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WGHA announces the 2020 Pioneers of Global Health Award winners

Seattle, Washington; June 26, 2020—The Washington Global Health Alliance (WGHA) is honored to announce the 2020 Pioneers of Global Health Award winners, recognizing a few of the people and organizations working tirelessly to improve health equity around the world.

“WGHA is proud to shine a light on this year’s awardees, who are advancing equity at home and around the world through innovative problem solving and strengthening health systems. They include a research nutritionist and Registered Dietitian who is establishing systems for vulnerable newborns to access human milk through integrated human milk bank programs as a critical approach for saving newborn lives, a 35-year Harborview trauma nurse who is improving health outcomes and reducing health disparities during COVID-19 and beyond, and an organization that is strengthening health care delivery at the ‘last mile’ so that health workers have the medicines and vaccines needed for communities to thrive,” said Tina Vlasaty, interim WGHA president.

Winners were selected by a panel of global health experts chaired by Erin McCarthy, senior program officer at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and WGHA board member. Awardees will be honored at the Pioneers of Global Health Awards virtual celebration on October 28, 2020. Sponsorships and event registration are available to the public for online purchase.

Winners of the 2020 WGHA Pioneers of Global Health Awards

Pioneers Award for Impact: Oneda Harris, University of Washington – Harborview Medical Center

WGHA’s seventh annual Pioneers Award for Impact recognizes Oneda Harris, a 35-year inpatient trauma rehabilitation nurse treating a global population of patients at Seattle’s Harborview Medical Center.

COVID-19 has reminded us that global health is local too and shown us the connectedness of people all over the world. Many communities in the United States need better access to quality care and accurate information, and Ms. Harris works to provide that each day. In her unit alone, 15 languages are spoken as their team represents the people they serve. Ms. Harris herself is the bridge to care that so many patients need. In the height of the pandemic, she worked with residents of Seattle’s Central District and the National Council of Negro Women to educate community members on COVID-19 and how to keep themselves and their families safe. She knew early on that these communities could be at increased risk.

Ms. Harris started her career by volunteering at Harborview and becoming a Master Gardener through Washington State University—recognizing early that “good food is good medicine, too.” As a rehabilitation nurse, Ms. Harris has improved health outcomes for countless patients by helping them put their lives back together and is training the next generation of health workers through Harborview’s mission as a teaching hospital.

We are honored to recognize Ms. Harris in the year that the World Health Organization has appropriately deemed “the Year of the Nurse and Midwife,” as communities rely on nurses now more than ever. Judges were impressed by Ms. Harris’ legacy impact in the community and how she dedicated time to educating vulnerable populations throughout the pandemic. Judges also applauded her commitment to reducing health disparities and improving health outcomes here in Seattle, making lasting changes in the lives of her patients, their families, and their communities.

Ms. Harris shared, “I am deeply moved and surprised that I was chosen for this award. I have been a nurse for 40 years in which I have served my local community and my global community. I always feel blessed to know that even in the most severe agony there is hope to find peace. They say that without peace there is no justice. I say without healing, there is no hope. My humble thanks to your splendid organization.”

Pioneers Rising Leader: Kimberly Mansen, PATH

WGHA’s 2020 Pioneers Rising Leader is Kimberly Mansen, a research nutritionist and registered dietitian whose work in nutrition innovation and milk banking programs is reducing infant mortality and improving lives for thousands of mothers and infants globally.

As a maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition (MNCHN) program officer, Ms. Mansen established integrated newborn nutrition and human milk banks in Vietnam, Kenya, and South Africa, helping ensure vulnerable newborns (pre-term and low birthweight) have equitable access to human milk, which makes them six times more likely to survive. She also helped lead the development of the first global standards of human milk for infant feeding, which have contributed to keeping babies safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kimberly is a global thought leader in newborn nutrition and advises global and technical policy leaders, including the World Health Organization, on feeding of vulnerable newborns.

The judges noted that Ms. Mansen demonstrated integrity, collaboration, and dedication in her work.
They agreed that her personal characteristics and expertise will lead to continued success in global health programs. Her supervisor Kiersten Israel-Ballard commented, “Kimberly is a rising leader who can see beyond the status quo to enact change. Her vision, creative thought, and collaboration are critical for shaping the successful programs that she is involved in.” Cyril Engmann, PATH MNCHN director, added, “Kimberly is the consummate global health professional. She is passionate about her work, committed to the people she is privileged to serve, tenacious, and a terrific colleague. She is truly deserving of this award.”

Upon learning of the award, Ms. Mansen said, “What an honor it is to receive this Rising Leader Award! I cannot accept this alone, but instead celebrate the dedicated and compassionate work of my teammates, colleagues, and partners as we seek to improve the lives of women and children globally. We have a far way to go to ensure equity for all infants to have access to lifesaving human milk and for all mothers to receive the support they need to meet their lactation goals. May this award represent our calling to rise to the occasion, continue to work hard, serve others, and join forces for purposeful change.”

Pioneers Outstanding Organization Award: VillageReach

WGHA’s 2020 Pioneers Outstanding Organization winner, VillageReach, transforms health care delivery to reach everyone. Through its work, VillageReach has developed and refined an approach of co-creating innovative solutions in the delivery of health products and services, integrating solutions with proven impact into health systems. What sets VillageReach apart is how it does its work. Through a lens of equity and inclusion, it partners with governments, nonprofit organizations, and private sector partners with the end goal of ensuring scale and sustainability of its programs and even transitioning them to local governments to own and operate.

Judges commented that VillageReach is an exemplary organization and applauded the innovative approach, strong local leadership, and radical collaboration among diverse partners—values that are embedded into who they are and how they operate around the world. Judges specifically highlighted the collaboration with local governments to provide accurate information regarding COVID-19, supporting local community health workers, and facilitating ‘last mile’ supply chains—all with an intentional emphasis on equity.

“VillageReach is honored to be recognized as this year’s Outstanding Organization. But we could not have made an impact the last 20 years without the collaborative power of partnership. Working with governments, our health sector colleagues, donors, and private sector partners, we have been able to scale and sustain high impact solutions to health care delivery challenges that are reaching more than 42 million people across sub-Saharan Africa,” said Emily Bancroft, VillageReach president. “Our small but mighty team—spread over 13 countries across the globe—could never have reached this scale on our own. And only together will we create the systemic change still needed to put quality health care within reach for everyone.”

About the Washington Global Health Alliance

WGHA is a membership organization of more than 70 global health organizations working to achieve health equity. WGHA connects and informs Washington’s global health community, creating a culture of collaboration at home so our members can have more impact in the world. Learn more at www.wghalliance.org.

Contact: Jayanna Thompson, Washington Global Health Alliance, 765.938.9201, jayanna.thompson@wghalliance.org