August 25, 2017 Liz Borkowski, MPH 0Comment

As the Trump Administration proposes slashing federal agency budgets and calls for “deconstruction of the administrative state,” it’s worth reminding ourselves of the many valuable contributions federal employees make to public health. One good way to do that is to read about the honorees of the Partnership for Public Service’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. The “Sammies” program overview explains:

The Partnership is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization whose mission is to help make our government more effective, and the Sammies honorees represent the many exceptional federal workers who are doing just that—breaking down barriers, overcoming huge challenges and getting results. Whether they’re defending the homeland, protecting the environment, ensuring public safety, making scientific and medical discoveries, or responding to natural and man-made disasters, these men and women put service before self and make a lasting difference.

The 2017 list of honorees includes 26 individuals and teams whose work has contributed to the public good. A few examples:

  • At CDC, Tedd V. Ellerbrock has played a leading role in the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), which since 2003 has helped more than 11 million people worldwide receive HIV/AIDS treatment.
  • At EPA, Surabhi Shah and an interagency Urban Waters team advance “partnerships with local, state and federal agencies, businesses, nonprofits and philanthropies to clean up pollution; spur redevelopment of abandoned properties; promote new businesses; and provide parks and access for boating, swimming, fishing and community gatherings.”
  • At HHS’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, John Pilot and Heather Grimsley started work in 2001 on the model for today’s Accountable Care Organization structure, which is helping us move towards a system that rewards the quality, rather than just the quantity, of care that healthcare providers deliver.
  • At the US Forest Service, Sarah Jovan and Geoffrey H. Donovan developed a way to use tree moss to detect localized air pollution, which led to tighter monitoring and regulation of polluters in Washington state as well as other cities adopting this low-cost method of pollution monitoring.
  • At HUD, Thomas R. Davis and the Rental Assistance Demonstration Team established public-private partnerships to generate $3.9 billion in private investments for the rehabilitation of 60,000 affordable housing units. The number of private-sector dollars invested for each dollar of public money has doubled since 2015.

The stories of all 26 honorees are inspiring, and they represent just a small fraction of all the excellent and valuable work federal employees do for this country. Let’s honor their contributions, and encourage our elected officials to make sure they have the resources necessary to continue their essential work.

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