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2014 HMPRG Awards Honor Health Leaders

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group (HMPRG)
October 24, 2014
On October 14, 2014 Health & Medicine welcomed over 100 guests to our 5th HMPRG Awards. The event, held at Chicago’s Prairie Production, celebrated the achievements of our nine inspiring winners representing leaders in the fields of medicine, policy, public health, and advocacy. You can read more about this year’s winners here.

Since their inception in 2006, the HMPRG Awards have recognized 28 individuals and organizations whose work exemplifies Health & Medicine’s mission to promote social justice and challenge inequities in health and health care. The award categories –Health, Medicine, Policy, Research, and Group–reflect key prongs of Health & Medicine’s work and policy research efforts. In addition to honoring established health professionals, the awards also recognize an “emerging leader” under 30 and a “young activist” between the ages of 16 and 20.

This year’s event paid special tribute to a past award winner, Steve Whitman, PhD, who passed away this July. The Founder of the Sinai Urban Health Institute, Dr. Whitman was a true warrior in the quest for social justice whose tireless scientific, policy and political contributions have made a lasting impact in Chicago and beyond. In 2007, when we decided to begin giving awards to health leaders who shared our vision of health justice, Dr. Whitman was our first “Research” awardee. For our 2014 event, to celebrate Dr. Whitman’s legacy, we renamed our Research Award in his honor.

As we look back on this year’s event, we’d like to share the tribute to Dr. Whitman which was part of the Awards’ presentation. We look forward to continuing to honor his visionary work in the years to come.

Steve Whitman, PhD was an inspiration to all who believe in challenging health inequities.
After earning a PhD in biostatistics from Yale, Dr. Whitman worked from 1978 to 1991 as a senior epidemiologist at Northwestern University where he carried out multi-disciplinary research about epilepsy in the urban environment and supervised the epidemiological aspects of an effort to reduce breast and cervical cancer in poor Black women in Chicago. He also collaborated on a groundbreaking study on the dumping of emergency room patients, which helped end the practice.
In 1991, Dr. Whitman joined the Chicago Department of Public Health to direct the epidemiology program. He worked on public health issues such as infant mortality, HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, cancer, sexually transmitted diseases, and immunizations. Dr. Whitman was working for the city during the July 1995 heat wave; his work mapping the deaths by neighborhood demonstrated how conditions such as poverty and racial segregation contributed to over 700 deaths that summer.
From 2000 until his untimely death in 2014, Dr. Whitman created and led the Sinai Urban Health Institute, a unique research organization housed not in a university but within a critical safety net hospital serving Chicago’s west side. Under his leadership, SUHI conducted evaluations of innovative community health interventions and completed a groundbreaking health survey of the City of Chicago that led to numerous projects to improve the health of vulnerable neighborhoods.  As one of our country’s foremost epidemiologists, he will be remembered in the scientific community for his over 100 publications and over 400 presentations on public health topics.  
At Health & Medicine, we will also remember Steve for his tireless and passionate work using data to confront racism, social injustices and health inequities in all forms.  A true radical, Steve drew inspiration from revolutionaries across the globe; in describing the interconnectedness of the fights for human rights he often quoted the Puerto Rican poet Consuelo Lee Corretjer who urged a philosophy of “Live and help to live."  Steve challenged his friends and colleagues to be fearless and outspoken in the cause of justice, and in naming our HMPRG Whitman Research Award in his honor, we hope to preserve his rich legacy of robust science and lifelong activism.