UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

2007 public health heroes to be honored March 23

– The School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley, will honor the person who helped wipe out smallpox; a diet educator; a health care administrator and a hospital servicing the Chinese community at its 11th annual Public Health Heroes Awards Ceremony.

The awards, to be given on Friday, March 23, at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, recognize pioneers working toward improved health. Three individuals and an organization are chosen every year to spotlight the often unrecognized public health achievements that make a significant difference in people's everyday lives.

This year's recipients are:

Dr. D.A. Henderson, recipient of the International Hero award. He is best known for leading the World Health Organization's Smallpox Eradication Campaign. When he took the WHO post in 1966, there were more than 10 million cases of smallpox in more than 30 countries every year. Eleven years later, the last "wild" case of smallpox was recorded, and in 1980, a WHO Commission certified the worldwide eradication.

In recent years, Henderson has emerged as one of the word's pre-eminent experts on bioterrorism, serving in the Executive Office of the President as associate director of the federal Office of Science and Technology, founding the Johns Hopkins Center for Civilian Biodefense Strategies, and after the Sept. 11 attacks, serving as the first director of the nation's Office of Public Health Preparedness.

Dr. Dean Ornish, recipient of the National Hero award. He is being recognized for his work as a researcher and public educator on the role of diet and lifestyle and its impact on heart disease. Named by LIFE magazine as one of the 50 most influential members of his generation, Ornish is known for his clinical research demonstrating, for the first time, that comprehensive lifestyle changes may begin to reverse even severe coronary heart disease, without drugs or surgery. He recently directed the first randomized controlled trial demonstrating that comprehensive lifestyle changes may affect the progression of prostate cancer. His research has been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, The Lancet, Circulation, The New England Journal of Medicine, the American Journal of Cardiology, as well as in other respected publications.

Ornish is the founder, president and director of the nonprofit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, Calif., the author of five best-selling books and clinical professor of medicine at UC San Francisco. His work has been featured prominently by the news media, and he writes a regular column in Reader's Digest magazine and in Newsweek.

David J. Kears, recipient of the Regional Hero award. He is being honored for his decades of leadership in finding ways to expand access and improve quality for those most in need of mental health, alcohol, drug, public health, environmental health and medical services. As director of the Alameda County Health Care Services Agency since 1986, Kears has employed creative approaches such as public/private partnerships, performance-based contracting and independent funding for medical emergency services that have made the agency a nationwide model for health care. His creativity as an administrator is also evident in his leadership of the Alameda Alliance for Health, the first locally-run MediCal insurance plan in California.

Kears is responsible for many aspects of health care in Alameda County, including the Indigent Medical Care System, the Interagency Children's Policy Council, and Safe Passages, an Oakland-based initiative that brings together leaders in the city of Oakland, county agencies, and Oakland schools to help keep kids in school and engaged in positive activities.

Chinese Hospital, recipient of the Organizational Hero award. The hospital is an independent health care facility in San Francisco that provides culturally competent health services to the Chinese American community. The only institution of its kind in the United States, the hospital traces its history back to the early 1900s when residents of San Francisco's Chinatown were isolated and had no access to services provided by city hospitals. In 1923, out of desperate need for health care services, 15 Chinatown organizations banded together to create the Chinese Hospital Association, a new nonprofit corporation. They raised funds to build a new facility, Chinese Hospital, which opened at 835 Jackson St. in October 1925. By the mid-1970s, the hospital had outgrown this facility, and a new building was constructed at 845 Jackson St.

Today, the hospital maintains a licensed bed capacity of 54 beds. It provides emergency and intensive care services and a wide range of clinical and patient services. It also offers linguistically and culturally sensitive health education program and services to promote wellness and a healthier lifestyle through the Chinese Community Health Resource Center.

"These awardees are heroes in every sense of the word," said Stephen M. Shortell, dean of UC Berkeley's School of Public Health. "Over the past 11 years, we have been privileged to honor individuals and organizations for making significant contributions to preventing disease, protecting the public from harm, and actively promoting health."

Henderson's award will be presented by Dr. Larry Brilliant, executive director of Google.org, the search engine's philanthropic arm; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will present Ornish's award in absentia by video; Kears will receive his award from Anne Bakar, president and CEO of Telecare Corporation; and Dr. Rolland C. Lowe, former president of the California Medical Association, will present the award to Brenda Yee, CEO of Chinese Hospital.

Previous recipients of Public Health Heroes Awards have included actor Rob Reiner, U.N. Millennium Project director Jeffrey Sachs; and Roe v. Wade attorney Sarah Weddington.

More information about the awardees, as well as about tickets for the awards ceremony, is available at http://www.publichealthheroes.org.