Dr. Joseph Bates, Arkansas’ deputy state health officer and the associate dean for public health practice at the Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health (COPH) at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS), was honored September 11 at the annual meeting of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) as the 2014 recipient of the ASTHO State Excellence in Public Health Award in recognition of his outstanding service in public health. The award was one of six “public health hero awards” given by ASTHO this year.
[From left to right: Dr. Nathaniel Smith, Dr. David Lackey, Dr. Joe Bates, and Dr. Paul Halverson]
At the awards ceremony, Dr. Bates was recognized as an internationally known researcher in tuberculosis and as a “tireless leader and advocate for public health for five decades.” Presenting the award to him were Dr. David Lakey, past president of ASTHO, Dr. Paul Halverson, former Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) director, and Dr. Nathaniel Smith, current ADH director and state health officer, who nominated Dr. Bates for the award.
“He helped pioneer short-course, outpatient treatment of this disease, closing down the sanatoriums and transforming the management of this disease,” Dr. Lakey said.
That innovation, in collaboration with ADH, in fact, helped eliminate tuberculosis as a major public health threat and reduce Arkansas case rates from well above to well below the national average.
After an illustrious career in academic medicine, Dr. Bates joined the ADH as director of the Tuberculosis Control Program in 1998 and has served as deputy state health officer since 2005. He played a key role in the establishment of the COPH at UAMS and serves as a member of its faculty and administration. He has been a vocal supporter for state legislation affecting health and an advocate for the needs of those who are marginalized.
Dr. Bates provided critical leadership for the Clean Indoor Air Act of 2006, which protects Arkansans from secondhand smoke. He has championed the health needs of the more than 6,000 citizens of the Marshall Islands living in Arkansas. The ADH clinic built in 2011 in Springdale, AR to serve the needs of the Marshallese is named in his honor.
At the award ceremony, Dr. Bates said he was “deeply honored” to receive the award, but chose to focus his remarks on the qualities of public health professionals that make difficult change possible.
“We are optimists, but we are more than optimists,” Dr. Bates said. “We are determined people, and we are persistent. Those are wonderful qualities for getting things done.”
ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the more than 100,000 public health professionals these agencies employ.