Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Announces Winners of the 2010 Community Health Leaders Award

    • August 12, 2010

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is proud to announce the recipients of the 2010 Community Health Leaders Award, honoring 10 individuals who have overcome daunting odds to improve the health and quality of life for vulnerable men, women and children in underserved communities across the United States.

The Community Health Leaders Award elevates the work of these outstanding individuals to bring national visibility to their extraordinary contributions. Each awardee receives $125,000 to support their ongoing work, as well as opportunities to network and collaborate with other leaders from around the country. This year’s winners join a distinguished and diverse group of 173 previous award recipients.

The efforts of these 10 Community Health Leaders highlight the unmet need for access to quality affordable services that improve health and quality of life. Their work demonstrates the immense difference one person can make.

“The 2010 Community Health Leaders have created their own solutions to address the shortcomings in our health care system and to build healthier communities,” said Risa Lavizzo-Mourey, M.D., M.B.A., president and chief executive officer of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “These leaders have taken personal and professional risks to help the people in their communities live healthier, better lives. Each of them, through their creativity, compassion and hard work, is revolutionizing health care and the meaning of health in this country one person and one community at a time.”

The 2010 Community Health Leaders are:

Josephine Mercado, J.D., founder, Hispanic Health Initiatives, Inc., Casselberry, Fla.
When Mercado retired from her career as a lawyer in New York and moved to Florida, she learned quickly that there was little or no statistical information to document the delivery of basic health care services or information specifically to Hispanic or Black populations. Using her legal background, Mercado founded Hispanic Health Initiatives, which empowers Central Florida’s Hispanic community to make informed decisions about their health, wellness and care options. Mercado rallied an army of volunteers to educate migrant and uninsured communities about wellness and disease prevention. Since June 2000, her organization has provided health forums, health fairs, health classes and screening events to thousands of Central Florida families.

Susan Rodriguez, president and founding director, Sisterhood Mobilized for AIDS/HIV Research and Treatment (SMART), New York.
Rodriguez found out that she had HIV after her husband tested positive for the virus in 1995. After it was determined that her toddler daughter had acquired HIV perinatally, Rodriguez took action. In 1998, she co-founded SMART University, a grassroots treatment and prevention education program. SMART, a project of the Fund for the City of New York, teaches uninsured and underinsured women how to survive and thrive in the face of HIV and AIDS. SMART addresses disparities in health care; empowers low-income, HIV-positive women of color with the tools and information they need to make informed health care decisions; and helps them advocate for quality HIV care for themselves and their families.

Andru Ziwasimon-Zeller, M.D., founder, Casa de Salud Medical Office, Albuquerque, N.M.
Ziwasimon-Zeller was a family physician at a local hospital when he learned that the hospital was subjecting low-income and uninsured patients to unfair payment and collection practices. When, as a co-founder of the Community Coalition for Healthcare Access, he joined with patients to protest the policies, the hospital asked him to resign from its adjunct faculty. He now works as a peer with members of his community to operate Casa de Salud, a health and wellness clinic for low-income and uninsured patients. Casa de Salud combines conventional and natural medical practices to meet its patients’ physical and spiritual health needs in a culturally sensitive environment. A central mission of Casa de Salud is advocating for public policies to improve access to care.

Judy Berry, founder, Lakeview Ranch Dementia Care Foundation, Darwin, Minn.
Berry's mother had dementia and was unable to get the kind of care she needed, because dementia care services were not tailored to the needs of individual patients and their families. In memory of her mother, Berry used her own funds to create a facility that provides specialized dementia care that addresses emotional and spiritual needs in addition to physical needs. Lakeview Ranch also works to reduce the use of drugs to manage aggressive behavior, resulting in a 93 percent decrease in behavior-related hospitalizations. The facility serves patients of all income levels and provides scholarships through the Dementia Care Foundation Scholarship Fund, which helps to offset the deficit in Medicaid reimbursement for low-income patients.

Dana Harvey, M.S., executive director, Mandela MarketPlace, Oakland, Calif.
Harvey established a food cooperative in the community of West Oakland to provide organic and locally grown foods to people who did not have access to a well-stocked grocery store. Her organization is a pioneer in development, application and assessment of community food systems. Mandela Marketplace links unmet community demand for affordable fresh foods with underserved, local minority producers who use sustainable farming practices. Mandela Foods Cooperative, just one part of the organization, is a worker-owned collaborative that offers education, job training and employment opportunities. Mandela Marketplace also incubates other collaborative enterprises. It serves an economically distressed neighborhood not only by expanding economic opportunity, but also by increasing self-reliance. Harvey is committed to ensuring that low-income families have a political voice and access to public resources that can improve their quality of life.

Joe Hollendoner, M.S.W., chief program officer, Howard Brown Health Center, Chicago.
Hollendoner founded the Broadway Youth Center, a program of the Howard Brown Health Center, to support young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who are homeless. Forging partnerships with local nonprofit and for-profit organizations, Hollendoner helps provide at-risk LGBT youth with access to an array of services, including primary care and employment opportunities. The program is the largest provider of HIV testing and counseling for youth in Illinois, administering some 2,000 HIV tests each year. HIV testing is provided through a peer-based program in which young people administer tests to other youth. Those diagnosed with HIV can enroll in the center's "HIV+" youth program, where they receive free medical care, case management, therapy and peer-support services.

Roseanna Means, M.D., president and chief medical officer, Women of Means, Wellesley, Mass.
Means left a lucrative private practice to provide care to poor and homeless women in the greater Boston area. Women of Means organizes teams of volunteer doctors and staff nurses who visit shelters in and around Boston to cut through red tape and provide free, patient-centered medical care to women and children. She educates medical students and residents to recognize the unique sensitivities and needs of women experiencing homelessness.

Fran Rooker, co-founder and board member, Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia, Roanoke, Va.; The Jason Foundation, Radford, Va.
When Rooker's 11-year-old son Jason died as the result of a brain injury, she channeled her grief into establishing critically needed community-based services for other brain injury survivors in her area and beyond. She founded the Jason Foundation, which advocates on behalf of people living with brain injury, and later launched Brain Injury Services of Southwest Virginia to provide direct services to help survivors and their families rebuild their lives.

Shira Shavit, M.D., director, Transitions Clinic, San Francisco.
Working in a prison as a young family physician, Shavit found that prisoners with high rates of HIV and hepatitis were being released without health information or a care plan. As director of Transitions Clinic, she has led a community-based effort to create a medical home tailored to the health needs of former prisoners. In addition to providing primary care for hundreds of recently released inmates and their families, Shavit is an active member of San Francisco's Reentry Council, working with local leaders to design citywide policies to improve the health of people returning from prison to the San Francisco community. She also designed the curriculum for the first national certificate program, at the City College of San Francisco, to train people with a history of incarceration to become community health workers.

Kris Volcheck, D.D.S., M.B.A., dental director, Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS) Dental Clinic for the Homeless, Phoenix.
After selling his private dental practice, Volcheck began searching for a new, more fulfilling career. Volcheck volunteered to deliver food to homeless people, and worked as a case manager at a homeless shelter. Here he witnessed the extensive dental needs of this community and the dire social costs of poor oral health. Volcheck established the CASS Dental Clinic for the Homeless to provide comprehensive oral health services to this underserved population. Recently, Volcheck began working with other community leaders to launch school-based dental clinics for impoverished students in four elementary schools in south Phoenix, providing preventive care as well as comprehensive restorative treatments.

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation established the Community Health Leaders Award to recognize individuals who overcome daunting obstacles to improve health and health care in their communities. Today, there are 188 outstanding Community Health Leaders from nearly all states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

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.