News release: Public health advocates receive 2012 community health service awards

News Release
October 4, 2012
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Public health advocates receive 2012 community health service awards

Minnesota Commissioner of Health Dr. Ed Ehlinger presented awards Wednesday to honor individuals and one group for their significant community service and public health accomplishments. Awardees were selected by their peers and received their awards at the 2012 Community Health Conference before about 370 attendees and a number of past Minnesota commissioners of health.

The annual Community Health Awards recognize and acknowledge individuals or groups who make significant contributions to public health in Minnesota. Recognition of these accomplishments by elected officials and local and state public health staff is a long standing and honorable tradition of the annual Community Health Conference. Recipients of the awards are nominated by their peers. Nominations are received for review and selection by the Nominating and Awards Workgroup of the State Community Health Services Advisory Committee (SCHSAC). Awards are presented by the Commissioner of Health at the conference during an awards ceremony. For more information on the Community Health Awards, please visit:

"I am consistently impressed by the passion and dedication of Minnesota's public health professionals, elected officials and volunteers who work to promote health in Minnesota. No matter what challenges they face, they always put the health of Minnesotans first," Ehlinger said.

The following were honored at the 2012 Community Health Awards Ceremony October 3.
2012 Award for Outstanding Dedication to Local Public Health
Pope County Commissioner Larry Kittelson was honored for his dedication to and advocacy on behalf of local public health. Commissioner Kittelson understands the foundational importance of health for a thriving community, and has been active in a diverse range of public health related committees and governing boards, including those addressing interagency early intervention, family service collaboration, environmental health, adult mental health, county-based purchasing, and the nurse-family partnership.

2012 Jack Korlath Partnership Award
Kim Edelman and Ann Kinney, both of the Minnesota Department of Health's Minnesota Center for Health Statistic, are a well-known team, and offer their skills freely at the state and local level to ensure that others have and understand the data they need, and how to best use that data. In addition to providing technical assistance to local public health and other state employees, Kinney and Edelman also facilitate regional data discussion groups on a regular basis, and strive to ensure that data is approachable, rather than intimidating, for users.

2012 Lou Fuller Award for Distinguished Service in Eliminating Health Disparities
Wilhelmina Holder, executive director of the Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment (WISE), is a founding member of the African and American Friendship Association for Cooperation and Development, which aims to improve cultural and linguistically-appropriate health care services by integrating foreign-trained health professionals in the U.S. workforce. Out of this organization was born the University of Minnesota's Preparation for Residence Program, which trains foreign-born physicians in U.S. medical care and eventually prepares them for licensure. Lou Fuller's daughter, Suzanne Burke of Atlanta, GA, was also present in recognition of this award.

2012 Commissioner's Award for Distinguished Service in Community Health Services
Sue Zuidema, formerly of Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health Department (HSPHD) became director of HSPHD in 1983, and has provided a great deal of leadership and aid to programs to benefit the health of Hennepin County residents, including development of suburban maternal and child health clinics, regulation of the Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) system, surveillance and investigation of disease and outbreaks, and expansion of environmental health services. Zuidema also pioneered a number of public health programs, including immunization registries to keep parents up to date with childhood immunizations, an "assured care program" to help residents find sliding-fee clinics, the Ryan White Care Act to ensure that residents with HIV/AIDS have access to needed services, and a project to provide needed public health services to those in emergency shelters or drop-in centers.

2012 Jim Parker Leadership Award
Bonnie Engen, director of the Clearwater County Nursing Service and current administrator of the North Country Community Health Board. Engen serves on a number of task forces and committees, and mentors staff and colleagues throughout the region. Engen played an instrumental role in developing the Statewide Health Improvement Plan for her seven-county project, and has notably increased collaboration across local health departments and community health boards. She is known for her dedication to vision, cooperation, and innovation in her leadership and her everyday practice of public health.

Certificate of Recognition
Gloria Tobias of Countryside Public Health, was honored for her work in disease prevention and emergency preparedness. Tobias frequently leads the region's immunization committees and activities, and is a valued part of regional emergency preparedness activities. She is also effective and creative in partnering with the community to further the work of public health.

Ann DeLa Vergne, formerly of Washington County Public Health and Environment, was honored for her commitment to healthy food for the community. DeLa Vergne's work has supported a number of healthy foods initiatives. The Fresh Green Bucks program, which currently runs in three Washington County grocery stores, allows shoppers to purchase coupons that translate to fresh fruit and vegetables for local food shelves. The volunteer-run Our Community Kitchen serves healthy breakfasts two days per week, regardless of ability to pay, and uses locally grown and produced foods. DeLa Vergne also helped support the establishment of six community gardens in and around Washington and Ramsey Counties, two of which are located in mobile home parks.

Henry Street Consortium, a collaboration of schools of nursing, local health departments, and the Minnesota Department of Health over the past decade has developed tools and resources that enrich student experience while also helping local health departments meet community health improvement goals. Last year, the Consortium published the Henry Street Model for Nurses, a clinical manual for population-based public health nursing, which is being used in nursing schools in Minnesota and beyond.

Awards were presented to: Ann DeLa Vergne (formerly of Washington County Public Health and Environment), Kim Edelman (Minnesota Department of Health), Bonnie Engen (Clearwater County Nursing Service and North Country Community Health Board), the Henry Street Consortium, Wilhelmina Holder (Women's Initiative for Self-Empowerment), Ann Kinney (Minnesota Department of Health), Larry Kittelson (Pope County Commissioner), Gloria Tobias (Countryside Public Health), and Sue Zuidema (formerly of Hennepin County Human Services and Public Health).


For more information, contact:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications

Peggy Malinowski
MDH Office of Performance Improvement