NHLBI Director Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. and NIMHD Director Dr. Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D., have been nominated to receive the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal, which honors outstanding federal government service. They are recognized for their groundbreaking work in the COVID-19 Response Category. Together these NIH institute directors helped develop and launch outreach programs to increase COVID testing as well as participation in treatment and vaccine trials in underserved communities.
The two co-led the establishment of the Community Engagement Alliance (CEAL) Against COVID-19 Disparities, an outreach and engagement program in ethnic and racial minority communities disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CEAL program is an NIH-wide effort jointly led by the NHLBI and NIMHD. It conducts targeted community outreach in 11 states to ensure Black, Hispanic/Latino, and American Indian underserved populations receive accurate information about COVID vaccines and treatments. It also promotes inclusion of these groups in clinical trials, and more recently, encourages vaccine uptake. The CEAL program has received additional funding to support an expansion.
Also known as the “Sammies,” the awards are considered the “Oscars” of government service. This year’s crop of nominees includes 29 finalists across six different categories of public service, including the COVID-19 pandemic response, which is a new category this year. The final winners will be announced in fall 2021. May 2 through 8 is Public Service Recognition Week.