PAHO/PAHEF present 2013 Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health

The fifth annual Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health, sponsored by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and the Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF), were presented on Sept. 30 during a special event held at the Organization of American States (OAS).

The awards are presented yearly to recognize individuals and organizations that have made major contributions to public health in areas including health leadership, health literature, veterinary public health, and universal health care in the Americas.

This year’s winners were former Minister of Health of Mexico Julio Frenk, infectious disease specialist Alok Kumar of Barbados, and veterinary public health expert Veronika Haydee Merino Osorio of Peru. Two awards were made posthumously, to José Lima Pedreira de Freitas of Brazil and Santiago Renjifo Salcedo of Colombia, for their work in promoting social and community medicine.

In presenting the awards, PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said the honorees “truly provide inspiration for us to continue our work and for the new generation of public health leaders of the future.” Joining Etienne to present the awards were acting U.S. Surgeon General Boris Lushniak and acting PAHEF CEO Eleanor Brtva.

The event, held at the OAS’s historic Hall of the Americas, also honored ministers of health and other high-level delegates who are in Washington, D.C., this week for the 52nd session of the PAHO Directing Council.

Award winners

frenkDr. Julio Frenk of Mexico received the 2013 Abraham Horwitz Award for Excellence for Leadership in Inter-American Public Health. As Mexico’s secretary of health from 2000 to 2006, Frenk established Seguro Popular, a social insurance program that created the basis for universal health coverage in Mexico. He also founded the Public Health Center of Investigation and the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico. In 1998, he served as executive director in charge of Evidence and Information for Policy at the World Health Organization (WHO). Since 2009, he has been the Dean of the School of Public Health at Harvard, where he is leading a commission on the education of health professionals in the 21st century.

kumarDr. Alok Kumar of Barbados received the 2013 Fred L. Soper Award for Excellence in Public Health Literature as lead author for the paper “Epidemiological trends and clinical manifestations of dengue among children in one of the English-speaking Caribbean countries.” The paper describes the epidemiology and disease characterization of dengue—a rapidly emerging Caribbean public health problem—in Barbados for the first time ever. The paper quantified dengue’s mortality and morbidity rates among children. Dr. Kumar teaches and conducts research at the University of the West Indies in Barbados.

merinoDr. Veronika Haydee Merino Osorio of Peru received the 2013 Pedro N. Acha Award for Excellence in Veterinary Public Health for research conducted for her undergraduate thesis, “Detection of Echinococcus granulosus coproantigens on canine pets of workers of slaughterhouses and offal distributors in Metropolitan Lima.” Her thesis was inspired during her clinical rotation at the National Children’s Hospital in Lima, Peru, where she studied the high incidence of young children with hydatid cysts. Dr. Merino Osorio is currently an adjunct assistant professor who also trained at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C.

Dr. José Lima Pedreira de Freitas of Brazil and Dr. Santiago Renjifo Salcedo of Colombia were honored posthumously with the Sérgio Arouca Award for Excellence in Universal Health Care for their impact on health professionals and programs on social and community medicine.

freitasDr. Pedreira de Freitas established one of the first schools of medicine in Brazil, the Department of Social Medicine of the Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo. He also made important contributions to the study of disease transmission, especially Chagas transmission. A long-time teacher, Dr. Pedreira de Freitas influenced many health professionals, including Sérgio Arouca himself, then a young medical student at Ribeirão Preto. Dr. Pedreira de Freitas died in 1966.

renjifoDr. Santiago Renjifo Salcedo is considered by many as the founder of public health education in Colombia. He introduced the concept of public health as mandatory in the medical curriculum at the Universidad del Valle in Cali, an example that was later followed by other medical schools. He also served as an advisor to the World Health Organization in Africa and Latin America. An adventurer, he was a member of the first expedition to the Sierra de La Macarena—unchartered territory at that time—in search of a cure for yellow fever. Dr. Renjifo Salcedo died in 1966.

The sons of both awardees accepted the award on behalf of their fathers.

In addition to the Awards for Excellence, a PAHO Special Recognition was presented by PAHO Deputy Director Jon K. Andrus to Dr. Raul Castellanos Bran, in appreciation of his more than 12 years of service as PAHO/WHO coordinator in Puerto Rico. “Dr. Castellanos Bran has advocated tirelessly on behalf of PAHO/WHO, liaising with government officials, overseeing all technical cooperation activities, coordinating events and maintaining communication with PAHO/WHO Collaborating Centers, partners and stakeholders — all while carrying out his normal duties as assistant secretary for Family Health and Integrated Services in Puerto Rico’s Department of Health,” said Dr. Andrus.

About the Awards: The PAHO/PAHEF Awards for Excellence in Inter-American Public Health, established in 1975, honor dedicated professionals who led the way in advancing health conditions in the Americas during the last century. The awards stimulate the growth of the next and rising generation of leaders working together to improve health and health care in the Americas. For each award, a jury of distinguished public health professionals is convened to review the nominations and recommend a winning candidate to PAHO and the board of directors of PAHEF for approval.

About PAHEF: The Pan American Health and Education Foundation (PAHEF) is dedicated to improving health in the Americas through health promotion, education, and training. Founded in 1968, PAHEF is a U.S.-based 501(c)(3) public charity that works with PAHO in the Americas to mobilize resources and jointly address key health, education, and training priorities. With a deep knowledge of major health concerns and relationships with key stakeholders in the region, PAHEF builds successful partnerships and projects that advance health in the Americas. For more information regarding PAHEF, please visit:

About PAHO: The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) was established in 1902 and is the world’s oldest international public health organization. It works with all the countries of the Americas to improve the health and quality of life of the people of the hemisphere and serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (WHO).

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