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Local, National and International Luminaries Receive Awards as PHI’s Champions of Health

September 17, 2014

September 17 evening event honors notable figures, including cancer crusader, pioneering pediatrician, and Hollywood filmmaker


(Oakland, CA) – A local civic leader committed to climate change and social justice. A filmmaker and philanthropist who gives voice to women peacemakers around the world. A pioneer in preventing and ending cancer. Two physician-advocates: for progressive policies at the U.S.–Mexico border; and for young people whose health can be permanently altered by childhood trauma. A woman who just retired, at 91, from leading a nation’s health system.

These varied individuals are all modern-day public health champions, who were honored together as part of Oakland-based Public Health Institute’s (PHI) 50th anniversary celebration, on September 17 at San Francisco’s Exploratorium museum.

“PHI’s 50th anniversary is a time to celebrate not only what the organization has accomplished, but the tremendous gains for all of public health over the last 50 years,” said Mary A. Pittman, DrPH, president and CEO of PHI. “These champions of health demonstrate that every one of us has a role to play. No one organization or individual can address today’s health concerns alone. But, together, we can continue to build a healthier world.”



At the sold-out evening fundraiser, PHI bestowed its first annual Public Health Change Champion Awards to:

  • Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, founder and CEO of San Francisco’s Center for Youth Wellness;
  • Abigail Disney, filmmaker;
  • Roger Kim, senior advisor to S.F. Mayor Edwin Lee and former executive director of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network; and
  • Professor Cecilia Rosales, director of Phoenix Programs at the University of Arizona College of Public Health and leader in U.S.–Mexico border health policy issues.

PHI Legacy Awards went to two pillars of public health:

  • Maria Isabel Rodriguez, MD, who served as El Salvador’s first woman minister of health; and
  • John Seffrin, PhD, who has served as the chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, Inc., since 1992.


Evening surprises included a happy birthday video message from First Lady Michelle Obama, a one million dollar gift to the Public Health Institute announced by Kaiser Permanente's Dr. Raymond Baxter, and the establishiment of a fellowship program to honor the legacy of Instant Recess pioneer and former PHI Board Member Toni Yancey, announced by The California Endowment President Robert Ross. Dr. Ross and Dr. Baxter served as honorary event co-chairs, alongside Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro of The Global Fund for Women.


A legacy of public health achievements

For half a century, PHI has promoted public health throughout California and around the globe. Through innovative research, groundbreaking interventions and targeted policy change, PHI’s 700 employees and 200 programs have addressed some of the most pressing health challenges of the last five decades—from reducing tobacco use and fighting cancer, to improving childhood nutrition, increasing girls’ health and reproductive rights around the globe, and addressing the emerging health impacts of climate change.  Learn more about PHI’s 50-year history.


About the Public Health Institute 

The Public Health Institute, a Bay Area-based independent nonprofit organization, is dedicated to promoting health, well-being and quality of life for people throughout California, across the nation and around the world. For more information, visit www.phi.org