for the interests of Hawaii and other smaller states. This year, Whiticar was awarded the Nicholas A. Rango MD Leadership Award for exemplifying superior leadership in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Whiticar serves on the NASTAD Executive Committee and served previously as the elected chairperson of the organization.
Dr. Christine Hahn, MD, known statewide for her common sense approach to often challenging situations, has wanted to help as many people as possible since she finished her training as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1995. She realized then that she enjoys helping people live healthier lives now, as well as in the future. That led her to accept the position as Idaho’s state epidemiologist in 1996, and she continues to be the go-to authority for an array of healthcare professionals in the state, as well as the state’s public health districts. Her favorite part of the job is being able to help busy medical providers get the tools they need so they and their patients are successful. Her work overseeing the Idaho Refugee Health Screening Program has helped to provide better coordination and standardization of screening processes between clinics throughout the state in the last two years. She also has been instrumental in aligning Idaho’s immunization requirements with the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, meaning that more children are starting school with the recommended panel of vaccines. As the state’s tuberculosis controller, she has advised and supported physicians treating and managing the disease.
In her 10 years as the Illinois Department of Public Health, Centers for Minority Health Services Division Chief, Doris Turner has taken an innovative approach to bringing the public health message to the community using cutting-edge technology. Turner is the creator behind BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS), an awareness campaign geared toward the African-American community to address the HIV/AIDS disparity. Before it became common practice, Turner promoted Edutainment – education through entertainment - and invited youth to learn about HIV and get tested while at concerts. The concerts have featured hip-hop artists Twista and the Speed Knot Mobstaz, Rhyme Fest and Slum Village, as well as gospel concerts featuring Byron Cage, “Mary Mary,” Smokie Norful and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Other notables who have supported BASUAH include singer Kelly Rowland, National Baptist Convention of America President Reverend Stephen Thurston and comedian Rickey Smiley. BASUAH has grown since its inception in 2005 and now includes hundreds of youth ambassadors who undergo on-line HIV training, enabling them to host presentations and talk with friends and people in their communities, high schools and university campuses about the HIV disparity. These ambassadors also design and film PSAs that are posted on the BASUAH YouTube site, which complements other BASUAH social media sites including Facebook, Twitter and BASUAH in Second Life.
Turner pushed the envelope in innovation in 2009 by creating a convenient and confidential way for people to find HIV testing locations, alerts or events through text messaging, Text 2 Survive, which is available in both English and Spanish. Turner also heads-up the Wellness on Wheels program, which consists of five mobile vehicles that can be driven to communities where people have limited access to health care. Screenings for prostate cancer, cholesterol and blood glucose, HIV testing and other health services can be performed in the Wellness on Wheels vehicles. Lastly, working with her staff and BASUAH ambassadors, Turner created the documentary, “A Mirror to the Heart: Breaking the Stigma of HIV/AIDS,” which aired on BET. Through all these innovative ways, Turner has worked to get important, yet sensitive and difficult public health messages into communities - where the rubber hits the road and change can be made.
We would like to express our sincere and enthusiastic support for the nomination of Kala Shipley for the Public Health Heroes Award to be presented by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials in 2012. As members of the staff within Ms. Shipley’s Health Promotion Unit in the Bureau of Nutrition and Physical Activity at the Iowa Department of Public Health we have had the opportunity to work closely with her for a number of years and feel that her contributions to public health make her a worthy recipient of this award.
Kala has a deep commitment to improving the lives of all Iowans through prevention and health promotion activities. She recognizes and communicates the critical importance of conducting community health promotion to promote public health outcomes. To this end, Kala is a tireless and rigorous advocate for the health of all Iowans.
She has provided exemplary leadership to the Bureau during her tenure. The entire staff is aware of her commitment and support for the health and well-being of the citizens of Iowa and for the Community Transformation Grant. The nomination for this award recognizes her meritous duty to the Community Transformation Grant.
Janis Goedeke, ARNP, is a public health hero. She is currently serving as Crawford County Health Officer, overseeing 12 health department programs, including some programs that cover 16 counties in Southeast Kansas. Janis is a graduate of the 2004 class of Kansas Public Health Leadership Institute, and in 2005, completed a nursing certification in disaster preparedness from the St Louis University of Nursing.
She has served on two State committees; one to review protocols for the Kansas Family Planning Clinics and a State Training Advisory Committee for family planning. She presented the community learning garden poster to the 2000 American Public Health Association in Boston, Massachusetts. In addition she presented three posters to the Kansas Public Health Association: In 1999 on the community learning garden, in 2000 on the Straight Talk Peer Educators and in 2003 on the Franklin, Kansas, tornado. She co-authored “Outbreak of Pruritic Rashes Associated with Mites----Kansas” in 2004 for the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). She has served on various committees such as Governor’s Public Health Improvement Commission Work Task Force, the Judicial Youth Authority Steering Committee, the Crawford County Community Coalition, the Kansas Public Health Nursing Steering Committee, the Children’s Advocacy Center Advisory Board, FACT INC advisory board, Headstart Advisory Board, and the Free to Know Medical Advisory Board. She has been a member of KPHA (Kansas Public Health Association) since 1996, is a member of KALHD (Kansas Association of Local Health Departments), has served as the 2003 secretary for KPHA Nursing Section, a 2004 KPHA Board Member, 2005 KPHA Executive Board as Director at Large, and was KPHA president for 2007-2008. A service award was presented to her in 2003 for service as a Medical Advisory Committee member in the Breast and Cervical Early Detection Program.
A pediatrician by training, Dr. Kraig Humbaugh currently serves as director of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (KDPH) Division of Epidemiology and Planning, which oversees what are often referred to internally as “the three Ds”—diseases (communicable disease outbreaks, as well as STDs and HIV), disasters (public health preparedness), and data (the office of Vital Records). He is well known throughout the KDPH and within the state and local health communities for not only doing his job exceptionally, but for the value he places on earning and maintaining the public trust while doing so.
Frances B. Phillips, RN, MHA, has served as Maryland's Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services since December 2008. Since that time, she has led efforts at the state level to reduce infant mortality in Maryland, a key priority for Governor O'Malley. Under her leadership, the state not only reached its goal of reducing infant mortality by 10 percent, but exceeded the goal in 2011 and 2012. In addition, Ms. Phillips was the state's leader in addressing the Pandemic Flu outbreak in 2009. Her calm presence and focused attention guided the state through months of concern.
Prior to being named Deputy Secretary in 2008, Ms. Phillips had already led a distinguished public health career, serving as the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County for Anne Arundel County, Maryland, a suburban jurisdiction of approximately, 500,000 population. She also held the position of City Health Officer for the municipality of Annapolis, Maryland. Ms. Phillips directed this local public health agency with comprehensive programs in community health, emergency preparedness, infectious disease control, environmental health, mental health and addictions treatment. Ms. Phillips is a registered nurse with clinical nursing experience in pediatrics, orthopedics, emergency medicine and quality assurance. She holds a baccalaureate degree in community health nursing from The Catholic University of America and a masters degree in health care administration from The George Washington University.
Ms. Phillips is a public health hero. The recent announcement that she plans to retire caused shock waves among those who have depended on her leadership and admired her commitment. Honoring her will be much appreciated across the state.
Massachusetts Department of Public Health
There is no such thing as a typical day for Dr. Catherine Brown, state public health veterinarian at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. Whether working with a local board of health to determine if they should conduct spraying for mosquitoes or appearing on the local news to discuss how residents can protect themselves from rabies, Dr. Brown is working tirelessly to spread the message about public health prevention and protection. Dr. Brown joined the Department in 2006 and remains the sole veterinarian employed by the Department, acting as a resource for all program areas in need of her knowledge and expertise on a wide range of zoonotic diseases.
A perfect illustration of Dr. Brown’s public health heroism took place this past summer when Massachusetts, like many states, faced one of the worst seasons of mosquito-borne illness in recent history. During this time, Dr. Brown worked tirelessly with local boards of health and veterinarians across the state to collect the most up-to-date information about mosquito activity and mosquito-borne illness in animals and then translate this information into language that residents could easily understand and implement. Dr. Brown’s hard work, unwavering commitment to educate and empower all residents and passion for public health perfectly illustrate why in 2010, the Department recognized Dr. Brown for her “unfailing commitment to the notion that we protect, preserve and improve the health of the residents of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
Mr. James (Jim) Collins has worked in local and state public health agencies since 1988, holding environmental health, epidemiology and management positions. He currently directs the Division of Communicable Disease at the Michigan Department of Community Health. In October 2012, he and his staff were notified that four clinics in Michigan had received contaminated lots of steroid products from the New England Compounding Center. These lots were linked to fungal infections in patients in Tennessee. In response, Jim effectively directed Michigan’s response to this outbreak, participating in numerous calls on weekends and evenings. He and his staff have worked tirelessly for weeks, first by supporting clinics in patient notification and then by tracking and reporting infections. Michigan currently has double the number of infections (168 as of November 21, 2012) of any other state. In addition, Michigan’s experience has documented the emergence of epidural infections, a complication which had not been anticipated and is now helping to drive national clinical guidelines. Jim has a Masters of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Michigan (1990) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology from Alma College (1985).
Dr. Jevon McFadden is a CDC physician assigned to Michigan as a Career Epidemiology Field Officer. Dr. McFadden has led the public health medical response to the fungal disease outbreak experienced by Michigan and other states. Dr. McFadden has served as the resource to clinicians throughout Michigan, a particularly critical role during the first weeks of the investigation when patients were presenting at emergency departments. Throughout the investigation, Dr. McFadden has maintained daily contact with infectious disease physicians who have been treating Michigan’s affected patients (168 as of November 21, 2012). In addition, Dr. McFadden has continued to provide to the public health community a medical perspective that has been extremely helpful in guiding Michigan’s public health investigation. Jevon graduated with MD and MPH degrees from Loma Linda University Schools of Medicine and Public Health (2006) and a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Andrews University (2000). He also completed the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Epidemic Intelligence Service Fellowship (2011) and an Internal Medicine Residency at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center (2009).
In the Dover-Eyota school district, food and nutrition coordinator Carrie Frank helped spearhead the Farm to School initiative through the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP). The initiative is having an impact on students, staff and the community: the students and staff are eating more nutritious foods and have better attitudes about school lunches because they realize they are serving or receiving high quality foods that are locally grown; many of the students that are being served live on the farms from which the foods come. The initiative seems to be helping the local economy, too. And Carrie’s work may have saved at least one family farm. At a roadside stand one day, Carrie Frank spotted small apples that were just the right size for her students. Many students had never eaten a whole apple before, because the ones the school had been getting were so large they had to be cut up and served as slices. She was able to contract with the farmer for enough apples to supply the school. The farmer, who had been about to retire and sell off the orchard, was able to pass on a viable business to his son. More information is available at:
Arlene Becker received the 2012 Bruce Zimmerman Diabetes Award at the Many Faces of Community Health Conference in recognition for her pioneering work in diabetes prevention in Minnesota and nationally. The committee selected Becker as the 2012 award recipient for her national work and for her crucial role as a registered and licensed dietitian working to help people with diabetes and prediabetes at West Side Community Health Services in St. Paul. Becker has been a champion for the predominantly Latino population she serves. At West Side Community Health Services, Becker has led 14 Spanish diabetes prevention program groups that have helped people with prediabetes dramatically lower their risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The last two groups (with a total of 25 people with prediabetes) lost a combined 254 pounds, and several participants returned their blood sugar levels back to normal. In Minnesota, Becker has been a key contributor to expanding the I CAN Prevent Diabetes program administered by the Minnesota Department of Health.
At the national level, Becker has shaped new diabetes prevention policy and programs that will directly impact people with prediabetes in Minnesota. She is playing a leading role in a collaborative effort with the Diabetes Training and Technical Assistance Center (DTTAC), the Rollins School of Public Health - Emory University in Atlanta, the National Diabetes Prevention Program and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to launch a national diabetes prevention program across the United States.
Many people are doing great things for public health in Nebraska, but when you look at the size and scope of the wellness culture change sweeping the state, there’s a critical driving force - Gov. Dave Heineman.
It’s my honor to nominate him as a public health hero. I’m proud of our work together to create a culture of wellness in Nebraska and help people live healthier lives.
Gov. Heineman sets a strong example for our citizens. He’s embraced wellness and walks the talk. He eats an apple a day and faithfully wears his pedometer and averages 12,000 steps daily. You’ll often hear him say, “Wellness works every time.” He knows that from personal experience. Wellness has been a lifelong commitment starting from his time at the United States Military Academy at West Point to becoming a U.S. Army Ranger and now serving the people of Nebraska as Governor.
Nebraska was the first state to launch a wellness-based insurance plan for employees. The health plan is tied to wellness program participation. Gov. Heineman is a proud supporter of the state employee wellness program called “wellnessoptions.” The program, now in its fourth year, has more than 8,000 participants (employees and spouses). It’s showing real results like higher levels of physical activity, more fruit and vegetable consumption, increased preventive screenings and decreased tobacco use. Over 1,700 participants in the Walk This Way program completed more than a million steps in a year including Gov. Heineman who walked more than four million. There’s no doubt the state’s wellness program is improving and potentially saving lives.
“Wellnessoptions” was the first state program to earn the prestigious 2012 C. Everett Koop National Health Award. In addition to receiving this award, the State of Nebraska wellness program also received two other national awards: the 2011 Gold Well Workplace by the Wellness Councils of America and the 2011 Innovations Award from the Council of State Governments.
The Governor supports wellness in the workplace. He created the annual Governor’s Wellness Award. The award recognizes Nebraska employers for their commitment to wellness and employee well-being. A total of 153 awards have been given to Nebraska employers since the program began five years ago. Gov. Heineman also supports the wellness councils across Nebraska. The councils and the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services work with more than 360 businesses statewide to help create a culture of wellness in the workplace.
Gov. Heineman is a champion of wellness. Thanks to his leadership, countless Nebraskans have made the commitment to live healthier lives and are now reaping the rewards of better health. If the Governor can find time to make wellness a priority, so can all Nebraskans.
Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis has demonstrated excellence in leadership in the management of what began as a local event and and then evolved into a multistate outbreak of hepatitis C infection in New Hampshire. Her ability to sustain the long duration of this response was highlighted by her truly noble characteristics as the lead investigator and New Hampshire State Epidemiologist. Her unwavering determination to effectively “juggle” every facet of this response. From conducting the core epidemiological work, to developing clinical algorithms, to assuring sound messaging to the affected persons and their respective communities, her talent, intellect, and dedication were evident and essential. Her selflessness and resilience was admirable as she literally worked “around the clock” for over four months to conduct the work of public health on behalf of the citizens of New Hampshire. Her humility as a leader was unmistakable in that she never stood above but always stood with her public health team, and she would never have had it any other way (if you were to ask her). It is these points that make Dr. Sharon Alroy-Preis worthy of being considered a true public health hero.
Kris McCracken is an example of a "Public Health Hero" doing great work in the Manchester, New Hampshire, community. As the Director of Operations for the Manchester Community Health Center since 1996, Kris is responsible for the day-to-day management of operations of the health center. Her expertise in Community Health is evident in her ability to manage multiple departments, including nurses, medical assistants, ancillary staff (behavioral health, nutrition, case management, interpreters), and medical records. The Primary Care Setting provided by the Manchester Community Health Center is focused on maintaining continuity and quality of care for clients. In addition to her work with the Manchester Community Health Center, Kris demonstrates her commitment to the community by participating on: the Board of Directors, NH Minority Health Coalition 1999-2002; Medical Interpretation Advisory Board, 2002-Present; City of Manchester Bio-Terrorism Health Care Planning Subcommittee; Diversity Task Force, State of NH DHHS; Healthcare for the Homeless Advisory Board; and NH Nursing Diversity Pipeline Advisory Board. The addition of a new Manchester Community Health Center satellite location in the heart of a major refugee resettlement site has enabled that target population to gain access to culturally and linguistically appropriate services, eliminating many of the related barriers and decreasing health disparities in the community. Kris has been instrumental in maintaining an intense focus on culturally and linguistically appropriate care. Kris is also an advocate for integration of services within Primary Care. Recently, on behalf of the Manchester Community Health Center, Kris collaborated with the Department of Health and Human Services, Division of Public Health Services, Maternal and Child Health Section in the successful application for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Project LAUNCH (Linking Actions for Unmet Needs in Children’s Health) initiative. The aim of Project LAUNCH is to promote and support the emotional and social well being of young children and their families.
Tobacco use continues to take a personal toll in preventable disease and early death among Oklahomans. During her “State of the State” address delivered during a joint session of the Oklahoma Legislature on Feb. 6, 2012, Gov. Mary Fallin announced she was issuing an Executive Order to prohibit all tobacco use on all Oklahoma state property. This bold move, in a state that for many years has been controlled by tobacco interests, was definitely heroic. Gov. Fallin recognizes that the effects of unhealthy life choices -- such as tobacco use -- drain taxpayer dollars, negatively impact Oklahoma’s economy, and increase the costs of health care for everyone. While protecting the health of state employees as well as citizens visiting state-owned properties, this ban is expected to reduce health care costs for state employees, decrease employee absenteeism and increase employee productivity, for a cost savings of an estimated $5.2 million each year.
Lillian Shirley, B.S.N., M.P.H., M.P.A., is Oregon’s Public Health Hero. She was appointed to the Oregon Health Policy Board (OHPB) by the Governor of Oregon in the fall of 2009. She serves as the Vice Chair. During her time on the board, she has demonstrated her commitment to providing access to quality, affordable health care for all Oregonians and to improving population health. Shirley works tirelessly to help direct health policy that is equitable to all on a local and state level. She is known as a leader and innovator who helps collaborate with community partners to address health issues and further the goal of achieving a healthier Oregon. In her work on the board she has been essential in successfully guiding health system transformation through the creation of Coordinated Care Organizations. Coordinated care organizations are network of all types of health care providers (physical health care, addictions and mental health care and sometimes dental care providers) who have agreed to work together in their local communities to serve people who receive health care coverage under the Oregon Health Plan. Her work has helped ensure CCOs are focused on prevention and helping people manage chronic conditions, like diabetes. CCOs serve most of Oregon’s Medicaid clients.
Dr. Peter Simon is the Medical Director of the Division of Community, Family Health, and Equity at the RI Department of Health. Dr. Simon began his career as a private pediatrician, and in 1984 he joined the Department of Health as a Medical Epidemiologist.
Dr. Simon has been a national leader in the areas of childhood lead poisoning prevention, newborn screening, and environmental health. His passion and commitment to public health is apparent in his daily work at the state and national level, through his guidance to students at the Brown University Medical School, his interactions with co-workers, his ongoing engagement with the community, and the long list of appointments to national and local boards.
On behalf of the South Carolina Department of Health & Environmental Control, Public Health Region 2 Leadership Team, I would like to nominate our Region 2 Public Health Director, Matt Petrofes, MBA, as a Public Health Hero. Obesity is a growing health threat in our nation, and a priority in South Carolina. Matt Petrofes, MBA, Region 2 public health director, led an effort through which a variety of community partners could create a comprehensive body mass index (BMI_ surveillance program among first-, third-, and fifth-grade students. Such an accomplishment is significant because obesity datasets are critical to mobilizing childhood obesity prevention resources and monitoring and evaluating effects that state and local policies and interventions might have on childhood obesity rates.
The South Dakota Department of Health submits Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist, as a true public health hero. He is often described as the conscience of the department, that voice continually reminding us to follow the data wherever it leads and be committed to addressing the issues it identifies. In one recent example, his analysis and advocacy raised the alarm about South Dakota’s infant mortality rate, particularly among its American Indians, which is the highest of any state in the nation. His efforts were instrumental in Governor Daugaard’s decision to create the Governor’s Task Force on Infant Mortality now working on strategies to reduce that rate.
In a small agency like South Dakota’s health department, officials frequently fulfill several roles. A key role for Dr. Kightlinger is serving as the calm, authoritative voice and face of public health in regular media interviews on routine subjects such as yearly influenza vaccination as well as hot topics such as the current fungal meningitis outbreak. He sees every media inquiry as an opportunity to educate about public health issues and concerns, and has earned the respect of both media and the public. In another unofficial role, Dr. Kightlinger is a department leader in recruiting, mentoring and supporting students and interns to consider public health careers. He takes an avid interest in encouraging the next generation of public health professionals and has personally helped steer several promising students to further their education in various public health fields.
Mike Gilliam, assessment and benchmarking specialist for the Texas Department of State Health Services, has made tremendous progress tackling the issue of preventable hospitalizations in Texas. Gilliam developed a website (www.dshs.state.tx.us/ph) that houses county information on potentially preventable hospitalizations and educates community leaders on the potential cost savings associated with avoiding these hospitalizations in their areas. The information he developed has paved the way for local leaders to implement successful community interventions. For example, Red River and Freestone counties launched campaigns to vaccinate high-risk people against bacterial pneumonia, saving an estimated $1.8 million in hospital charges. The average hospital charge for bacterial pneumonia is almost $30,000, while the cost to vaccinate someone at high risk for the illness is about $55. Last session the Texas Legislature provided $2 million to implement an initiative to reduce potentially preventable hospitalizations. As a result, the state contracted with 16 counties to implement evidence-based interventions, such as vaccination efforts, through a community coordinated approach.
Lynn Meinor has battled communicable diseases in Utah for the past 22 years. She has worked in the Utah Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS Program since its inception, and has traveled the state working with church groups, community groups, schools, businesses, hospitals, and clinics. This year, Lynn helped secure funding to launch an integrated testing project with incarcerated populations.
Lynn has a passion for working with at-risk populations, and credits much of that passion to the dedicated staff she works with. As she says, “When you look forward to coming to work every day it must mean you are doing something right!”
Jeff Heath is a longtime public health nurse for the Vermont Department of Health’s Middlebury district office. He is seen by his public health colleagues, health care professionals, and community as a model of competence and caring. As an epidemiology and infectious disease specialist, he has worked on complicated and challenging investigations such as the current pertussis outbreak in Addison County. His calm professional approach helps to gain people’s trust, and allows him to gather needed information and give guidance to control the spread of disease.
Do you think about how safe your food is when you sit down to a meal out with your family? Well, Dave Gifford of the Washington State Department of Health thinks about it and, since 1996, has been protecting families from illness and death caused by food villains like E. coli, Salmonella, and norovirus.
For every person who reports being sick from a foodborne outbreak, an estimated 40 more cases go unreported. This is what matters to Dave. He thinks about the people behind the cases; they drive everything he does. His hallmark is building the agency’s relationship with grocery stores, restaurants, daycares, and other places where people get their food. He and his team work with local health agencies to monitor and respond to outbreaks, acting swiftly to contain them so no one else gets sick. They also make sure the food safety rules and training affecting the industry are consistent across the state.
For the past 30 years, Washington has been considered a national leader in disease outbreak investigation. Dave considers the investigation piece particularly important because the more he and his team learn, the better they can help protect people from food-related illness. Of course, prevention is important, too. That’s why they respond quickly to problems, work to keep contaminated food off the grocery store shelves, and communicate with the public when there’s a risk people need to be aware of. Dave and everyone who helps keep our food safe are true public health heroes.
Dr. Murray L. Katcher, as the Chief Medical Officer for Community Health Promotion and the State Epidemiologist for Maternal and Child Health (MCH) in the Wisconsin Department of Health Services, has devoted his more than three-decade career to the improvement of the public’s health in Wisconsin and nationwide. His efforts include decade-long research and public health education on tap water scalds, leading to state legislation and national industry-wide regulatory changes. He has spearheaded statewide efforts in childhood health and injury prevention; racial and ethnic disparities in birth outcomes; maternal, fetal, infant, and child death reviews; outreach to local health departments; national home visitation; car seat, bicycle, and gun safety; and graduated driver licensing. During the past several years, Dr. Katcher recruited and mentored CDC and CSTE epidemiology fellows and graduate students, significantly adding to the expertise in the MCH program. He is skilled in the ability to translate complex public health information in clear language for the public.
Dr. Katcher has served as the chair of the Wisconsin Newborn Screening Umbrella Committee, providing leadership to one of the most comprehensive congenital disorder programs in the country. Working with many different partners, including the Wisconsin Hospital Association, he seeks continuous quality improvement for the program, guiding the addition and deletion of newborn screening tests in light of existing criteria stated in statute and administrative rule, as well as ethical and cost/funding implications. He is helping with new efforts aimed at increasing communication and improving relationships on newborn screening and children’s health with the Amish and Mennonite communities in Wisconsin. For more than 20 years, he has served as the Medical Director of a weekly homeless clinic in the evening, including a teaching session for medical students, and has conducted Head Start physical exams at American Indian tribal clinics during the summers with medical students, pediatric residents, and public health workers.
Claudia Rogers is the senior laboratory scientist in charge of STD and blood-borne pathogen testing at the Wyoming Public Health Laboratory, which is part of the Wyoming Department of Health’s Public Health Division.
Individuals who have gone above and beyond to improve the health of our states - as nominated by their peers. Read about public health heroes in your state.
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