2021 Awards

Champion for Healthy Environments Award

Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon

KGW- TV partnered with Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Oregon in Spring/Summer 2021 to help spread the word in multiple states (Oregon and Washington) about the urgency and importance of getting vaccinated. The goal of the campaign was to reach specifically under-represented communities, and the PSA was filmed in multiple languages. This was a multi-state, multi-lingual campaign, which was designed to disseminate information, impact public opinion, and increase comfort level and action in regard to vaccinations.

Although the wide-ranging impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic have affected everyone over the last 19 months, across the country, the burden of the disease continues to weigh more heavily on certain groups in society. Those most at risk include homebound seniors, as well as people living in Black, Hispanic, Indigenous, and other non-white communities, where decades of systemic racism have created barriers to quality health care, while instilling a deep-seated distrust of civic leaders. As the first wave of Covid-19 vaccines began to roll out in the spring of 2021, Regence BlueCross BlueShield quickly recognized that vaccine hesitancy would be a major challenge on the road to overcoming the coronavirus pandemic and getting cases under control.

In an effort to educate and encourage vaccination, Regence partnered with Portland broadcast news station KGW (channel 8) to produce and air multiple 30-second commercials targeted at these specific audiences, weaving urgency and human emotion into a poignant message reaching Oregon and Southwest Washington viewers. Multilingual and Spanish language videos were created to successfully address misinformation and inform shift the most vulnerable neighborhoods. By working with churches and community centers, the importance of protecting yourself, and family members, was made clear, and concern surrounding  the Covid-19 vaccine was lessened.

“My passion is getting the vaccine to those who need it the most”,says Tonya Adams, Senior Vice President of Customer Experience & Operations at Regence. “Some people can’t leave home right now. Some are confused and just don’t know what to do. I believe you need to meet people where they are. Reach out. Touch them. Reach their hearts to give life-saving shots. Bottom line, we are our brothers and sister’s keepers, and that’s what I believe.” 

Over the course of nine weeks starting in May, Regence's Vaccine Education PSA achieved over 30 million impressions. Segments were also broadcast on  KGW's Seattle affiliate, KING-TV, and on people’s streaming devices and other OTT media, amplifying the reach of this information.

“I’m a proud African American man. Right now, if you’re African American, you need to listen and get vaccinated as soon as possible. Look at your mom and your grandma, the people around you, and do it for all of them. Protect the people that you care for, that you love. Get it done today.” - Ken Berry, Retired Teacher/Administrator, Portland Public Schools who participated in the PSAs.Whether it's with Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson, people who are vaccinated greatly reduce their likelihood of catching Covid-19, and in the event that they do manage to contract it, their symptoms are much less severe. Besides the obvious importance of saving lives, immunizations against coronavirus slow the spread and dangerous mutations of the virus." 

Though the battle against Covid-19 is far from over, Regence’s early effort to stay ahead of the curve and safeguard the health of all Oregonians  represents the organization’s commitment as a leader in the healthcare industry. As a result, this campaign earned the 2021 Champion for Healthy Environments Award from the Oregon Public Health Association. 

To view the videos and learn more about Regence and KGW’s campaign, visit  https://vimeo.com/showcase/8421689 

Lifetime Achievement Award

Suzie Kuerschner, M.Ed. Founder and owner of S.P.I.R.I.T.S., Co-Founder of The Future Generations Collaborative

Suzie Kuerschner is a Child Development Specialist, Early Childhood Education Consultant and Early Intervention Specialist. She’s built countless programs to foster whole-family healing and developmental growth and worked tirelessly for decades to bring international awareness and system shifts for people impacted by Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). She has developed programs, assessments, intervention methods, and parent and provider trainings. She has touched the lives of thousands of children, youth, families, and communities throughout the world with her advocacy, teaching, and research. Suzie often refers to herself as stubborn, but those that work with her know her persistence, endurance, wisdom, and passion come from generations before her and are a gift she is giving the rest of us. Suzie’s contributions to public health extend far behind anything written in this bio or any other resume she has. Her life work is one of the highest forms of public health; it weaves together systems change, provider capacity building, and our Indigenous values of collaboration and collective impact. Suzie’s resume is pages long with accolades and awards from state, federal, and tribal entities. In addition to all the professional work that Suzie has done, she has also raised three wonderful people, and touched the lives of countless other families that are out in the world continuing her legacy.

Below is a list of some of the wonderful things Suzie has contributed to public health, and the community as a whole:   

International FASD Expertise and Advocacy: Suzie’s heart and mind are braided around building diagnostic programming and service delivery models that serve those impacted by FASD. Everywhere she has been she has developed programming from a Collaborative Circle of Care model that provides Native people with tools and resources they need, and trains people who provide services and the systems they operate within the same model for continuity and efficacy. 

S.P.I.R.I.T.S. Strategies for Prevention, Intervention & Resilience in Teaching Success: Founding the consulting company that works internationally. Provides training and technical assistance on collaborative circles of care, strategies for prevention, and develops intervention models for support systems  focusing on systems redesign.

Mentoring Mother’s Model: Development and delivery of this community based prenatal prevention program.

Northern Tutchone Council and the Selkirk First Nation Collaboration: Suzie regularly travels between Oregon and the Yukon in what is now known as the northwest Canadian territory. Here she works to learn and support the traditional ways of life through healing, building programming for young people, parenting playgroups, grandparents support groups, those impacted by the justice system, and behavioral health. 

Gouk-Guma Xolpel Ema Project: Provides training and technical assistance to the tribal nation on FASD from a non-stigmatic culturally congruent way. 

Juvenile Justice and Adult Corrections: Cognitively retailoring strategies and services for those impacted by severe trauma and FASD including training and technical assistance for the justice system, courts (procedural and sentencing), and parole and probation officers. Annually Suzie works with hundreds of justice involved people, providers, systems, and institutions working toward a more culturally congruent and trauma informed collaborative circle of care for our community members impacted by FASD. 

Red Lodge Transitions:Supporting the transition from incarceration to community life, working to reduce recidivism and incarceration of Indigenous peoples. Suzie has developed program models and projects at Red Lodge Transitions.

Beyond the Gloom and Doom: Manual written for the National Indian Child Welfare Association addressing intervention strategies for FASD populations for a developmentally and culturally congruent Native perspectives.

Juvenile Justice - An Opportunity: Authored an article addressing FASD issues for the justice system. 

Northwest Portland Area Indian Health Board (NPAIHB):  For over 30 years Suzie has been providing trainings and technical assistance to tribes and Nations in the area. She’s developed diagnostic services with a strengths-based, culturally congruent lens to serve the community. In 2000 she supported NPAIHB with a FASD project that continued until 2017.

Testifying: Suzie has worked on a number of bills in local and national legislative sessions, provided expert testimony and supported others in engaging in telling their stories before elected officials to reduce barriers and increase funding for FASD services.  

Early Childhood Education and Early Intervention Advocacy: According to stories from Suzie’s family, she has always been in Early Childhood and Early Intervention work. While in Southern Oregon Suzie focused primarily on autism awareness and support structures. She later worked with folks who experienced both neurological and environmental trauma, and FASD. 

Development of Early Childhood and Family Programs: Starting in 1975,  Suzie continues to provide training and technical assistance to national and regional programs developing environments and strategies for children with behavioral and processing difficulties with FASD. Suzie also started and worked in several Head Start programs over the years, returning to college to continue building her skills in education and early intervention that work congruently with her Indigenous wisdom and ancestral knowledge. 

Lakeside Step Ahead Lakeside, Oregon: Suzie developed curriculum and programming for families. She collaborated with the Coos County Alcohol Services to provide a family resource program for prevention and treatment. 

Coos County Head Start --Coos Bay, Oregon: Suzie again trained staff and teachers and built curriculum for families with young children. 

Coquille Valley Family Resource Program-- Coquille, Oregon: Suzie built on the existing program to develop parenting classes, play therapy, family counseling, and home intervention/child abuse prevention programs.

Coos County Education Service District--Coos Bay, Oregon: Suzie developed and administered EI services and programs to children birth-three years old and their families. 

Native American Rehabilitation Association--Portland, Oregon: Suzie provided early intervention training, developed, and presented community and site-based consultation and workshops on FASD. She provided support in classroom environmental design for public and tribal schools serving children with special needs. As a clinical supervisor, Suzie designed, developed, and delivered a multigenerational, family-focused curriculum of interventions and behavioral strategies that is culturally congruent, and trauma informed. 

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Consultant: Suzie has provided consultation on designing systems, and curriculum structures for Native populations for over 19 years. This training trickles down to support organizations that do direct service deliver who are funded or find support through SAMHSA and its many, national resources.

Future Generations Collaborative Founding, Education Mode Lead, and FASD Programming:

The Future Generations Collaborative (FGC) is a collective impact partnership between several Native owned and operated, and Native-serving, organizations, businesses, institutions, and health systems. Founded in 2011, mission of the FGC has remained strong, and has grown in the ways it serves the people. Striving to generate a healthy, healing, and growing Indigenous community, the FGC centers traditional values and collaboration in the prevention of FASD, and provides lifelong support to community members who have been impacted by FASD, through multi-generational educational programming, community driven engagement, decolonized and Indigenized research and evaluation, and innovative policy shifts. Even during COVID-19, Suzie has continued to develop programming, provide technical assistance, and build environments that support the physical, behavioral, and mental health of the community. She developed the structure of the FGC with four modes of service delivery and has led and continues to lead the Education Mode. Developing curriculum and providing technical support to established programs to collaborate for the best possible care.

Chaku Manqu-Lush (Help Me Grow):  An opportunity when much of the world went virtual to bring together early intervention specialists, mental health consultants, early childhood educators, parents, pediatricians and health care providers, case managers, and children to provide a wholistic approach to meeting people where they are at, physically distance in person support and collaboration of service delivery built during the pandemic. 

Chaku-hayash khapa at wax: Designing and building natural playscapes that support a connection with the land, natural elements, supports all levels of physical and mental development for children under seven, and their caregivers. The intentional design of the playscape fosters togetherness, while providing physical space between families that makes it more COVID protocol friendly. Boasting a beautiful, hand carved children’s canoe, a handmade elders bench, swing set, sensory pebble play pit, food garden, climbing logs, wooden kitchen, boulders, and more, this space has been designed to support the needs of multiple community members impacted by FASD, and those impacted by other developmental or neurological conditions. 

Parent Support Circles:In response to COVID-19 and parental stress, Suzie started building Parent Support Circles virtually which help parents talk openly about their own mental health, and challenges during working from home and juggling schooling. Parents are provided opportunities to map the positive which Suzie supports them in, by reminding them of all they have done well that they can build on.

The Justice Project: American Bar Association (ABA) FASD Resolution-Suzie along with the other modes of the FGC and Elders and Natural helpers worked with the ABA on developing and adopting an ABA resolution on FASD. 

ABA Summit: conference of experts in FASD support judges, parole and probation officers, lawyers, legal defenders, and all those who impact justice involved individuals. The FGC, with Suzie’s guidance worked to develop relationships with all layers of the justice system to involve them in understanding the barriers people with FASD face when inside the system, provide opportunities for improvement, and build relationships that continue to provide teaching opportunities. 

Justice and FASD: Engendering Hope and Delivering Promise-The published report and curricula for the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and the Future Generations Collaborative developed in the FGC. This curriculum is one that Suzie still uses today to training divisions of the Justice Department and Health and Human Services who do direct service work with the Native community and/or those impacted by FASD.

Jessica Guernsey, Multnomah County Public Health Director noted, “One of the most important qualities that Suzie brings just to the world is her inherent knowledge, experience and belief of the restorative and generative practice of perpetuating indigenous culture as medicine true healing. Suzie is one of the voices that has persistently worked toward bridging the gap between services to provide care and support to people with FASD. She does so locally with on-the-ground, hands-on program development. She has been known to answer phones at all hours of the night to make sure people know someone is there for them with the frequency and duration they need to be successful in treatment, housing, employment, parenting -- anything. You name it, and she’s working on it.  Suzie’s work knows no borders, often traveling to and from different Tribal Nations and countries (pre-pandemic) and she often gives the gift of her wisdom to whomever is asking."

One of Suzie’s children had this to say, “she firmly believes that no act is too small to matter and in so believing empowers many to make a difference in their own lives and those of others.And that is exactly how Suzie lives the values and purpose of public health work."

Policy Champion Award

Oregon Recovers, Mike Marshall, Executive Director

Oregon has the 5th highest alcohol use disorder rate (for individuals 12 and older) in the country. Since formed, Oregon Recovers has worked tirelessly to move the needle through policy development, advocacy and community building. 

Examples include:

a. Worked with legislators to design the Addiction Crisis Recovery Act which, for the first time, provided a comprehensive solution to building a new addiction recovery system of care and would have effectively reduced underage drinking and binge drinking by 10%. 

b. Oregon Recovers worked with legislators to reform the Oregon Liquor Control Commission by requiring two of seven commissioners to have an expertise in public health. 

c. Oregon Recovers worked with legislators to require consumer notification of the health consequences of consuming alcohol at the point of sale.

In all of these efforts, the alcohol industry lobbyist succeeded in killing the bills.  Let's encourage Oregon Recovers to keep up their work to save lives and improve the public health of all Oregonians!

Health Equity Champion Award

Jonathan Garcia, PhD

Dr. Jonathan Garcia is an exceptionally innovative educational leader who demonstrates exceptional achievement, excellence, outstanding leadership, and health equity and inclusiveness in public health research, teaching, and practice.He joined the Oregon State University (OSU) faculty in 2015 as one of four hires in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences (CPHHS) funded by the Provost’s Initiative on Student Success through the Lens of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. Jonathan was hired because of his expertise in community-engaged learning and research. His scope of work included implementing a comprehensive plan designed to advance the academic success of both undergraduate and graduate students specifically through the lens of equity, inclusion, and diversity. Because of his outstanding achievements in advancing equity, inclusion, and diversity, Jonathan received the Diversity Research Award, from the OSU Office of Institutional Diversity and Research Office in 2019 and the OSU Outstanding Diversity Advocate Award in 2021.Jonathan is a champion whose works have and continue to ensure opportunities for all as they live, learn, work, and play. His approach to public health teaching and to advancing student success is through the lens of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity (EID). He creates a welcoming and supportive climate through his student-centered teaching philosophy which draws on theories of Popular Pedagogy (Paulo Freire).

He uses a variety of innovative tools to reach students with various learning styles. These tools include Edward de Bono’s six thinking styles and a mix of lectures, video clips, facilitated discussions, student presentations of assigned readings, individual reflection, and/or small-group activities. Jonathan also excels in mentoring students and gives generously of his time and talents. He brings his EID lens to assist students with research projects and to identify career paths that advance social justice and eliminate health disparities.

Through his educational and mentoring contributions, he has fostered health equity within the public health community and has encouraged diverse perspectives and voices into our public health work. In addition to his record of success in educating and mentoring students in the CPHHS, Jonathan has reached beyond the university to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged youth in Oregon. His outreach showcases his dedication, creativity, and innovation in the promotion of equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout Oregon and in protecting and promoting the health of Oregon residents. More specifically, he received a three-year grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to apply strategies that he developed in Peru and Brazil to combat social isolation and bullying against LGBTQ+ youth of color who participated in the 4-H outreach programs in Oregon.

The Engaging the Next Latinx Allies for Change and Equity (ENLACE) Program fosters an environment in which youth with intersectional identities can generate solidarity to combat diverse forms of social isolation and oppression. Using a participatory, video-based approach, this positive youth development program engages Oregon Latinx youth to become leaders in their communities and encourages them to obtain a college education. Specifically, Jonathan used these opportunities to engage a 45-member community advisory board that included LGBTQ+ Latinx youth, 4-H youth, 4-H parents, and healthcare providers specializing in LGBTQ+ health. He funded ten LGBTQ+ youth to develop five telenovel-style films focused on bullying, self-harm, community building, and access to health services. This work was implemented in partnership with the nonprofit organization, Outside the Frame, which trains homeless and marginalized youth to be directors of their own films and lives.

By engaging marginalized youth throughout this work, Jonathan provides a model of systems-correcting praxis and empowerment to advance EID. He contributes to uplifting health equity for communities through advocacy for policy and systems change. The ENLACE program is embedded within the 4-H Outreach Leadership Institute that bring together Latinx youth from rural areas, small towns, and urban areas in Oregon. Its sustainability is based on these cross-sectoral networks that extend far beyond the formal school environment. ENLACE will continue to fill a critical gap in addressing social isolation within these informal spaces that 4-H outreach can access. Because the institute serves as a vital pipeline to empower more than 100 Latinx youth each year to become leaders in their communities and gain access to a college education, embedding this work within the 4-H Outreach Leadership Institute profoundly expands the program’s impact.

In addition to his research, teaching, and community outreach, Jonathan’s service contributions focus on achieving health equity. Jonathan co-chaired the Sexual and Reproductive Health Equity Consortium and served on the OSU Leadership Council for Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice and on the CPHHS Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity Committee. Because of his dedication to his community, he served on the Oregon Viral Hepatitis Action Plan Steering Committee and assisted in integrating actions and SMART objectives for community-based organizations and the Oregon Health Authority.

He is an active member of both the American Public Health Association and the Oregon Public Health Association. In addition to his numerous presentations at the OPHA Annual Conference, for multiple years he has volunteered and served as a judge for the OPHA Student Posters.

Internationally, he served on the Advisory Board for the South American Program on HIV Prevention Research in Peru and on the Advisory Council at Swasti Health Catalyst in India.

He is a rising star in the public health field and will continue to make significant contributions to the profession. His efforts and achievements will build the nation’s capacity for innovation, leadership, and action to promote equity, diversity, and inclusion throughout Oregon and beyond. 

Emerging Leader Award

Sabrina Garcia, PWS

Sabrina Garcia is a magnificent changemaker, immensely dedicated to her community, and has made an astounding impact in Klamath County (where she lives, works, and is an enrolled tribal member), Jackson, and Lake Counties. Without a doubt, she is one of our state's most visionary emerging leaders.

Sabrina started working as a recovery peer/peer wellness specialist in January 2020. She anchored one of three pilot counties for statewide harm reduction intervention that began at the beginning of COVID. For the past 20+ months, Sabrina has demonstrated continued resilience, creativity, and grace in the face of COVID, wildfires, community challenges, and the ever-evolving crisis of substance use and overdose. She has done this while working a strong program of recovery. She has done this while facing and surmounting personal challenges. She has done this with honesty, with vigor, and with deep joy in her work. Sabrina is a light and an inspiration to all of those who get to know with her.

Another example of Sabrina’s magnificence is in her work as a tri-chair of Measure 110’s Oversight and Accountability Council (OAC). Sabrina has participated in the critical and groundbreaking work of implementing this measure with inclusivity and generosity. She invites her other colleagues to attend public meetings, listens to their feedback, and shares her perspective openly and respectfully. She has evolved from someone who was hesitant and nervous about presenting on her work into someone who speaks clearly, proudly, and with passion about the importance of harm reduction. Colleagues say they have been lucky enough to co-present with Sabrina at a handful of meetings and conferences. They have witnessed her step into her own confidence and strength, as she owns the power of the work she does in her community. Always humble, always quick to acknowledge others for their participation, Sabrina is generous with praise and support for her teammates both locally and around the state.

Over the past year, Sabrina has cultivated steady partnerships with county public health, local employment agencies, Max’s Mission (based out of Jackson County), and other treatment and recovery programs including culturally-specific programs to provide outreach services in Klamath County. She singlehandedly organized syringe services and ongoing Narcan trainings in a county that has been slow to embrace harm reduction approaches. In Sabrina’s own words, “A big win that I have been a part of recently came in the form of breakthrough as an organizational partner collaboration. I have helped facilitate a syringe exchange harm reduction bus to come through our community bi-weekly, starting June 15th, 2021. I was told early on in my job position that we may never get a syringe exchange service in our rural town. We had so many people tell me that we could never get a syringe exchange here. We barely had people on board for harm reduction.

Sabrina has organized outreach into tribal communities, delivered Narcan to Lake County in the midst of an overdose epidemic (which involved, quite literally, driving around with her coworkers to find people who use drugs and share this life-saving medication with them), and has continued to help the peers she works with obtain testing and treatment for infectious diseases like hepatitis A, B, C, HIV and STIs. She is an exquisite human, public health practitioner, and leader.

Outstanding Student Poster Awards:

Mandana Masoumirad, MA.See Virtual Poster Here 

Satyasandipani Pradhan, MHA.See Virtual Poster Here