2008 Public Health Heroes

Research!America and our national public health partners celebrate our public health heroes every year on the Monday before Thanksgiving.

On Public Health Thank You Day, "we recognize our ‘health protection heroes' who work tirelessly every day to promote the health of people of all ages," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Louise Gerberding, MD, MPH in 2008. "The 14,000 public health professionals at the CDC.... say ‘thank you' to each of these heroes on the frontlines of health. As a result of their dedication, we are all able to live healthier, safer, and longer lives."

The Hon. Paul RogersThe Hon. Paul G. Rogers (1921-2008) was a public health hero who worked at the national level to achieve passage of legislation that continues to help all Americans.In his years in Congress, Rogers sponsored or played a major role in enacting major health legislation, including the Clean Air Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. 

Gerberding told The New York Times that Rogers had been "a champion for health in the broadest sense of the term. "He was an adamant advocate in Congress for what he believed was right and just," Gerberding said. "And health equity was chief among them: that all lives are equally valuable and everyone has a right to experience access to the best possible health."

These public health heroes have followed Paul Rogers' example in their own communities:

  Rex Archer, MD, MPD, City of Kansas City, Missouri, Health Department

Archer is a longstanding pioneer in the movement to make workplaces, hotels, bars and restaurants smoke free. He worked to pass significant smoke free legislation passed in Michigan, Maryland and now Kansas City. Leading the Kansas City Health Department, it has researched and adopted new cardiac resuscitation protocols which are saving the lives of people who have heart attacks. His goal is to get this research published, ultimately leading to nationwide adoption.  

Larissa Avilés-Santa, MD, MPH, FACP, FACE, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, NIH

"Public health research is the backbone of health in our society. How a community provides services to its residents who are sick and injured is determined by public health research. How a community determines how many hospitals, fire stations and police stations they will need is through studies in public health. How a community establishes emergency response systems is determined by public health research. A community cannot properly serve and protect the health of its people without public health research."

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, MPH

Lourdes Baezconde-Garbanati, PhD, MPH, is one of the originators of the tobacco control and prevention movement, with a special focus in the Hispanic community. She views research as a major part of that movement. "Community-based research is helping us to develop an accurate road map for enhancing public health especially when it comes to our efforts to stem tobacco use."

Susan Baker 

Susan P. Baker, MPH, ScD, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for Injury Research and Policy
Baker's research in injury prevention and driving safety has resulted in national passenger protection laws, saving thousands of lives, particularly those of infants and children. Dr. Baker says, "Without U.S. investment in public health research, things simply won't happen. We need a strong health department and public health workforce if we are going to do right by Americans."

Epi Bodhi

Epi Bodhi, MSPH, Amherst Health Department, MA

As director of the Amherst Health Department, Bodhi leads the department in systematically collecting, assembling, analyzing, and making available information on the health of the community. Bodhi and her public health colleagues develop and implement comprehensive public health policies, regulations, and legislation and provide services and educational opportunities that encourage healthy environments and lifestyles for the people of Amherst.

Vincent Castranova, PhD, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, CDC

Every day Castranova's public health research is helping to ensure that workplaces are safe and that consumers are using safe products. "A little bit of investment in public health research delivers a big public health return for America."

Edward Gregg

Edward Gregg, PhD, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

"The health of the public is so important to the well-being of this country's economy - to influence health requires a large investment of resources and good data."  

Alan Greenberg 

Alan E. Greenberg, MD, MPH, George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services
Greenberg's ground-breaking work in HIV/AIDS research has led the way to new preventions and safer procedures and treatments for HIV-infected patients and those at risk. He says, "The current U.S. investment in this epidemic is proof that if we dedicate the resources, we can help slow the rate of infection."

Robert Lynch 

Robert A. Lynch, PhD, MPH, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center
Lynch's research in rural Oklahoma led the community and elected officials to take action to protect families against hazardous lead levels. "We need to ensure that policymakers understand how public health protects us all every day."

James Mercy

James Mercy, PhD, National Center for Injury Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"Good public health research is at the heart of making good policy."

James Pirkle

James Pirkle, MD, PhD, National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
"We need to work to prevent the flow of disease by doing research to benefit people's health. The most proven, cost-effective ‘treatment' is, and always will be, prevention."

Sonja Rasmussen

Sonja Rasmussen, MD, MS, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division of Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities
"I am optimistic that this research will lead to improved lives and healthier Americans. And since it can take up to a generation to see results, support and investment must be multi-pronged and sustained."

James Regens

James L. Regens, PhD, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center for Biosecurity Research
Regens' research is protecting the military and all Americans from bioterrorism and emerging infectious diseases. "Public health research is an integral part of economic growth; leveraging scientific innovation is challenging, but essential."

  Lillian M. Shirley, RN, MPH, MPA, Multnomah County Health Department, Oregon

Shirley's research helps communities identify and improve on the health impact of public health concerns such as smoke-free housing, through policy change and education. "...We are all in this together and the health of our own families and communities cannot be separated from the health of the community at large."

Gregory Talavera Gregory Talavera, MD, MPH, San Diego State University

The research conducted by Talavera explores the culture-specific beliefs that serve as barriers to chronic disease prevention and control. "All levels of government must recognize the need to invest in public health research, one of the only types of scientific research that provides an immediate health benefit to the individuals and communities it serves."

Henrie Treadwell Henrie Treadwell, PhD, National Center for Primary Care, Morehouse School of Medicine 

"Suicides and homicides have increased for teenage African-American males, and the residual effect is impacting communities across America. This problem must be addressed, or we risk not being able to address the "cradle to prison" pipeline."

Policy Contacts

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Luck shouldn't play a role in why I'm alive.
Laurie MacCaskill, a seven-year pancreatic cancer survivor