College of Public Health Honors Ohio’s Public Health Champions


The Ohio State College of Public Health honored five individuals and organizations for their selfless and pioneering work improving lives in Ohio during the 12th annual Champions of Public Health Awards Reception, on Wednesday, November 30.

Judge Frederick Moses was awarded the Community Leader Award for developing the first Vivitrol Drug Court in Ohio’s Hocking County Municipal Court System in 2012. In four years, the Vivitrol Drug Court has produced 38 successful graduates of the program, a 79 percent employment rate of participants and successfully re-unified many families.

“Judge Moses’s leadership in the community has brought together a phenomenal, professional, caring and dedicated staff at the Municipal Court,” said Hocking County Health Commissioner, Douglas Fisher, who nominated Moses for this award. He has been able to get committed partners from the community to collaborate to provide the wrap around services required for success.”

“I think it’s important to go back to your core values of believing in people and not doubting who they are,” said Moses.

The Public Health Practitioner Award was presented to Jose Rodriguez, director of public a­ffairs and communications at Columbus Public Health. Rodriguez has been a driving force in the HIV and STI prevention community for over 25 years. He has made it a mission to reduce health disparities in the LGBTQ community to improve the lives of many people.

“When I see that we lead the country in infant mortality and opiate overdoses, I know that I am doing exactly what I need to do and there’s nowhere else I’d rather do it,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez is also a board member and volunteer of the Columbus AIDS Task Force and the Ohio AIDS Coalition, as well as a volunteer advocate for lung cancer.  Being a lung cancer survivor himself, he has taken his illness and turned it into a personal mission to help others.  

This year’s Public Health Organization Award was presented to Neighborhood Services Inc. (NSI) which helps residents throughout Columbus put healthy meals on their tables. They also distribute gently used clothing to children and adults, provide free tax preparation with AARP and many other programs for their clients. 

“The most memorable part of this class for me was visiting the produce market at NSI,” said a College of Public Health student who volunteered there as part of her public health service learning class. “Prior to this visit, I was unaware that the organization was a full-fledged social services operation. It’s amazing that one relatively small organization can cover so much ground in terms of helping the underserved population in Columbus. Neighborhood Services has a really great community of volunteers that help make the organization so successful. One of the things that was amazing to me is how many people who have benefitted from the produce market come back to volunteer their time.”

In addition to the Champion of Public Health Awards, the College of Public Health Alumni Society Franklin Banks, William R. Gemma Distinguished Alumnus Memorial Award and the Dean’s Awards were also presented at the event.

Lita Jo Henmn, MPH ’06, was the recipient of the 2016 Franklin Banks, William R. Gemma Distinguished Alumnus Memorial Award. As system manager of infection prevention at OhioHealth, Henman works to prevent patients from developing healthcare acquired infections.

Henman was nominated for this award by Nilesh Wickramanayake, MPH ’14. They met when Henman participated in a panel discussion at the College of Public Health and offered to serve as Wickramanayake’s mentor after learning about his interest in her field and Wickramanayake considers Henman instrumental in his career.

“I consider it an honor to have the opportunity to mentor the next generation of public health professionals,” said Henman.  “I believe it is our privilege and professional obligation to incorporate mentorship in our everyday lives.  That few hours spent might be the key to a successful life for someone.”

The Dean’s Award was presented to two transformational organizations this year, Faithful Forgotten Best Friends and Equitas Health.

Faithful Forgotten Best Friends (FFBF) is a non-profit organization that works to improve the quality of life for dogs and cats of the homeless and less fortunate in downtown Columbus and Franklinton, Ohio areas. Under the direction of co-founder Connie Swackhammer, their team educates pet owners, provides food, basic veterinary care and assistance with spay and neuter of the pets. A documentary, Poindexter Ep 1: Faithful Forgotten Best Friends, has been made of their incredible work and the immense positive impact it is having on the lives of these vulnerable populations and the care of their pets and companions.

“We can all do something. I am just a person doing something,” said Swackhammer of the work she does with FFBF.

Equitas Health is Ohio’s premier provider of HIV services and LGBTQ-affirming care. They work to remove barriers to healthcare and make sure care and treatment is available to all people. Equitas serves more than 45,000 Ohioans every year through its diverse healthcare and social service system.

William Hardy, President and CEO of Equitas Health, is a “pioneer in the provision of critical HIV prevention and care services. His vision to transform a loose network of regional nonprofit organizations into one of the nation’s largest HIV and LGBTQ healthcare providers is becoming a reality,” said his nominator, John Davis. 

“I believe that health care and health equity are basic human rights for the LGBTQ community and for all of the communities that each one of us serves,” said Hardy. 

To view photos from this event, click here



About The Ohio State University College of Public Health

The Ohio State University College of Public Health is a leader in educating students, creating new knowledge through research, and improving the livelihoods and well-being of people in Ohio and beyond.  The College’s divisions include biostatistics, environmental health sciences, epidemiology, health behavior and health promotion, and health services management and policy.   It is ranked 19th among all colleges of public health in the U.S. by U.S. News & World Report, and also includes the top 10-ranked MHA degree program.  The College provides leadership and expertise for Ohio and the world through its Center for Health Outcomes, Policy and Evaluation Studies (HOPES), Center for Public Health Practice, and the NCI-funded Center of Excellence in Regulatory Tobacco Science (CERTS).