Public Health Champions
What is the Public Health Champions Awards?
The Vermont Public Health Association's Public Health Champion Awards are given each year to an individual and a team/organization who has made extraordinary contributions to public health within the state of Vermont.
Mark Levine, MD, VT Commissioner of Health - Individual Award
Dr. Mark Levine's dedication to the health of Vermonters has been evident through his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as his work in advocating for preventative health practices in primary care prior to COVID-19. His leadership as Vermont’s Commissioner of Health was evident in the way that he and his team activated Vermont’s emergency crisis response, resulting in outcomes that were far less severe than was seen in other states. Dr, Levine served as a catalyst for Vermont’s collective response by coordinating the actions of public and private organizations including the VT Agency of Education, VT School Nurses Association, VT National Guard, the Association of Hospitals and Healthcare systems, and many others. He also implemented plans and programs to improve surveillance efforts that recognized and responded to the unique challenges faced by underserved and vulnerable populations. Additionally, he was a steadfast voice of evidence based, data driven information which helped to inform and educate everyone from policy makers to hard working Vermonters.
Wendy Walsh, RN, Public Health Nurse - Individual Award
This award honors Wendy Walsh’s 44 years of service to Vermonters as a Public Health Nurse and staff Vermont Department of Health as she assumed increasing responsibilities to meet emerging needs. Most recently she has served as co-leader of the Department’s Outbreak Prevention and Response Team coordinating dozens of public health nurses across the state to be the local points of contact and guidance for schools, businesses, healthcare organizations, and congregate living facilities as they navigated though the COVID-19 cases that impacted their organizations and facilities.
With this award, we recognize Wendy's role as a healthcare provider who has advanced health equity by addressing and reducing health disparities, inspiring and supporting strategic partnerships, working to expand public health nursing, and helping to ensure that Vermont children do not go hungry. Her achievements serve as a model for other public health leaders.
Vermont National Guard COVID-19 Mapping Team -
Citizen-soldiers have been an important part of protecting Vermonters for over 300 years. The Vermont National Guard COVID-19 Mapping Team unit admirably continued this tradition as evidenced by their efforts during the pandemic. As part of the team’s charge to assist the Vermont Department of Health’s contact tracing efforts, the team sought and engaged in collaborations utilizing language interpreters, cultural brokers and other community assets to engage with communities in ways that demonstrate cultural humility and linguistic sensitivity. Not only did the Vermont National Guard COVID-19 Mapping Team collect information to support contact tracing, they served as an important source of information to individuals, communities, the Department of Health, and area healthcare centers. As a result, Vermont was spared from some of the worst impacts of COVID-19 that were experienced in other states. The team's efforts serve as a model for other organizations and teams in advancing health equity for all Vermonters.
Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila - Individual Award
Dr. Avila has been involved in grants in the state and at the national level providing consultation, training and technical assistance on cultural and linguistic competence, health equity, and social justice in healthcare to more than 152 organizations, including all mental health agencies and hospitals in Vermont. She has demonstrated commitment to advancing health equity and addressing and eliminating health disparities by inspiring collaboration through strategic partnerships to create a culture of health in Vermont, working to expand community health workers and outreach to former refugee and immigrant communities in the state, and training more than 10,000 professionals across 27 states in understanding the connection between racial, gender, social, economic, educational, and health disparities and the role social determinants of health play in populations’ health outcomes.
Dr. John Brooklyn, Dr. Harry Chen, Barbara Cimaglio, Beth Tanzman - Team Award
Dr. John Brooklyn Dr. Harry Chen
Barbara Cimaglio Beth Tanzman
Dr. Brooklyn, Dr. Chen, Barbara and Beth designed and implemented the Hub and Spoke system of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), supporting people in recovery from opioid use disorder in Vermont, a program that has shown significant positive impacts for MAT participants such as decreased opioid use and in injection drug use, decreased emergency department visits, and increased satisfaction with their own lives.
Bess is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and theater producer based in the Northeast Kingdom whose films shine a light on some of the most important public health issues. Her film “The Hungry Heart” about the opioid crisis in Vermont won the American Society of Addiction Medicine Award for outstanding media and was honored by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin as the film that served as a catalyst for opiate addiction awareness across the state. Her other films include “Ask Us Who We Are” about foster care in Vermont; “Journey into Courage,” about women survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, “Here Today,” about families struggling with heroin addiction, and “Coming Home,” about people returning from prison.
2018 ChampionsPaul Bengtson
Paul embarked on a career in health and human services, working in teaching hospitals, in urban settings in NYC, at a rural hospital in the mid-south, and on a de novo hospital project in Missouri. He has served as Chair of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Governing Council for Small and Rural Hospitals, which includes 1,700 hospitals nationwide. He served as CEO for 30 years at NVRH in St. Johnsbury, where he lives with his family, Paul has led or participated in many health reform initiatives at the local, state, and national levels. His dedication to civic life is also demonstrated by his service on many community boards, including Chair of Catamount Arts; Board Chair of the Fairbanks Museum; and lead organizer of the nationally recognized NEK Prosper!.
Jan Carney, MD, MPH
Dr. Carney’s leadership promotes integration of public health and clinical care. Among a myriad publications, presentations, appointments, and projects focused on public health improvement, Dr. Carney served as Vermont’s Commissioner of Health for 13 years under Governors Madeline Kunin, Richard Snelling, and Howard Dean, built a program for public health in the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and has served in multiple leadership roles in organizations including the American College of Physicians, where she has been a fellow since 1991.
About the association
VtPHA is a membership organization which facilitates collaboration among people who care about public health and are interested in protecting and promoting the health of Vermont residents.
VtPHA is an Affiliate of the American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is the national voice of public health and champions the health of all people and all communities. They are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health and a member community from all public health disciplines and over 40 countries. Learn more at www.apha.org.
Copyright © 2018 Vermont Public Health Association. All rights reserved.