APHA announces 2020 awards for excellence in public health

Date: Oct 07 2020

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.

This year’s awards will be presented Tuesday, Oct. 27, at 6:30 p.m. MST during the virtual APHA 2020 Annual Meeting and Expo, which officially kicks off Oct. 24.

“Let’s celebrate the accomplishments and dedication of these outstanding public health leaders and advocates,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “Their contributions have helped strengthen the field, create healthier communities, and will help us confront the worst public health crisis in a century.”

This year’s honorees include:

Robert Ross, MD, MPA, president and CEO of the California Endowment, will receive the Sedgwick Memorial Medal for Distinguished Service in Public Health for his work to protect the health and well-being of vulnerable populations and improve knowledge and practice among public health professionals. From his time leading the Philadelphia Department of Public Health to his work at the helm of the California Endowment, Ross has been a champion for increased public health funding, served as a leading voice on health equity and the social determinates of health, and is an ardent advocate for policies that support health.

Robert Cramer, PhD, associate professor and Irwin Belk distinguished scholar of health research in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of North Carolina-Charlotte will receive the APHA Award for Excellence, for his contributions to suicide prevention training for health care providers, program implementation and evaluation for vulnerable communities, and service toward scientific integrity. Cramer’s Core Competency Model of Suicide Prevention Training is widely regarded and currently used by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Anthony S. Fauci MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, will receive APHA’s Presidential Citation for his lifetime of service in shaping our nation’s response to the greatest public health challenges of the last 40 years. Fauci’s research in infectious diseases, the treatment of respiratory disorders, diarrheal diseases, tuberculosis and malaria has helped save countless lives around the world. And in the face of COVID-19, Fauci’s scientific leadership has brought comfort to the nation and strengthened the resolve of front-line health workers and the public health community.

U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, speaker of the House of Representatives, will receive APHA’s 2020 Distinguished Public Health Legislator of the Year award for her ongoing support on critical public health issues. Pelosi is being honored for her leadership on passing legislation to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, including critical emergency funding for our nation’s state and local health departments, her ongoing dedication to protecting and strengthening the Affordable Care Act and its Prevention and Public Health Fund, and her long-time support for commonsense legislation to address the epidemic of U.S. gun violence.

Sara Cody, MD, health officer and public health director at the County of Santa Clara Public Health Department in California, will receive the Milton and Ruth Roemer Prize for Creative Local Public Health Work for her extraordinary leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Cody’s decisive actions led to the first county-wide lockdown order at a time when the nation was struggling for direction, resulting in early local control of the outbreak. Cody’s science-based approach saved countless lives in her community.

Camara P. Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, the 2019-2020 Evelyn Green Davis fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, will receive the APHA Executive Director Citation for her longtime efforts to advance and support APHA through her leadership in the Association’s Sections and Caucuses, her service on the APHA Executive Board and, most notably, her term as APHA president. Jones is also being recognized for her mentoring work with young APHA members and her pioneering research linking racism and social inequities to poor health.

Brenda Stevenson-Marshall, PhD, MPH, MAE, retired academic dean and special projects liaison at Gonzaga University, will receive the Lyndon Haviland Public Health Mentoring Award for her unwavering support, encouragement and passion in advocating for students and early-career professionals, and her work to engage and welcome mentees within APHA membership.

Claire Brindis, DrPH, MPH, distinguished professor of pediatrics and emerita director of the Philip R. Lee Institute for Health Policy Studies at the University of California-San Francisco, will receive the Martha May Eliot Award for her lifetime of service to the field of maternal and child health. Brindis’ leadership has led to groundbreaking health services and policies that impact multiple maternal and child health populations. She is also being recognized for her work as mentor to the next generation of maternal and child health leaders.

Kathy Ko Chin, president and CEO of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Health Forum, will receive the Helen Rodríguez-Trías Social Justice Award for her commitment to the health and well-being of Asian, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities and her efforts to advance health equity. For over 40 years, Ko Chin has worked to ensure access to quality health care, advance women’s health and ensure underrepresented groups have a seat at the table.

Omar A. Escontrías, DrPH, MPH, senior director of policy research at the American Dental Education Association, will receive the Ayman El-Mohandes Young Professional Public Health Innovation Award for his work in developing evidence-based research strategies in support of health policy in Arizona, both at the state and local level. Escontrías’ research and advocacy efforts have helped bridge the divide between policymakers and stakeholders, which is key to achieving community health improvements. 



The American Public Health Association champions the health of all people and all communities. We are the only organization that combines a nearly 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.