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CPHA Awards 2020

Congratulations to the 2020 CPHA Award Winners! 

Award for Excellence in Policy: 

Established in 1988 by CPHA, this award is presented annually to a person or organization for highly visible past or present efforts within local, state or national efforts in support of public health issues.

Recipient:  Elisabeth Epps, Founder/Colorado Freedom Fund

Elisabeth Epps is a longtime prison abolition activist. In 2015 she founded the Colorado Freedom Fund, a community bail fund that aims to help poor people who cannot make bail and would otherwise be forced into the prison system. In 2018 she was sentenced to 90 days in jail for obstructing the police arrest of a man going through a mental health crisis, and - informed by her experience- she successfully advocated and helped pass legislation to provide sanitary pads and tampons to incarcerated people. She was also the driving force behind the bill that successfully eliminated bail for low level offenses in Colorado. Elisabeth was named one of 5280 magazines Disrupters of 2019. My personal experience with Elisabeth is that she has an unparalleled kindness which translates into contagious empathy. She is also honest and real about her experiences, and she embraces the full spectrum of emotions that come with her work. Furthermore, she puts people and community first, and that is what informs her policy advocacy. She has made incredible strides in our legislature in a very short time, and I believe she deserves all the recognition in the world!


Award for Excellence in the Promotion of Health Equity:

Presented by the Colorado Public Health Association, the Colorado Society of Public Health Education and the Public Health 

Recipient:  Paulina Erices, Maternal & Child Health Specialist @ Jefferson County Public Health

Paulina Erices tirelessly promotes health equity in every space she occupies. She bridges public health and Latinx community needs to promote authentic, community-led relationships. Over the past four years, her leadership has pushed Jefferson County Public Health and partners to adopt more equitable practices and make intentional structural changes. Her current areas of work include promoting perinatal and infant mental health along the continuum of care; building community capacity to navigate health and education systems; facilitating organizational change to embrace culturally- and linguistically-responsive practices; and establishing community-based participatory programs to strengthen communities. Adelante Jeffco is community-driven network of Latinx families and organizations that elevates community capacity to influence decision making. Paulina provides backbone support and technical expertise to leaders of Adelante using authentic community engagement and principles of CBPR.  In direct response to COVID-19, volunteer Navegadores through Adelante established a warmline to help the Latinx community access resources and accurate information. Paulina conveyed essential information to inform how public health conducts case investigation in a way that feels safe and supportive to the Latinx community. Throughout the entire response, Paulina has advocated for policies and procedures that address health inequities, helping us to create a supportive, equitable, and inclusive community.


Award for Technical Innovation in Public Health:

This award was established in1972 in recognition of P.W. Jacoe, a Colorado Board of Health member in the 1950s, for his devotion to duty, his excellence of work and accomplishments, his interest, his leadership and contributions to the physical science field of public health. The award is to be given to a person who has made an outstanding technical innovation in public health.

Recipient:  Adam Anderson, Health Data and GIS Supervisor @ Tri-County Health Department

By early May, Tri-County Health Department (TCHD) was experiencing over 150 newly reported cases of COVID-19 per day. This case load quickly overwhelmed our traditional mechanism for outbreak investigation, and it became clear that we would require a robust electronic case investigation and contact tracing system. With limited funding, and immediate need, TCHD made the decision to build our own system from scratch, with Adam Anderson in the lead. Adam utilized the suite of tools available in our ArcGIS environment to develop a fully operational case investigation system. This system, affectionately called “Carl,” has been in use since the middle of June. Newly reported cases are downloaded from the Colorado Electronic Disease Reporting System (CEDRS) and imported into Carl up to three times per day. Our contact tracing dashboard has been built out and tested and will go live in mid-July. With over 100 case investigators and 20 contact tracers (and more onboarded each week) responsible for 100-175 cases and 200-300 new contacts each day, the system that Adam has built allows TCHD to meet the incredible need generated by this devastating pandemic. TCHD and the public health community are so fortunate to have a technical wizard (Adam) on our team!


Emerging Leader in Public Health: 

This award is given to an individual early in their career serving in a public health capacity who has demonstrated outstanding initiative on behalf of the Colorado public health community. 

Recipient:  Swarnima Chaudhary, Project Manager/ NMHIC- CU Anschutz; CPHA Emerging Leaders Senior Director

I am nominating Nima for the Emerging Leader in Public Health Award, as Nima has taken on several projects in the past few years to push forward the agenda of health equity both within CPHA and outside of it. As a part of the Health Equity Coalition, she leads as a peer in ensuring that everyone has a voice and a perspective that is shared. She has contributed greatly in her role as the Director of the Emerging Leaders Committee, setting up an equitable structure to propel young professionals in CPHA forward. She has also contributed as a co-facilitator for the Explore Public Health Program in 2020. Nima deserves this recognition for her tireless work and energy supporting equity and young people's voices in CPHA.

Nima is a leader in every space, including work and her volunteer commitments. Within her work organization, she is an advocate for ethnical and socially just practices in community mental health. She is thoughtful in how she partners with community members and uses active listening to create inclusive spaces. Even with a full-time job, she prioritizes time to lead the Emerging Leaders Committee with her co-leader. Nima has brought a new level of excitement and diversity to the committee, creating spaces for new public health professionals. On top of this, she is also heavily involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy with the Global Alliance for Behavioral Health and is a leading voice in CPHA's health equity coalition. While at the Colorado School of Public Health, she started a peer mentoring program to support diverse students. The list goes on, but all of this is to say, Nima at her core believes people should feel like they belong, and she shapes the spaces she is in to reflect this vision.


Exemplary Frontier Public Health Nurse Award:

Recognized a Public Health Nurse who has demonstrated exemplary service in a local public health agency located in a Colorado rural/frontier community.

Recipient:  Amy Wineland, Director/Summit County Public Health

Amy has been a super star during the past several months since the first COVID case in Colorado was identified in Summit County on March 6. With a complex setting involving ski areas, tourists, competing interests, she has led a team of PH professionals and elected officials to institute early and effective PH measures, contact tracing, community education, mask policies, all with good humor and relentless effort. Her department has many other outstanding accomplishments in tobacco control, nurse family partnership, minority community outreach, vaccine programs, and others.

Amy has demonstrated herself to be a public health leader in driving evidence-based policy to improve health. In 2019, Amy worked with the Board of Health, Town Managers, students from the Summit School District, the community, and staff to spearhead initiatives to; 1.Raise the minimum age for buying tobacco and nicotine products to 21;  2.Implement tobacco retail licensing across the towns and the County; and  3.Propose an intergovernmental agreement for a ballot initiative to increase taxes on tobacco and nicotine products.  All three successfully passed.   During challenging times COVID-19 has presented, Amy has maintained excellence in policy. Upon her recommendation, the Summit County Public Health’s safer-at-home order signed April 27, required community members and visitors to wear face coverings when in a building open to the public and outside when a 6-foot distance from others cannot be maintained. This was not always well received though she maintained her position and the evidence for this intervention continues to grow.  Being responsive to a slow but steady rise in cases related to late night congregating at bars, Amy recommended an amendment to the public health order, allowing bars and restaurants to stay open no later than 11 p.m.


General Recognition: 

Do you know someone who is deserving of recognition for contributions and accomplishments in public health, but the above awards categories do not quite fit? Tell us more!

Recipient:  Ninfa Drago, Mobile Outreach Manager/Hunger Free Colorado

For the last six years, Ninfa has set the standard for compassion, professionalism and impact in helping community members access nutritious food. As the Mobile Outreach Manager for Hunger Free Colorado, Ninfa has worked in communities across Metro Denver to support families in obtaining SNAP and other nutrition services. She has built lasting partnerships with numerous entities as part of this work including Denver Human Services, Denver Health, Save-a-Lot, the Denver Public Library and many more. She constantly goes above and beyond to support families in any way she can and has worked tirelessly to improve access within immigrant communities. The sheer number of people that she helps on a daily basis and her exceptional customer service set her apart as a model for public health outreach.


Lifetime Achievement Award: 

This award honors an individual who has retired from full-time employment in public health, in recognition of their significant contributions and leadership in the field of public health. 


Recipient:  Mark E Wallace, MD, MPH, RETIRED, Previous Executive Director at Weld County Public Health

There are few in Colorado more accomplished in public health than Dr. Mark Wallace. His 28-year history at Weld County Department of Public Health and Environment has been devoted to ensuring that the needs of the most vulnerable in our community are not forgotten.  His work on the Blue Ribbon Commission in (2006) is testimony to his commitment to improving the health of all Coloradans.  His work in Weld County and as CEO/CMO of the North Colorado Health Alliance has focused on a bold integrated approach to community wellness across organizations and sectors with sometimes competing priorities but who – through his leadership – all see themselves as stewards of wellness and health in our community.  His work has served as a model for replication in Colorado and elsewhere.  Mark has worked tirelessly in all areas of public health from providing direct care to working in education, state and regional advocacy, policy work, and community engagement. Mark’s knowledge and unflagging commitment to the health and well-being of our communities, prior to and during the COVID-19 pandemic, has exemplified his commitment to widespread equitable healthcare access and health improvement for all.

Mark Wallace has always been a pillar for innovation and creativity in the field of public health, working against incredible political odds. As the Director of Weld County Public Health, Mark was able to launch work and programs that would have been unthinkable in the conservative leaning community he served. He founded and sustained the North Colorado Health Alliance as an essential partner to bring public health and health care partners together to do the unthinkable across their potential partnerships. Mark has pushed the limits for the health of his community while holding strong to principles and practices of public health. When Mark announced his retirement amidst the COVID-19 crisis, it sent shockwaves across the field. His voice and questions will continue to be missed as his work and legacy will continue.


Lillian Wald Award: 

Lillian D. Wald (1867–1940) was a nurse, social worker, public health official, teacher, author, editor, publisher, women’s rights activist, and the founder of American community nursing. Her unselfish devotion to humanity is recognized around the world and her visionary programs have been widely copied everywhere.

The Lillian Wald Award was given to a public health nurse who demonstrates leadership skills among peers and community; has practiced a minimum of 5 years; and is creative, resourceful and innovative in addressing public health concerns in the community. This person is caring in relationships with colleagues and clients, and initiates, implements and evaluates public health interventions that focus on health promotion and disease prevention, and shares public health knowledge with colleagues and the community.

Recipient:  Carolyn Kwerneland, RN, BSN HCP Program Coordinator @ Tri-County Health Department

Carolyn serves as a leader within her county, program, and field. She is always willing to go the extra mile for her team, peers, and community. She is actively engaged within the field of public health nursing and serves on several committees. She has worked as a public health nurse for many years, which has led to an extensive cache of knowledge and expertise. She served as my mentor and has had an integral role in elevating my skills as a new public health nurse and HCP care coordinator. She is always looking for creative ways to further the role of public health nursing to promote health equity and address concerns within her own immediate community and the entire state. Carolyn is caring and empathetic in her relationships. She intentionally strives to develop bonds with colleagues, and the community. She has an integral role in the HCP program as a supervisor and provides expert knowledge where she can evaluate public health interventions, so the focus is on health promotion and disease prevention. Carolyn sets a high standard for public health nurses and I have been honored to learn and grow under her tutelage.


Public Health Champ Award: 

The Public Health Champ Award was created in 1982 and goes to a full-time public health employee who is not in a high-level management position. The recipient must be a member of CPHA and have made an outstanding contribution to public health.

Recipient:  Cate Townley, Senior Built Environment Specialist @ CDPHE

Cate had been instrumental in the success of the CO PHPR Collaborative. Especially when is comes to developing relationships between parks, recreation and community entities with public health.  She has introduced more partners than I can count.  Cate has articulated the value and purpose of public health with our partners not in the field.  She has been an integral member of all 5 PHPR Summit planning committees. She has helped vet speakers, solidified agendas, and worked diligently to keep the Public Health perspective on Health front and center in our work with interdisciplinary partners.  She is truly a Public Health Champ!


Roy Cleere Distinguished Service Award: 

The Colorado Public Health Association's Distinguished Service Award was renamed in 1974 in honor of Dr. Cleere who was the director of the Colorado Department of Health for 38 years. The award goes to someone who is a member of CPHA and has made an exceptional contribution to the field of public health in Colorado. 

Recipient:  Nami Thompson, Public Health Professional, Activist, Organizer & amazing person; CPHA/Health Equity Coalition Community Engagement Lead

Nami Thompson deserves this award because she is a movement within herself. I am honored and humbled to work with her, Nami evokes positive change at the individual level and the community level, she carries a relentless commitment to excellence all while still caring deeply for every person involved.  I have worked with Nami in varying capacities over the last 2.5 years, she teaches everyone she comes into contact with how to push a little further and how to show up as a better version of themselves. Nami works in public health, tirelessly advocating for change, galvanizing people and organizing to achieve change and implementing successful programs.

I am nominating Nami Thompson for the Roy Cleery award as she exemplifies distinguished service. Under the banner of CPHA and as the Community Engagement Lead for the Health Equity Coalition she has been a champion for both organizational and social change. She was an active participant in efforts to infuse equity into the CPHA infrastructure, bylaws and strategic work plan . In the community she has been a thorn in the side of power brokers, successfully leading movements which have brought about needed reforms to policing and criminal justice and challenging the racial inequities within congregate housing facilities. She does not fixate on outcomes and rather takes time to invest in meaningful relationships and inclusive processes. Most of her work is behind the scenes as she prefers to celebrate the achievements of others (If you have received an award from CPHA in the past few years, there is a good chance it is because she nominated you.) Nami has been a tremendous asset to CPHA and Colorado communities alike, and she deserves to be celebrated.


Sabin Award: 

The Florence Sabin Award was established in 1947 by CPHA. The award is made for achievement in the public health field, in recognition of the outstanding leadership of Dr. Florence Sabin in the promotion of better public health in Colorado. This award is made to a person whose primary career is not in the public health field.

Recipient:  Harold Fields, Facilitator/Second Tuesday Race Forum

Harold Fields is grew up with survivors of the Tulsa race massacre and a lifelong leader of social and racial justice causes. He is the recipient of the ACLU’s Carle Whitehead Memorial Award. Fields facilitates the Second Tuesday Race Forum, a city-wide monthly racial dialogue that has been continuously active since 1992. He was a founder of Multi-Racial Families of Colorado and was the national training director for the documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North. He has served on the Board Trustees for The Denver Foundation and chaired the Community Impact Committee. Harold is a retired engineer who worked with Charles Eames, the designer of the first Eames chair, working together on the prototype for the first laser video disc for IBM. He is also a gifted photographer who combines his engineering and artistic skills to take memorable photos. In his personal life, Harold and his wife are now caring for their teenage grandchildren. Personally, Harold has been a mentor who taught me the value of cross-racial dialogue and the necessity of building relationships. He also did for me what so few others have done for me: he trusted me and showed faith in me. He is a gentle and humble individual who has, with the help of his wife, changed the way we talk about race in Denver. Second Tuesday Race Forum is a place for healing for me and many others. In a world which offers so few satisfactory outcomes, Harold has carved out a space that brings resolve to the spirits and hearts of those in attendance.

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