NC Association of Local Health Directors Honors Health Director of the Year, Legislator of the Year, Ham Stevens Award Winner, and Partner Organization for Contributions to Improving Public Health
On Wednesday, January 22, 2020, the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors honored Tommy Jarrell, PhD of Richmond County as Health Director of the Year, State Representative Donna M. White as Legislator of the Year, Velma Taormina, MD from the Gaston County Department of Health & Human Services as The Ham Stevens Award Winner, and WNC Health Network, Asheville with the 2020 Public Health Partners Award.
The awards were given at the NCALHD annual meeting awards luncheon in Raleigh. The awards luncheon was held in conjunction with the 2020 North Carolina Public Health Leaders’ Conference, also in Raleigh.
The 2020 North Carolina Health Director of the Year Award was presented to Tommy Jarrell of Richmond County. This award was created by the North Carolina Association of County Commissioners and is implemented through the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors, an affiliate of the NCACC and is given to an individual for outstanding leadership in both public health in North Carolina and for leadership and involvement in local community and civic activities.
Tommy has been a public health leader for over 28 years and has served as Assistant Director of Emergency and Outpatient Services at First Health Moore Regional Hospital in Pinehurst, an adjunct faculty member with the UNC-Pembroke and the Richmond Community College teaching a variety of courses for the School of Business. He has provided exceptional health services in a rural community including dental health, pharmacy assistance, and community care. Dr. Jarrell led his team at Richmond County Health Department to successful accreditation and re-accreditation cycles four times. In the community, Dr. Jarrell is well-spoken by all who know him.
Dr. Jarrell is respected in the community and is said to be “forthcoming, honest and flexible”. His pastor defines him as “most reliable, a supporter, and an encourager to many”. His staff stated “He wants everyone to prosper, have access to services and be healthy with no restrictions. He is a true leader of public health.”
The 2020 Ham Stevens Award was presented to Velma Taormina, MD, Gaston County Department of Health and Human Services. This award is given to individuals who exemplify the qualities of a former health director and friend of public health, Ham Stevens, M.D. Dr. Stevens was largely responsible for bringing administrative health directors and medical health directors together to form the North Carolina Association of Local Health Directors (NCALHD).
Dr. Taormina served as Medical Director for Gaston Co. DHHS for 15 years, until December 2019. Her passion for public health is reflective in her innovative work, her patient care and support of the community. She led a team of providers who until July 2019 was responsible for delivering over 50% of the babies in Gaston County. As a change agent, Dr. Taormina was responsible for creating a reproductive health program in the jail; established a community-based substance abuse treatment program for pregnant women; assured the effective operation of two Teen Wellness Centers; and was a partner with the campaign that reduced Gaston County’s incidence of teen pregnancies by 24.7% from 2020-2014.
Dr. Taormina is a true public health advocate and routinely supports other health departments and organizations as they work to combat similar health issues in their own communities.
The 2020 Public Health Partners Award was presented to WNC Health Network, Asheville, NC. WNC Health Network is an alliance of hospitals working together, and with partners, to create healthy and thriving communities in western North Carolina. The Network’s flagship initiative is WNC Healthy Impact. This initiative provides a core set of services and support related to community health improvement to every health department in the 16-county region, at no cost to the health departments. 100% of public health agencies participate voluntarily in this collaborative, and it has become a model for the rest of the state. In partnership with local health departments in the region, WNC Health Network:
- Submits their Community Health Improvement Plans to the State using electronic Scorecards
- Convenes the WNC Regional Communications Meet-Up
- Collects & analyzes data
- Community health strategic planning
- Takes action & evaluates health improvement
Steven E. Smith, Henderson Co Health Director stated “I, along with other health directors and public health staff in western North Carolina have had the privilege of working with the Network in a meaningful way to collectively advance health outcomes.”
The Legislator of the Year Award was given to State Representative Donna McDowell White. The Award was created to recognize legislators who have made significant contributions to the advancement and promotion of public health in North Carolina.
Representative White was elected to her seat in 2016 representing Johnston County. Prior to becoming a member of the NC House of Representatives she was worked as a public health nurse in many capacities from 1974 to 1992, including communicable disease, school health, pediatrics, and home health. She worked in the Division of Public Health, HIV/AIDS Branch until 2004 when she left to be the Home Care Consultant for the Division of Aging and Adult Services until 2014. She has served three terms on the Johnston County Board of Education. She is a member of the Johnston County Transit Advisory board the Johnston County Opioid Task Force and the Johnston County Network on Aging. She serves on the Clayton Chamber of Commerce Education Committee and was named the 2013 Woman of the Year for the Cleveland School Road Rotary Club.
As a leader in the NC House of Representatives, she is the first woman of her party to serve as Chair of House Health, Health and Human Services Appropriations and Vice-Chair of House Appropriations. She also serves on the Standing Committees for Environment, Aging, and Education K12 in addition to several other committees.
During the last Legislative Session, she was the lead sponsor on House Bill 579, Local Communicable Disease/Funds to appropriate funds to Local Health Departments to expand local communicable disease surveillance, detection, control and prevention infrastructure and activities. During the appropriations process, she was behind the scenes advocating for this funding that was included in the final budget. She has been the primary sponsor for many public health related bills and has worked with both parties to advocate for public health funding.