Ten Outstanding Leaders Honored for Improving Health and Health Care in Hard-to-Reach Communities

    • October 8, 2009

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is proud to announce the 2009 recipients of its Community Health Leaders (CHL) Award, honoring 10 individuals who have overcome daunting odds to improve the health and quality of life for disadvantaged or underserved men, women and children across the United States. The Community Health Leaders Award is in its 16th year, and its winners represent the geographical, cultural, ethnic, social and economic diversity of America.

With health care reform at the top of the nation’s agenda, these 10 new Community Health Leaders have undertaken a range of projects that demonstrate the need to provide greater access to high quality, affordable care and expose weaknesses in the nation’s health care system.

The 2009 awardees have worked independently on a range of projects such as ensuring that Medicaid beneficiaries in Cincinnati, Ohio, have access to services that they are entitled to, or that impoverished families in the Anacostia community of Washington, D.C., have access to mental health services. Other leaders have expanded dental care services to a Native Alaska population living in an isolated area of the state, and have provided primary care and family planning services for low-income and uninsured individuals in Amarillo, Texas.

“As our leaders in Washington are working on national health reform, the 2009 Community Health Leaders have been addressing the shortcomings and challenges facing our nation’s health care system in their communities,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “These leaders are important pillars of their community and of the health care system, who have taken personal and professional risks to help the people in their communities live healthier, better lives.”

This year’s winners join a distinguished and diverse group of 163 previous award recipients. The Community Health Leaders Award elevates the work of the leaders by raising awareness of their extraordinary contributions through national visibility, a $125,000 award and networking opportunities.

The 2009 Community Health Leaders named today are:

1. Amanda Gaynor Ashley, D.M.D., Ms.Edu., dental clinic director, Samuel Simmonds Memorial Hospital Dental Clinic, Barrow, Alaska. Gaynor is being honored for expanding oral health services to the residents of this northern slope community and the surrounding villages. She created a program with the Ilisagvik Tribal College to train dental assistants, and instituted programs to fight dental decay among local school children. Five years ago, one in three children who visited the dental clinic was diagnosed with a dental emergency. Under Ashley’s leadership, the frequency of dental emergencies has been drastically reduced, and her clinic has trained members of the community to help transform the oral health of an entire generation.

2. David Carey, chairperson, Inspire Human Services Co-op, Phoenix, Ariz. Carey is being honored for his work as chair of Inspire Co-op, which allows people with disabilities to direct and control their own health care services, and for his activism to assure safe public transportation options for persons with physical disabilities. Carey’s leadership led Inspire to secure long-term contracts to provide attendant care services and established the company as one of the first self-directed cooperatives in the United States. Inspire is owned and directed by people with disabilities. Carey became a quadriplegic following a gunshot accident in 1988.

3. Hugh F. "Trey" Daly III, J.D., senior attorney, Legal Aid Society of Greater Cincinnati, Ohio. Daly is being honored for his advocacy efforts and legal approaches to improving access to health care for low-income families in Greater Cincinnati. Daly led the development of a health care practice within the Legal Aid Society that has had a significant impact on how the state’s health care dollars are spent. Most recently, Daly won a lawsuit on behalf of patients who were being denied health care services when their Medicaid-managed care plan dropped its entire network of providers, including the main hospital that serves the poor.

4. Lynne Holden, M.D., president and chief executive officer, Mentoring in Medicine, Inc., Bronx, N.Y. Holden is being honored for establishing an all-volunteer organization that encourages and nurtures disadvantaged students from Harlem and the South Bronx in New York City to enter the health professions. Reaching students as young as the first grade, Mentoring in Medicine exposes students to the wide range of health professions and provides mentoring, academic enrichment and leadership development to set them on the path to health careers. Holden has created a movement that motivates and supports nearly 6,000 students and engages nearly 500 health care professional volunteers.

5. Uwe Jacobs, Ph.D., clinical and executive director, Survivors International, San Francisco, Calif. Jacobs is being honored for his efforts to provide clinical and therapeutic care to more than 1,000 individuals who have experienced torture and/or are seeking asylum in the United States. Through Survivors International, Jacobs has assembled an interdisciplinary cadre of professionals to provide an array of mental health and social services to victims of torture. He has also been a leader in bringing healing and medical-legal support to survivors of gender-based violence against women and sexual minorities from around the world.

6. Rajiv Kumar, chairman and co-founder, Shape Up RI, Providence, R.I. Kumar is being honored for his efforts to establish and execute a team-based program for Rhode Island residents to address obesity challenges and improve their health through exercise and healthy eating. Shape Up RI is a statewide exercise and weight loss challenge founded on the belief that the solution to healthy living lies in the power of teamwork and peer support. Over the past four years, nearly 35,000 Rhode Islanders have participated in the program. Kumar is also a student at Brown University’s Medical School.

7. Sonith Peou, program director, Metta Health Center, Lowell, Mass. Peou is being honored for his efforts to assure access to culturally competent health services for the large Cambodian-American community in Lowell, Mass. The Metta Health Center integrates primary medical care, behavioral health services and refugee health assessments with traditional medical practices such as Buddhist monk consultations and traditional healing, acupuncture and nutrition counseling. Peou’s leadership and tenacious outreach efforts over eight years have resulted in a 150 percent increase in Southeast Asian patients, with the Metta Health Center now serving more than 5,000 patients.

8. Frances Stout, R.N., chairperson of the board, Tohono O’odham Nursing Care Authority (TONCA), Sells, Ariz. Stout is being honored for her work to improve the quality of health services and assisted living and long-term care for residents of the Tohono O’odham Nation—an effort she helped to spearhead after she retired from a 33-year nursing career. Stout helped to found the Archie Hendricks Sr. Skilled Nursing Facility, a 60-bed, 5-star, skilled nursing facility certified by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Tohono O’odham Hospice. It is the first of its kind on the reservation. Stout was also the driving force behind the creation of the Elder Care Consortium that convenes several tribal entities to address the needs of the Tohono Nation’s senior citizens.

9. Claudia Stravato, board member and retired executive director of the Texas Panhandle Family Planning and Health Centers in Amarillo, Texas. Stravato is being honored for her work in advocating for and providing access to primary care for low-income and uninsured families, and family planning and health services for teens and adolescents. Stravato is passionately committed to reducing teen pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the Texas Panhandle where teen pregnancy rates are among the highest in the nation. She recently started an all-male clinic for that has been flooded with patients since it opened.

10. Satira Streeter, Psy.D., executive and clinical director, Ascensions Community Services, Inc., Washington, D.C. Streeter is being honored for her efforts to deliver culturally relevant, family-focused psychological services to children and families living in the historically impoverished area of Anacostia, in the nation’s capital, and neighboring communities. Working without a salary for two years, Streeter started Ascensions Community Services to ensure that Anacostia’s children and their families would have the mental health services they desperately needed. Ascensions, the only comprehensive mental wellness center in Anacostia, has served more than 800 clients.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders (CHL) is a national award program that was established to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Today, there are 173 outstanding Community Health Leaders in nearly all states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation's largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to improving the health and health care of all Americans, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, meaningful and timely change. For more than 35 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime.