Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Kentucky Public Health Association honors 10 public-health leaders, two health departments and a racetrack

Public health promotes and protects the health of people and their communities, largely through surveillance and prevention programs, and much of what people in public health do often goes unnoticed. But once a year the Kentucky Public Health Association honors outstanding contributors to public health. Here are the award winners for 2018, honored during the association's 70th annual conference on April 27 in Covington.

Sue Thomas-Cox, a nurse administrator with the Chronic Disease Branch of the state health department, won the Outstanding Public Health Nurse Award. Among other achievements, Thomas-Cox was instrumental in obtaining a multimillion-dollar Centers for Disease Control and Prevention grant to increase colorectal cancer screening in the state. Due in large part to her work, the state has moved from 49th to 19th in colorectal cancer screening, annual cases of such cancers have declined more than 25 percent, and mortality from them has fallen more than 30 percent.

Melinda Carey, an administrative specialist with the department's Division of Epidemiology and Health Planning, won an award for her contributions in the area of administrative support. Carey's nomination came with 26 letters of support, several of which described her as "the go-to person" who "goes the extra mile and makes the workplace enjoyable."

Robert Slaton of Georgetown, who has served in various health leadership capacities for more than five decades, was honored for his lifelong contribution to the improvement of public health. He was state health commissioner,  Gov. Brereton Jones' special assistant for health reform, external affairs director for the former Trover Clinic in Madisonville, and held several positions with the University of Louisville. He was a founding member of the group that developed Passport Health Plan. He is chair of the Community Advisory Council of the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky and the national advisory board of the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, which publishes Kentucky Health News. “His contributions to improved health outcomes in the commonwealth will long outlive his numerous years of service to the people,” a nominator wrote.

Jennifer Hunter, director of clinical services at the Northern Kentucky District Health Department, received a career achievement award. Hunter has worked as a public-health nurse for 28 years. A few highlights: leading a team of six nurses in relief efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina in 2005; and her work around the heroin epidemic, including a hepatitis C testing pilot that has since gone statewide, advocating for syringe exchange programs, and her work with women with substance-use disorders.

Doraine F. Bailey, who works with the breastfeeding support services at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department, was honored for her "exceptional contribution to the health and well-being of mothers and children in Kentucky."  Bailey was described as a "tireless champion for breastfeeding and maternal education," going beyond her job requirements to promote breastfeeding at community events and by serving as a guest lecturer in the University of Kentucky nutrition and dietetics program.

John Q. Moses, an HIV linkage navigator with the Lexington health department, was honored for his "significant contribution to benefit our most vulnerable population -- the indigent and uninsured." Moses has spent his career serving those at risk for and affected by HIV and STDs and was instrumental in launching Lexington's syringe exchange program.

The Christian and Todd County Health Departments were honored for their work on the August 2017 solar eclipse, which required several years of "hard work and planning to prepare for the influx of people and potential dangers." Visitors from over 47 states and 25 countries attended events in the area.

Nancy Merk, a board-certified lactation nutrition supervisor and regional breastfeeding coordinator with the Northern Kentucky Health Department, was honored for her 30 years in public health. Merk's leadership was instrumental in the health department receiving the Loving Support Award of Excellence Gold Level Award for Exemplary Breastfeeding Support and Practices from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Shana M. Peterson, a health educator at the Jessamine County Health Department, was awarded for her exceptional contribution in health education. Peterson has implemented many evidence based health education prevention programs in schools and has been a strong advocate for local smoke-free policies.

Lorrene Rawlins, nursing director at the Wedco District Health Department in Bourbon, Harrison and Scott counties, was honored for her exceptional home health services. Through her leadership, Rawlins was able to reduce costs in other areas of her department to create a budget to directly care for indigent patients.

Jody L. Schweitzer, a state epidemiologist, won the first-ever Outstanding Epidemiologist of the Year award. She was honored in large part for her work in implementing the state's immunization information system, the Kentucky Immunization Registry, which has been recognized on the state and national level.

Kentucky Speedway was honored "as an industry who has demonstrated exemplary leadership for the commonwealth's health. "

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