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APHA announces 2023 awards for excellence in public health

Date: Aug 31 2023

Contact: Media Relations

Every year, the American Public Health Association honors excellence in public health leadership and innovation, from state and local health officials to those speaking up for public health from the halls of Congress.

During APHA’s 2023 Annual Meeting and Expo, which officially kicks off Nov. 12, this year’s awards will be presented at an event on Monday, Nov. 13, 12:30-2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased during the registration process or can be added by logging back in to your registration record. 

“These outstanding public health leaders and advocates are truly inspiring,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “In many different ways, each of them has strengthened the field and helped create healthier communities. They, and everyone else working tirelessly the last few years to advance the public’s health, should be commended and proud of their impact.” 

This year’s honorees include:

Nancy Krieger, PhD, MS, professor of social epidemiology, American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professor at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, will receive the 2023 Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health for her activism and research surrounding health equity and social science. Widely published, Krieger is known for her study of the social determinants of health—how where one is born, lives and works affects their well-being—and how structural racism affects health, especially since the onset of COVID-19. She continues to educate public health professionals on how social inequality affects health as the co-founder and chair of APHA’s Spirit of 1848 Caucus.

Rebecca Seguin-Fowler, PhD, RDN, LD, CSCS, associate director, Institute for Advancing Health through Agriculture; chief scientific officer, Healthy Texas; and professor, Department of Nutrition, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Texas A&M University, will receive the 2023 APHA Award for Excellence for her research and development of nutrition and physical activity interventions targeting rural America and underserved populations. With support from multiple agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the United States Department of Agriculture, Seguin-Fowler has created physical activity and nutrition education programs that communities across the country have implemented. As director of the StrongPeople research project since 2003, Seguin-Fowler’s work makes community-based nutrition, exercise and strength training classes available to mid-life and older adults in over two dozen states. In Texas, Seguin-Fowler’s work focuses on reducing chronic disease and improving childhood nutrition through assessments, data analysis and local programming that brings fresh food and nutrition education to rural and urban areas. 

Robert Ross, MD, MPA, president and CEO of the California Endowment, will receive the 2023 APHA Executive Director Citation for prioritizing and funding community organizations whose work advances racial and health equity across California. Ross, who will retire from the private nonprofit in 2024, led the organization for over two decades in its quest to enhance education, inclusive community development, health care and more for California citizens who need it the most. A highlight of the California Endowment’s impact is its Building Healthy Communities initiative, which focused on lowering health inequities, incarceration rates and barriers to care in 14 California communities over the span of a decade.

Singer, songwriter and actress Dolly Parton will receive the 2023 APHA Presidential Citation for her donations to COVID-19 research, support of marginalized groups and devotion to childhood literacy. Parton’s $1 million donation to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in April 2020 partially funded the development of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. She has also voiced public support for the LGBTQ+ community through her embrace of same-sex marriage and disapproval of legislation targeting trans people and designated bathroom use. Her decades-long commitment to childhood reading has gone global thanks to her Imagination Library, which has given away over 213 million books to children across Australia, Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and the U.S. since 1995.

Angela Diaz, MD, PhD, MPH, director, Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center, will receive the 2023 Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award for her lifelong work delivering quality health care to vulnerable young adults and adolescents. Since 1989, Diaz has been director of Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center in New York City, which gives culturally appropriate care to over 12,000 patients annually and financial assistance for medications, lab tests and transportation to appointments. She is also an advocate for policy and public health strategies that reduce and prevent child trafficking, and served on a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine committee that influenced the creation of state and federal child trafficking laws.

Samer Jabbour, MD, MPH, professor of public health practice, faculty of health sciences at the American University of Beirut (outgoing) and researcher, Syrian Center for Policy Research, Beirut, Lebanon, will receive the 2023 Victor Sidel and Barry Levy Award for Peace for alerting the international health care community about human rights violations in Arab countries devastated by war. Jabbour has tracked international humanitarian law violations as a founding chair of the Global Alliance on War, Conflict and Health, and was the co-chair of The Lancet-American University of Beirut Commission on Syria: Health in Conflict. As co-chair, and one of the commission’s founders, Jabbour called on health care professionals worldwide to condemn the leveling of health care facilities in countries such as Syria and advocate for peace.

Allison Arwady, MD, MPH, the former commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, will receive the 2023 Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work for her work in reducing health disparities in communities hit hardest by COVID-19. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Arwady helped form the city’s Community Health Response Corps, a network of Chicago-based community groups tasked with boosting access to personal protective equipment and COVID-19 vaccinations in underserved neighborhoods. Under Arwady’s leadership, the department regularly posted up-to-date city infection data online and held weekly “Ask Dr. Arwady” live streams via the Chicago Department of Public Health’s Facebook page.

Yan Wang, PhD, MS, assistant professor of epidemiology, University of Florida, will receive the 2023 Ayman El-Mohandes Young Professional Public Health Innovation Award for her creative approach to studying substance use and addiction science. Wang’s research includes the use of wearable biosensors that can detect the presence of alcohol and can help improve the health of populations more susceptible to substance abuse. She has also identified a research gap on the growing use of cannabis among older adults and received a National Institute on Aging grant to study how cannabis affects their health. 

Sharon Laing, PhD, MS, associate professor, School of Nursing and Healthcare Leadership, University of Washington Tacoma, and adjunct associate professor, University of Washington Seattle School of Public Health, will receive the 2023 Lyndon Haviland Public Health Mentoring Award for guiding young health professionals involved in community-based research and student programming. In an effort to diversify public health research, Laing recruited minority students to undergraduate research teams, and assisted them in finding scholarships and grant funding to travel and present their research. A member of APHA’s Committee on Health Equity, Laing was also credited with helping secure panelists for a committee webinar aimed at recent public health graduates.

Jeannette Ickovics, PhD, the Samuel and Liselotte Herman professor of social and behavioral sciences, Yale School of Public Health, will receive the 2023 Martha May Eliot Award for her innovative work in prenatal health care and her mentorship. Ickovics is the first person to receive National Institutes of Health funding for a randomized controlled trial on group prenatal care—joining pregnant people with similar backgrounds together for patient education and emotional support. In addition to shaping group prenatal care curriculum, she was the founding director of the NIH-funded “T-32” training grant, which exposes burgeoning health care workers to policy, social and behavioral research.

Pedro Rodrigues Curi Hallal, PhD, MSc, the Alvin and Ruth Sandall professor of kinesiology and director of the Master of Public Health program, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, will receive the 2023 David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health for his COVID-19 research and public health messaging in the face of political opposition. Hallal developed the EPICOVID-19 project, which tracked the spread of COVID-19 across Brazil and uncovered racial health disparities that were regularly dismissed by then-Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Hallal shared Brazil’s COVID-19 health data with the world despite threats to his livelihood and well-being from the Brazilian government. Before he moved to the U.S., Hallal’s data influenced some Brazilian cities and states to develop COVID-19 public health prevention policies.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will receive the 2023 APHA Distinguished Public Health Legislator of the Year Award for championing reproductive rights, same-sex marriage protections and a robust U.S. public health safety net. In July 2022, Baldwin introduced the Respect for Marriage Act to ensure federal protections for married same-sex couples such as access to Social Security benefits. President Joe Biden signed the Respect for Marriage Act into law in December 2022. This March, Baldwin introduced the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023 to cement and restore abortion rights for all women. In addition, her leadership as chair of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee has resulted in budget increases for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Health Resources and Services Administration for fiscal year 2023.


The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a 150-year perspective, a broad-based member community and the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health. Learn more at www.apha.org.

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