University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH) Dean Donna Petersen and Dr. Russell Kirby, a distinguished university health professor of community and family health, were recently recognized for their public health leadership and service by the federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB). The MCHB is part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
The awards were presented at the State/Federal Maternal and Child Health Partnership Technical Assistance Meeting, held Oct. 16 in Arlington, Va.
Dean Petersen was awarded the Vince Hutchins Partnership Award — the highest award the MCHB bestows. It is named in honor of the late Dr. Hutchins, associate administrator of the MCHB from 1977 to 1992, and recognizes “an outstanding individual who exemplifies skills in partnership and collaboration in maternal and child health programs.”
In her introductory remarks, Ms. Laura Kavanagh, associate administrator for the Maternal and Child Health Bureau, praised Dr. Petersen for her “thoughtful approach to improving maternal and child health services in the United States and her ability to bridge academic concepts with state public health practice.”
Ms. Kavanagh highlighted the dean’s extensive experience, numerous publications and tireless efforts to “promote, protect and enhance the health of the nation’s mothers and children through teaching, research and policy and systems development.”
During her acceptance speech, Dean Petersen paid homage to the man for whom the award is named.
“Vince was a big, warm, generous person,” she said. “If you can have a professional crush, he was my first one. He was larger than life and working with him always reminded me of the Isaac Newton quote, ‘If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.’ Vince really believed in the federal/state partnership, which is the essence of maternal/child health programs in this country. And he knew what it takes to nurture that partnership. That I could contribute to that partnership — and be recognized for it — is really quite an honor.”
Dr. Kirby was given a Title V Lifetime Achievement Award, which “recognizes the outstanding contributions made to the field of maternal and child health over a sustained period.” To be considered for the award, one must be an “inspirational leader who influenced others in the maternal and child health field” and have “an established history of distinguished service with lasting contributions to the maternal child health field.”
“For more than 30 years, Dr. Kirby has been committed to developing primary and secondary data systems for surveillance, epidemiology and [disease] prevention,” Dr. Sappenfield wrote in his nomination letter.
Ms. Kavanagh commended Dr. Kirby for “serving as a career model to others in promoting the capacity of public health to make a measurable difference in the health of women, children and families.”
“I am honored to receive this award, which in some ways reflects many years of work that often occurs behind the scenes,” Dr. Kirby commented. “I continue to enjoy working with state and local maternal and child health (MCH) programs across the country, providing technical assistance, mentoring colleagues and staff entering the field, and educating students who then join the field of MCH. I hope to continue this work for many years to come!”
[Photo: Dean Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, receives her award from Laura Kavanagh, MCHB deputy associate administrator and Dr. Michael Warren, MCHB associate administrator. (Photos courtesy of Health Resources and Services Administration)]
Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health