Steven Whitman, PhD, MPhil, MS, director of the Sinai Urban Health Institute in Chicago, received the 2012 Helen Rodriguez-Trìas Social Justice Award.
The award honors public health workers who have worked toward social justice for underserved and disadvantaged populations.
Whitman is considered by his colleagues as a leader who breaks new ground to establish safer, healthier and more just communities. For 45 years he has challenged conventional thinking about health inequity by emphasizing that change requires not only analysis but also courage and the will to genuinely engage communities.
Among the many important projects at the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Whitman is in charge of the evaluations of health interventions and ongoing programs as well as community-based epidemiology. Research projects at the institute have focused on such issues as community well-being, HIV testing, counseling and prevention, quality improvement for breast cancer research and treatment and improved outcomes in underserved communities, asthma disparities, community health worker effectiveness and diabetes interventions. He helped secure funding to open a “Diabetes Empowerment Center” in a marginalized Puerto Rican Community to give residents a place to monitor blood sugar levels and find educational resources and counseling.
“Mr. Whitman’s devotion to the health needs of the community has become a source of inspiration to young Hispanics and others he comes into contact with to pursue higher education in the areas of medicine and public health,” said U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.
Previously, Whitman directed the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Epidemiology Program and was senior epidemiologist for the Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research at Northwestern University, where he led studies on epilepsy in the urban environment, progressive relaxation effects on seizure frequency, community-based prevention in a low-income community and breast and cervical cancer among low-income black women in Chicago. He also taught mathematics and English at the high school and college levels and was director of the Health Research Training Program at the New York City Department of Health.
Among his many awards and honors, Whitman was named to the Avon Foundation’s National Access to Care Advisory Committee on Breast Health, won the Henry P. Russe Citation for Exemplary Compassion in Healthcare from the Institute of Medicine of Chicago and Rush University Medical Center and the American Hospital Association’s NOVA Award for work in pediatric asthma. He has co-authored numerous peer-reviewed publications on health disparities and other issues and edited a book (with others) on Urban Health, published by Oxford University Press.
Whitman uses science to call for action against social inequity and racism and to work also on improving women’s and children’s health and improve access to care. Sinai Health System President and CEO Alan H. Channing said of Whitman: “His vision of social justice has been built on the idea that health is a right, not a privilege, and that access to care and quality of care should be equal for all people.”