Burkhart has worked for the Buchanan County Public Health Department since 2011 and has been the director of the department since 2017. She is described as “a strong public health and community leader who builds and fosters relationships within Buchanan County as well as across the state.”
Her nominators note that Buchanan County is home to a large Old Order Amish population and Burkhart has worked hard to build strong relationships with this community. Her work with the Amish community has included efforts to increase the vaccination rate among Amish children – work that was recognized with an Iowa Immunization Champion Award in 2017.
These efforts laid the foundation for additional partnerships involving the Amish community, including opportunities to provide training in hands-only CPR, Stop the Bleed, and first aid, as well as roadway safety, car seat safety, pedestrian safety, poison prevention, immunization information and well water testing information. During the COVID response, her nominators state that she reached out early to Amish community leaders and worked closely with the County Sheriff, business owners, and others to increase awareness about disease spread and build trust.
Burkhart’s nominators also described the monumental task she led in 2021 to establish Buchanan County Public Health as the new fiscal agent for a 14-county service area in northeast Iowa, so that critical Public Health Emergency Preparedness and EMS funding would continue to flow to agencies in these counties.
She has been commended for leading her three-member health department’s COVID-19 vaccination program, including coordinating vaccine distribution throughout the county, setting up community clinics, arranging online and phone scheduling systems, recruiting staff for these efforts, and partnering closely with others, including hospitals, pharmacies, dentist’s, schools, emergency management, fire departments, EMS and law enforcement.
Leinenkugel started her career by working 20 years in hospital and clinic laboratories. She then switched to the field of public health where she spent 25 years. For the past 14 years, she was with the Iowa Department of Public Health, serving as program manager for the Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance Program. She later was named Program Director and Principal Investigator of the Occupational Health and Safety Surveillance Program, a position she held until her retirement in January 2022.
Throughout her career with IDPH, she played an instrumental role with numerous University of Iowa programs and with others across the state that were working to help keep Iowa workers safe and healthy. She represented the department on the Board of Directors for Iowa’s Center for Agricultural Safety and Health, or I-CASH. She played a major role in putting together the State of Iowa Burden of Injury reports, with much of the data coming from her program. She secured funding and remained actively involved in the Iowa Fatality Assessment & Control Evaluation (FACE) Program, while it was operating. This program collected basic information on all occupational fatalities in the state of Iowa as well as in-depth information on select fatal injuries.
Her nominators noted that Leinenkugel has always been a master networker, connecting organizations and departments with data and resources developed in her office or by others. She coordinated among various branches inside and outside the Occupational Health and Safety Program including with the state medical examiner, Health and Human Services, state and private colleges and universities and so many more.
She was a meticulous data manager with a keen eye for small details. She followed contacts to find the right person to notify, the supporting details, categorization of data, and so much more. At the same time, she also saw the big picture, focusing on why an effort was being undertaken and who did it help.
Her nominators also noted Kathy was sought out by so many organizations “because of her expertise in surveillance, her generosity in sharing information and her desire to see the data applied to making safer, healthier decisions. It would be easy for a surveillance expert to keep to their office, but Ms. Leinenkugel was out in the community, looking for ways to improve her surveillance data as well as places it could be improved.”
Schafer has served as Executive Director of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine in Muscatine, Iowa, since 2018. The foundation works to improve the quality of life in Muscatine County through philanthropy, enabling investment in the organizations and causes donors are passionate about, while providing a neutral place for collaboration of community improvement initiatives.
Schafer has taken an unlikely path to public health. She started her career after receiving a marketing degree from the University of Iowa and spent 20 years in retail banking leadership until 2015, when she joined Muscatine Center for Social Action as their executive director. MCSA is a non-profit that houses people experiencing homelessness, offers homeless prevention services, domestic violence sheltering, food pantry, and related health and educational services.
In her time steering the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine, grants have been initiated for organizations working to improve mental health and substance use, two community health focus areas identified in the Muscatine County Health Improvement Plan. In 2020, the foundation also created a new Racial Justice Fund to promote racial justice through charitable organizations to strengthen the community and ensure equitable opportunities.
In addition, under Schafer’s guidance, the community foundation is one of the lead partners in the innovative “Fueling the Future” initiative. This program assists children suffering from food insecurity (and receiving weekend food backpacks) by engaging their adult caregivers in a six-week, intensive “earn while you learn” up-skill training certification. This cross-collaborative initiative provides stabilization of family issues, education for the custodial adults, long-term advancement of skilled workers in the community, and a stronger next-generation Iowa workforce.
Charla’s nominator noted that Charla has been a leading voice in her community on issues such as homelessness and affordable housing, food insecurity, domestic violence awareness, and child poverty as a barrier to health and wellbeing.
“She is always looking at the systemic causes of issues and working to try to implement, and in her current position fund, upstream initiatives that create lasting change.”
Angela Drent is a Health Promotion Specialist at the Siouxland District Health Department in Sioux City, Iowa. In this role, she implemented — and continues to lead — one of the first worksite wellness committees in the area at Siouxland District Health Department. The program offers a variety of programming and services to employees including: wellness challenges, workstation evaluations, biometric screenings, lunch-and-learns, and on-site massage. Angela also began the Worksite Wellness Council to help local businesses in the region network and learn about onsite wellness programming and policies. In addition, she has worked closely with schools to start Woodbury County’s first Walking School Bus and Safe Routes to School programs, and she has assisted child care centers to make policy, systems, and environmental changes to promote physical health and improved nutrition. Angela also works to make her community more accessible to individuals with disabilities including doing building assessments, promoting more accessible public parks, getting the first public wheelchair charging stations in the state, and creating the Health and Wellness All Abilities Coalition, which works to increase physical activity options and access to health foods for individuals with disabilities.
Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye
Dr. Nafissa Cisse Egbuonye has been the Director of the Black Hawk County Health Department in Waterloo, Iowa, since 2016, and she has worked to establish her department as a leader in health promotion, prevention, and health equity. She has actively engaged the community in these initiatives, working with local partners and stakeholders to transform the health department from a direct services model to an emerging role as the community’s health equity strategist. Nafissa has engaged leadership and staff in her own agency, as well as local foundations and economic development leaders, K-12 education officials, housing and human services professionals, faith-based organizations, and health care practitioners. Bringing these various sectors together, she works to involve the entire community in the process of health improvement planning and to enlist support for capacity building around race, equity, and health. Through these efforts, Nafissa has contributed to building stronger community ties in Black Hawk County and to broadening understanding of the social determinants of health and their impact on health status for everyone.
Julie Popelka is a Public Education Specialist, Firefighter, and Paramedic in the Cedar Rapids Fire Department in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Within her community, Julie is a leading advocate and spokesperson for prevention of fires and falls. She was trained by the National Fire Protection Association to deliver the Remembering When program, an educational program designed to prevent falls and promote fire safety among adults age 65 and older. Through Julie’s tireless efforts, this safety program has been delivered to hundreds of people in Cedar Rapids via group presentations and in-home visits. In addition, Julie is an innovator in efforts to reach the community with safety, lifelong learning, and empowerment messages. She is frequently featured in local news reports and she organizes the annual Adult Resource Expo at the Cedar Rapids central fire department, which brings together community risk education organizations. She also oversees multiple programs for children and young adults, including a summer program aimed at getting young women interested in careers in fire service. Through dedication and partnering with other community organizations, Julie is improving the quality of life, safety, and health of not only Cedar Rapids residents, but also residents throughout Iowa.
Arlinda McKeen has been an advocate for public health in Iowa and a leader in innovative outreach and engagement efforts that benefit community well-being throughout the state. Prior to her retirement in March 2018, she was an integral part of the State Public Policy Group for nearly 25 years. In that time she served as senior program director, VP for programs and services, executive VP and COO, and president and CEO. Two examples of her many projects include developing solutions to long-standing concerns for Iowa’s emergency management system and working with the Iowa Department of Human Services to develop guidance and criteria for rating home-based and center-based child care providers. McKeen was a key partner in gathering information and communicating with stakeholders as part of the effort to establish the University of Iowa College of Public Health in 1999. In 2011, she was essential in helping the college create the Business Leadership Network (BLN), which fosters ongoing, mutually beneficial relationships between the college and small and medium-sized businesses and communities in Iowa. In addition, McKeen helped develop and oversee the BLN Community Grant Program, which provides funding to support projects, programs, and activities that build collaborations and support healthier Iowa communities.
Patricia Quinlisk, MD, MPH, served as the medical director and state epidemiologist at the Iowa Department of Public Health for 24 years until her retirement in September 2018. She has been a national leader and a trusted source of health information for Iowans on nearly every health issue ranging from immunization to foodborne outbreaks, preparedness, hepatitis, mumps, measles, monkeypox, and much more. Before her career in public health in Iowa, Quinlisk was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Nepal, where she saw firsthand the importance of public health in preventing diseases. In 1989, she became a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer. In 1998, she was elected president of the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists. In 2003, she became a member of the Board of Scientific Counselors in the CDC. She also served on the Emerging Threats to Health in the 21st Century Committee of the National Institute of Medicine. Dr. Quinlisk has trained and mentored the next generation of public health professionals through active involvement at the University of Iowa, the University of Wisconsin, and Des Moines University.
Kara Vogelson, MHA, began working at the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health in 2002. During her career with the department, she has advanced through multiple positions, including environmental health specialist, healthy homes program coordinator, and assistant health planner. She currently serves as the organizational development and research manager and is the assistant deputy director of administrative operations. Most recently, she has added the duties of regional development and public policy advisor. She has written hundreds of successful grants, facilitated strategic planning sessions, written Community Health Needs Assessments/Health Improvement Plans, conducted trainings, and mentored staff and students. She has served on boards, commissions, and committees locally and statewide. Vogelson organized and initiated the Cerro Gordo County Department of Public Health’s process to become accredited with the Public Health Accreditation Board. Through her leadership, the department became the second in Iowa to achieve accreditation in February 2018. Her contributions as a planner, grant writer, and visionary impact many public health paradigms. In each of her positions, she maintains a committed focus and dedication to helping people live longer and healthier lives.
Linda Kalin began her career as an emergency room nurse and in 1989 became Iowa’s first Certified Specialist in Poison Information. She was instrumental in the development of the statewide poison control center established in 2000. Since that time, Kalin has effectively expanded the scope, reach, and impact of the Iowa Poison Control Center (IPCC), which provides emergency advice about poisons and leads the state in providing information about poisoning prevention and control. In recent years, the IPCC has become a leading state agency in identifying and responding to Iowa’s opioid and heroin overdose crisis. Kalin has held leadership and service positions in many national and local professional organizations and currently serves on the Board of Directors of the American Association of Poison Control Centers. She is a frequent lecturer and speaker on topics involving drugs of abuse and general poison management and is an adjunct faculty member and preceptor for the University of Iowa College of Pharmacy and Drake College of Pharmacy.
Julie Stephens has worked for Linn County Public Health (LCPH) since 2003 and has been in her current position of public health emergency preparedness and disaster recovery specialist since 2009. She emphasizes collaboration and strives to bring different public health disciplines together around a common goal. She demonstrated leadership and expertise during the Linn County floods of 2008 and 2016, and during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009. She co-chairs the Epi Team at LCPH and serves as a leader and the fiscal agent for the 6A Preparedness Coalition. She provides leadership for the Linn County Medical Reserve Corps, Linn Area Partners Active in Disaster, Iowa’s Mortuary Operational Response Team, the state’s Highly Infectious Disease workgroup, and has served on several National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO) workgroups. Stephens previously served on the NACCHO Preparedness Planning, Outcomes, and Measures workgroup and currently serves on the Incident Management workgroup.
Denise Wheeler has been the Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Family Planning Coordinator and Title X Director since 2009. She has expertly guided family planning services for Iowa families during a period of major change in the health system. As part of her role, she has been a voice for women, families, and adolescents seeking reproductive care and education. She is active at the local, regional and national level ensuring quality care for all Iowans. Before coming to IDPH, Wheeler spent the first 25 years of her professional career serving the communities of Des Moines and Ames as a nurse midwife and educator. Her contributions to the field of family planning extend beyond Iowa and include participation in key Office of Population Affairs and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention groups. She continues to be a resource for federal agencies and national organizations concerned about the challenges at the local and state levels, as well as implications for safety net programs such as Title X.
More information about the Iowa Public Health Heroes Award is available at https://www.public-health.uiowa.edu/public-health-heroes/.
Mary Mincer Hansen has been a health leader in Iowa since receiving her BSN in 1970. As Director of the Iowa Department of Public Health from 2003-2007, she was instrumental in beginning the Modernizing Public Health in Iowa initiative, which aims to advance the quality and performance of public health in Iowa. From 2007-2014, she was on the faculty of Des Moines University and directed DMU’s Master of Public Health program from 2011-2014. She is the former chair of the Healthy and Well Kids in Iowa (hawk-i) board, which oversees Iowa’s Children’s Health Insurance Program.
Bonnie Rubin began her career in public health in 2002 as Iowa’s first CDC Laboratory Response Network emergency preparedness and terrorism response coordinator with the State Hygienic Laboratory (SHL). She continues to work to ensure collaborative efforts of clinical laboratories, public and state public health departments, emergency responders, law enforcement and other agencies to prepare for unexpected natural and man-made emergencies. Prior to her 2016 retirement, she served as Associate Director at SHL, implementing new processes and systems to ensure the laboratory’s fiscal and operational future.
Bob Russell has been a state and national leader in expanding access to oral health services. Since becoming Public Health Dental Director for Iowa in 2005, he spearheaded development and implementation of the I-Smiles program, which aims to improve access to preventive dental health services for children receiving Medicaid. He also leads the I-Smiles Silver project, an innovative pilot project to provide dental care for older Iowans in nursing homes or confined to their own homes.
Kevin Techau has had a distinguished career as a lawyer and a leader in both federal and state government. As Commissioner of the Iowa Department Public Safety, he spearheaded efforts to improve Iowa’s Graduated Driver’s Licensing program, promote increased seat belt use, lower traffic fatalities, and increase training for firefighters. As U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Iowa, Techau launched statewide and community efforts to reduce the burden of opioid addiction and overdose.
Dr. Russell Currier’s career has spanned advocacy, research, epidemiology, disease prevention, and health promotion. As the executive vice president of the American College of Veterinary Preventive Medicine, he is responsible for credentialing veterinarians in public health, preventive medicine, and epidemiology. During Dr. Currier’s 29-year tenure in the Iowa Department of Public Health, he pioneered Community Health Needs Assessment and Health Improvement Planning, traveling the state to deliver technical assistance on community health needs assessment and prevention initiatives at a time when public health was primarily focused on home care and clinical-related activities.
Gerald Edgar is responsible for the environmental health and safety (EH &S) functions at Mitas Tires North America, a tire manufacturing company in Charles City, Iowa, with 175 employees. When the plant opened in 2012, Edgar created and implemented all of the EH & S programs, training, and monitoring systems. Mitas has received Iowa-Illinois Safety Council Safety Awards for three consecutive years. Edgar is a committed volunteer and has served on numerous boards and committees, including the Hancock County Red Cross, the Iowa Board of Podiatry and Prosthetics, and the Charles City Area Safety Group.
Jeneane Moody leads the Iowa Public Health Association (IPHA) with energy, enthusiasm, and a commitment to collaboration that strengthens public health in all corners of the state. She has created many effective coalitions and collaborations and has engaged IPHA with other groups to promote fluoridation efforts, safeguard Iowa’s milk supply, enhance public health accreditation efforts, and incorporate health goals into sectors such as urban and regional planning, transportation, recreation, real estate development, and many others.
Jodi Tomlonovic has been the executive director of the Family Planning Council of Iowa for 30 years and has been recognized at the state, regional, and national level for her vision and leadership. She has served on the board of directors for both the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association and the Family Planning Council of America, serving as president of the latter. In addition, she has served on numerous national and state level committees, taskforces, and workgroups related to family planning and health care services. She has been recognized for her advocacy efforts on numerous occasions, twice receiving the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association Advocacy and Public Affairs Award.
Karen Crimmings is known and respected throughout north central Iowa for her work in disease prevention and investigation. She created a surveillance tool for use in Cerro Gordo County that outlines higher rates of school absence as an early indicator of childhood illness or a potential disease outbreak. Crimmings has also spearheaded hugely successful initiatives in the areas of childhood immunization, rabies education, and foodborne illness.
Ronald Eckoff has spent nearly a half century advancing the cause of public health. In 1965, he began a career at the Iowa Department of Public Health in which he served as medical director, division director, and acting director of the department. Eckoff still serves as a member of the Dallas County Board of Health, the Iowa Public Health Association, and the Public Health Advisory Council.
Binnie LeHew has been a long-time public health advocate in Iowa, particularly in the area of injury, violence, and disability prevention. In addition to her role with IDPH, she currently serves as president-elect of the Safe States Alliance, the nation’s largest professional organization representing injury and violence prevention practitioners, and is past chair of the State and Territorial Rape Prevention Education Director’s Council. She has been active with groups such as the Iowa Prevention of Disabilities Policy Council, Iowa Trauma System Advisory Council, Iowa Sex Offender Research Council, the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, and the Polk County Domestic Abuse Coordinating Council. In 2011, she received a Visionary Voice Award from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center.
Laurie Zelnio has spent her career promoting a culture of environmental responsibility through John Deere corporate initiatives targeted to protect the air, land, and water for its employees, customers, and the communities in which the company operates. She was instrumental in establishing John Deere’s 2018 EcoEfficiency Goals focused on reducing the company’s and its customers’ environmental footprints through energy and water efficiency, waste recycling, and product sustainability activities. Zelnio’s dedication to employee health and safety have made a lasting impact on John Deere’s manufacturing operations in Iowa and around the globe.
Brian Hanft has actively supported public health at the local, state, and national levels for nearly 20 years. He is responsible for directing, coordinating, and supervising all public health service programs in Cerro Gordo County, including food inspections, swimming pool inspections, on-site sewage, nonpublic water wells, well plugging, well testing, animal confinements, mosquito surveillance, lead testing, radon, lead-free kids, and public health nuisances.
Julie McMahon’s 45-year career in public health began in Cody, Wyo., as a public health nursing assistant. Later, she carried her passion for public health to her home state of Iowa, where she spent 26 years at the local and state levels in Fayette County, Dubuque County, and in Des Moines at the Iowa Department of Public Health, where she led the Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease Prevention.
Mary O’Brien has been a long-time public health advocate in Iowa, particularly in the area of maternal and child health. She served the Iowa Public Health Association (IPHA) in numerous capacities, including leadership of the Maternal and Child Health section, the IPHA Board of Directors, and the IPHA Advocacy Committee. In addition, O’Brien served on the Iowa Maternal and Child Health Advisory Council, where she worked to increase women’s access to health care and reduce infant mortality rates in Iowa.
Jerry York is widely known and respected within the meat processing industry. His company, PIECO, Inc., is a leading designer and manufacturer of advanced cutting and grinding equipment. With a continuing commitment to consumer food safety concerns, PIECO innovations in meat processing and handling systems have increased business efficiency and reduced potential for bacteria growth and contamination.
Sharon Guthrie of Cedar Rapids has been a dedicated leader supporting the health of Iowa children through public health policy advocacy and day-to-day action as a practicing nurse and educator. Her efforts include initiatives to promote school nursing programs in Iowa and expand the availability mental health-screening programs for school-age youth. Sharon is a graduate of the UI College of Nursing and is currently an Assistant Professor at Mount Mercy University.
Louise Lex of Des Moines has worked as a state health planner coordinating community health assessment and health improvement activities for nearly 30 years. Throughout a distinguished career at the Iowa Department of Public Health, she has created and implemented community health interventions, supported advocacy efforts, coordinated and led the Iowa Governor’s Conferences on Public Health, and spearheaded the Healthy Iowans initiative, among many other initiatives.
Laura Oliver of Onawa, Iowa, has worked for Monona County Public Health since 1991 and currently serves as the department’s public information officer and immunization project director. Her leadership has resulted in the improvement of numerous community services, including maternal health services, child health clinics, immunizations, home health, communications, and community coalition building for health improvement.