Awards recognize eight leaders in research, policy, education and community advocacy to reduce health disparities


The Institute for Partnerships to Eliminate Health Disparities (IPEHD) at the Arnold School of Public Health has named eight people to receive the first James E. Clyburn Health Disparities Leadership Awards.

The awards, part of the fifth annual James. E. Clyburn Health Disparities Lecture on April 20, honor the U.S. Congressman who represents S.C.'s 6th Congressional District.

"The awards recognize the achievements of an outstanding group of men and women who have dedicated their lives to improving the health of vulnerable children and adults," said Dr. Saundra Glover, IPEHD director and associate dean for social justice at the Arnold School.

"Their leadership in research, policy, education and community advocacy is vital in our efforts to reduce health disparities across our state and throughout the nation," said Glover, who is a professor in the Department of Health Services Policy and Management.

The awards and honorees include:

Pioneer in Health Disparities Research Award: Dr. William "Bill" Jenkins

S.C. native Dr. William "Bill" Jenkins has devoted his career to the twin causes of eliminating racial/ethnic health disparities and promoting minority career opportunities in biostatistics and epidemiology.

Before joining the University of North Carolina's Institute of African American Research, Jenkins worked for 30 years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he helped to end the infamous Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male and to establish numerous initiatives to improve public health, especially for African Americans, American Indians and others.

Jenkins completed his undergraduate work in mathematics at Morehouse College in Atlanta and earned a master's degree in biostatistics from Georgetown University and MPH and doctoral degrees in epidemiology at UNC, Chapel Hill. He completed post-doctoral work in biostatistics at Harvard University's School of Public Health.

Jenkins has held leadership positions in the American Public Health Association, the American College of Epidemiology, and the American Statistical Association.

Regional Award for Health Care Leadership: Anton J. Gunn

Anton J. Gunn of Atlanta, Ga., is the regional director for the Region IV Office of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Region IV is HHS's largest region in population and domestic geography and comprises Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

Gunn began his career as a health care reformer and community organizer. His work has included consumer advocacy on health care issues such as managed care policy, HIV/AIDS funding, hospital conversions and social justice. The first African American elected to represent S.C. District 79, Gunn served on a White House Health Care Task Force of State Legislators for Health Reform and was an active partner with Families USA, a national organization dedicated to the achievement of high-quality, affordable health care for all Americans. He has been active on all levels in the fight for health care reform. In 2006, he received the honor of being named one of the Top 10 Leaders in the Rural South by the Southern Rural Development Initiative.

Gunn earned a bachelor's degree in history and a master's degree in social work from the University of South Carolina.

State Award for Health Care Leadership: Dr. Lisa F. Waddell

Dr. Lisa F. Waddell is deputy commissioner for health services at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control, a position she has held since 1999. Board certified in preventive medicine and public health, Waddell is a graduate of the University of Virginia, the Medical College of Virginia, and the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine. She earned a master's degree in public health policy and administration from the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. She also graduated from the CDC's National Public Health Leadership Institute.

Prior to 1999, Waddell worked in other leadership positions at DHEC, including the posts of assistant commissioner and director of the Wateree Public Health District. She also was deputy health director for the Richmond City Health Department in Richmond, Va.

Under Waddell's guidance, DHEC's Health Services division has garnered statewide, regional and national recognition for its work to combat chronic diseases and health disparities. Waddell is a member of numerous professional organizations and boards and has received many honors and awards, including the 2009 Noble J. Swearingen Award from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. Waddell also received the 2009 J. Marion Sims Award for Meritorious Achievement in Public Health from the S.C. Public Health Association; the American Heart Association's 2007 Power to End Stroke Ambassador Award; and a Woman of Achievement Award from the Office of the Governor in 2000.

Leadership in Public Health and Health Disparities Research: Dr. Russell R. Pate

Dr. Russell R. Pate, internationally recognized for his research on physical activity and health, joined the faculty of the University of South Carolina in 1974. A professor in the Arnold School of Public Health's Department of Exercise Science, Pate has held several administrative positions, including chair, Department of Exercise Science; associate dean for research, Arnold School of Public Health; and USC vice provost for health sciences.

An exercise physiologist, Pate's research focuses on physical activity and physical fitness in children and the health implications of physical activity. He has published more than 230 scholarly papers and has authored or edited three books. His research has been supported by the National Institutes of Health, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Heart Association and several private foundations and corporations. He heads a research team that currently is supported by three, NIH grants.

Pate coordinated the effort that led to the development of the recommendation on Physical Activity and Public Health of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine (1995). He served on the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (2003-04), the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (2007-08), and an Institute of Medicine panel that developed guidelines on prevention of childhood obesity. He currently chairs the coordinating committee for the National Physical Activity Plan.

He has served in leadership positions with the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), including the presidency in1993 – 94. He is a past-president of the National Coalition on Promoting Physical Activity, and he is an elected fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education. He received the Citation Award from the American College of Sports Medicine in 1996 and the Alliance Scholar Award of the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance in 1999.

He earned his bachelor's degree from Springfield College and his master's and doctoral degrees in exercise physiology from the University of Oregon.

Leadership in Public Health and Health Disparities Research: Dr. Omar Bagasra

Dr. Omar Bagasra is director of the S.C. Center for Biotechnology at Claflin University. His research interests have included the study of HIV and AIDS since 1981, the year of the first scientific report. For the past several years, he has focused on gaining insight into modes of virus transmission and natural immunities to retro viral infection, as well as the development of gene therapy treatments for HIV-1. Recently, Bagasra has concentrated on the molecular pathogenesis of prostate and breast cancers and in the development of edible vaccines for HCV and malaria. His research has been supported by grants from the U.S. Department of Defense and the S.C. Biomedical Research Infrastructure Network.

His dedication to his work has resulted in more than 200 scientific articles, book chapters, and books. He is the inventor of the in situ PCR technique.

Bagasra earned his bachelor's degree in microbiology and master's degree in biochemistry from the University of Karachi, doctoral degree in microbiology and immunology from the University of Louisville and medical degree from the Universidad Autonoma de Ciudad Juarez, Mexico.

Emerging Leader in Public Health and Health Disparities Research: Dr. Heather Brandt

Dr. Heather Brandt is an assistant professor in the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior at the Arnold School of Public Health. A social and behavioral scientist, Brandt focuses her research on cancer prevention and control, HPV-associated cancers (especially cervical cancer), colorectal cancer, cancer disparities, and community-based participatory research approaches.

Since 1997, Brandt has conducted cancer awareness and educational programs and research in South Carolina. She is dedicated to reducing cancer disparities through community-based partnerships. She has been involved with the work of the S.C. Cancer Disparities Community Network since 2005, is a researcher with the USC's Cancer Prevention and Control Program and is an affiliate faculty member in the Women's and Gender Studies Program.

Brandt earned her bachelor's degree from the University of Iowa and her master's and doctoral degrees from the Arnold School of Public Health.

Community Award in Public Health and Health Disparities: Dr. Thaddeus J. Bell

Dr. Thaddeus J. Bell of Charleston, a family physician in private practice, is associate dean for minority affairs at the Medical University of South Carolina's College of Medicine. He has received numerous honors and awards, including the Stellar Graduate Award for contributions in medicine from South Carolina State University (2006-07), the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Services Health Disparity Award (2005), and the S.C. Academy of Medicine Physician of the Year Award (1996).

In 2004, Bell founded Closing the Gap in Health Care Inc. (CGHC), a successful health promotion and radio broadcast education campaign. CGHC has earned National Health Information Awards, which recognize the nation's best consumer health information programs and materials.

Bell earned his bachelor's degree in biology from South Carolina State University and medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina and medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina.

Community Award in Public Health and Health Disparities: Shirley James

Shirley James, director of the Minority AIDS Council in Orangeburg, was selected by Orangeburg's local physicians and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control to become the first nurse practitioner in South Carolina.

As director of the Community Engagement and Outreach Core for the Center of Excellence in the Social Promotion of Health Equity through Research, Education and Community Engagement (CCE-SPHERE), an academic-community partnership between the University of South Carolina and the greater Orangeburg County area, James has served the critical role of facilitating community-based activities and programs designed to impact community health.

James earned her nursing degree in New York and was a nurse at Sloan Kettering Memorial Hospital for Cancer, the New York State Department of Health and the Kingsbridge VA Hospital.

She earned a master's degree in clinical nursing from USC. She has received numerous awards and honors for her work in the field of nursing, health disparities, community development and advocacy, HIV prevention and education, and many other achievements that have advanced the health of minorities.

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