Philadelphia, Pa., November 10, 2009 — The Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work, which recognizes a local health officer for outstanding creativity and innovation, was awarded this year to Mitchell H. Katz, MD.
Director of health and health officer for the City & County of San Francisco Department of Public Health, Katz has put forth tremendous effort toward improving the health of those living in communities throughout San Francisco. And his visionary work has, in many cases, translated to populations beyond the San Francisco area.
“While the challenges of leading a large, urban health department are many, he has consistently shown himself to be thoughtful, persistent and intelligent even in the face of opposition and controversy,” said Anne Kronenberg, deputy director of health for the San Francisco Department of Public Health, in a letter nominating Katz for the Roemer prize. “This is especially true of his leadership around the uninsured in San Francisco.”
Among the programs Katz has initiated or expanded to help the uninsured find coverage are Healthy San Francisco, which provides insurance regardless of income or pre-existing medical conditions, Healthy Kids, one of the first California programs to cover children and youth, and the Charity Care Project, which has improved the delivery of free and low-cost health care to the poor and underserved.
Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said the Healthy San Francisco program “illustrates Dr. Katz’s leadership skills and creativity.”
“Dr. Katz’s ability to bring together stakeholders from different worlds, charging them to work closely together to build this excellent program certainly qualifies him as a leader in ‘creative and innovative public health work,’” Pelosi said.
Educated at Yale, Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Francisco, Katz has worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health in many capacities, first as chief of the research branch in the AIDS Office, then as director of that office, director of epidemiology, disease control & AIDS, interim medical director for emergency health services and director for community health and safety. He has been director of health and health officer there since 1997.
Katz also is an attending physician for inpatient medical service and the Ward 86 outpatient AIDS clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. He is clinical professor of medicine and of epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco, and has published extensively in peer-reviewed journals on such topics as cancer screening, HIV trends and risk factors, banning tobacco sales in pharmacies and medical research design. He serves on the commission of the Health Services Board, is president of the board of directors of the San Francisco Health Authority and consultant to the San Francisco Medical Society’s board of directors.
Among his many honors, Katz received the Award of Achievement from San Francisco Suicide Prevention, the Outstanding Community Service Award from the Northern California Chapter of the American College of Physicians, the James R. Harrison Award from the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Agent of Social Change Award from the Institute for Community Health Outreach.