2009 Public Health Heroes

Research!America and our national public health partners celebrate our public health heroes every year on the Monday before Thanksgiving. These public health heroes exemplify the work that Public Health Thank You Day was created to honor:

Elena Bastida

Elena Bastida is a national expert in Hispanic health issues, and knows that good information is only half the battle in improving peoples' health. "Research on the social and behavioral aspects of health is crucial to getting the information to the people who need it and resonating with them. We need research to improve the way we provide health and health information to the population as a whole - if you are better informed, you will be smarter and more careful when accessing health services and taking care of yourself."

Denise Cardo Denise Cardo, MD, CDC -- Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion 

Denise Cardo and her public health colleagues protect our health everyday through their research, in ways we sometimes cannot see. "Sometimes we take public health for granted and only when it's not there or if fails do we see the importance of it. Public health and public health research is not a one time investment - we continue to have new procedures in health care, new threats to identify and prevent, new bugs and microorganisms that become resistant to drugs."

Martin Cetron Martin Cetron, MD, CDC -- Division of Global Migration and Quarantine 

Martin Cetron and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Global Migration and Quarantine Division have a tough job: protect the health of every American. Overseeing today's globally mobile population offers Cetron a unique perspective on the interconnectedness of our world. "We live in a globalized society. The public health concerns of the world are also those of the U.S.; we are forever intimately connected. We have shortened a trip around the world from weeks to hours, and in this same time frame, the population has grown from one to six billion. The CDC has a responsibility to prevent disease spread in the U.S. and to protect Americans' health. With infectious diseases accounting for up to a quarter of global deaths, we must continue to research, identify and apply the basic, simple interventions that have a big impact."

Gary Cox, JD -- Oklahoma City-County Health Department

As a seasoned public health official, Gary Cox looks at the health of his community, and its future, from the inside-out. "Health happens at a local level. Only about 10% of our health occurs in the doctor's office. However, it is our everyday regular activities, in our communities and schools and neighborhoods, and with our local public health department, where our health primarily occurs. We rely on our knowledge from research and prevention to continue to keep our health in our daily lives and communities, and out of the doctor's office."

Barbara Ferrer, PhD, MPH -- Boston Public Health Commission

Barbara Ferrer knows the investment in public health research extends far greater than just benefits for health; it is a cornerstone in ensuring social justice, equality and opportunity for every member of this country."My hope is that in 5 years, because of a better use of public dollars to support public health research and infrastructure, we can close the health disparities gap in our nation and identify what are the best practices and implement them across the country."

Lois Hall, Executive Director -- Ohio Public Health Association

"Most people don't know the role that public health and research have in their daily lives, which is the paradox of public health at its best. When you exercise without getting injured, when you drive without getting in an accident, when you eat out without getting sick -- means we were there first." 

Ali Khan Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH -- CDC, National Center for Zoonotic, Vector-borne, and Enteric Diseases

"Studying the interaction between animals, humans and the environment is a one-health approach that is critical to improving human health and tackling future health threats," says Ali Khan. "Diseases don't stay still - they are always innovating and our environment is continuously changing. We cannot be satisfied with science as it is. We need research to innovate just as the bugs are innovating."

Corinne Peek-Asa, PhD, MPH -- University of Iowa, College of Public Health

Corinne Peek-Asa is leaving little remnants of her research all over town, inconspicuously. Her research warrants much greater acknowledgment for it is these tested ‘interventions' in place that work to protect us from violence, crime and injury. "Investing in research is the learning step we need to move towards effective prevention. We all know that continuing to treat poor health is expensive. Investing in public health is the best investment we can make in optimal health and we won't do it right if we don't do the research."

Gary Rozier Gary Rozier, DDS, MPH -- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gillings School of Global Public Health

Gary Rozier has spent his career in public health dentistry, dedicated to improving the lives of America's young and disadvantaged children through comprehensive dental and oral health teaching and research. "There are millions of children with untreated dental disease -- six and a half million with dental insurance through Medicaid. What is wrong with this picture? In addition to the threats on our children's health, the dental bill for our country is close to $100 billion. We need continued investment in research to identify and address the big gap between expenditure and the needs of our population."

Kirk Smith, PhD, MPH -- Professor of Global Environmental Health and Director of the Global Health and Environment Program, University of California Berkeley School of Public Health

Kirk Smith is a leading researcher in global health, best known for his work on environmental and health issues in developing countries. Smith focuses his studies on those issues which are causing a major burden to health and the climate as a result of air pollution from household energy use. "Our investment in prevention and research is an investment in our nation. A strong economy, an educated society, a competitive workforce... all depend on healthy people, the result of our knowledge of prevention. If we rely on treatment without an investment in prevention, then we have failed."

Edward Sondik Edward Sondik, PhD -- CDC, National Center for Health Statistics

Edward Sondik's work provides the foundation that helps Americans lead healthy lives. "The CDC's National Center for Health Statistics is the nation's principal government agency collecting statistics on Americans' health; we provide the picture of the landscape. This data, precise and detailed, is crucial to all health and medical research. It is fundamental to understanding our health and how to improve, protect and take charge of our own well being."

Adewale Troutman, MD, MPH -- Former Director, Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness

Adewale Troutman has an accomplished career in public health and leadership, and his numerous achievements establishing policies and initiatives for better health and health equity are creating a foundation in his local area in Louisville as a model for community health. "Health is a human right. I look forward to a future in this nation that acknowledges that as well."


Read about public health heroes who were profiled in 2008.

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