Public Health Champion
The Vermont Public Health Association's Public Health Champion awards are given each year to an individual and a team/organization who has made extraordinary contributions to public health within the state of Vermont.
Dr. Maria Mercedes Avila - Individual Award
Dr. Avila has been involved in grants in the state and at the national level providing consultation, training and technical assistance on cultural and linguistic competence, health equity, and social justice in healthcare to more than 152 organizations, including all mental health agencies and hospitals in Vermont. She has demonstrated commitment to advancing health equity and addressing and eliminating health disparities by inspiring collaboration through strategic partnerships to create a culture of health in Vermont, working to expand community health workers and outreach to former refugee and immigrant communities in the state, and training more than 10,000 professionals across 27 states in understanding the connection between racial, gender, social, economic, educational, and health disparities and the role social determinants of health play in populations’ health outcomes.
Dr. John Brooklyn, Dr. Harry Chen, Barbara Cimaglio, Beth Tanzman - Team Award
Dr. John Brooklyn Dr. Harry Chen
Barbara Cimaglio Beth Tanzman
Dr. Brooklyn, Dr. Chen, Barbara and Beth designed and implemented the Hub and Spoke system of Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), supporting people in recovery from opioid use disorder in Vermont, a program that has shown significant positive impacts for MAT participants such as decreased opioid use and in injection drug use, decreased emergency department visits, and increased satisfaction with their own lives.
Bess is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and theater producer based in the Northeast Kingdom whose films shine a light on some of the most important public health issues. Her film “The Hungry Heart” about the opioid crisis in Vermont won the American Society of Addiction Medicine Award for outstanding media and was honored by Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin as the film that served as a catalyst for opiate addiction awareness across the state. Her other films include “Ask Us Who We Are” about foster care in Vermont; “Journey into Courage,” about women survivors of domestic violence and sexual abuse, “Here Today,” about families struggling with heroin addiction, and “Coming Home,” about people returning from prison.
2018 ChampionsPaul Bengtson
Paul embarked on a career in health and human services, working in teaching hospitals, in urban settings in NYC, at a rural hospital in the mid-south, and on a de novo hospital project in Missouri. He has served as Chair of the American Hospital Association’s (AHA) Governing Council for Small and Rural Hospitals, which includes 1,700 hospitals nationwide. He served as CEO for 30 years at NVRH in St. Johnsbury, where he lives with his family, Paul has led or participated in many health reform initiatives at the local, state, and national levels. His dedication to civic life is also demonstrated by his service on many community boards, including Chair of Catamount Arts; Board Chair of the Fairbanks Museum; and lead organizer of the nationally recognized NEK Prosper!.
Jan Carney, MD, MPH
Dr. Carney’s leadership promotes integration of public health and clinical care. Among a myriad publications, presentations, appointments, and projects focused on public health improvement, Dr. Carney served as Vermont’s Commissioner of Health for 13 years under Governors Madeline Kunin, Richard Snelling, and Howard Dean, built a program for public health in the College of Medicine at the University of Vermont, and has served in multiple leadership roles in organizations including the American College of Physicians, where she has been a fellow since 1991.
About the association
VtPHA is a membership organization which facilitates collaboration among people who care about public health and are interested in protecting and promoting the health of Vermont residents.
VtPHA is an Affiliate of the American Public Health Association (APHA). APHA is the national voice of public health and champions the health of all people and all communities. They are the only organization that combines a 140-plus year perspective, the ability to influence federal policy to improve the public’s health and a member community from all public health disciplines and over 40 countries. Learn more at www.apha.org.
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