Last week, in his first visit to the US, Pope Francis offered many words of advice and reflection to the millions of people he addressed. Of all the topics he covered, his comments on gratitude at New York’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral spoke to me the most. Pope Francis counseled us to “seek the grace of remembrance so as to grow in the spirit of gratitude…[because] joy springs from a grateful heart.”
The very day Pope Francis made this call for a broader spirit of gratitude, we held our annual tradition of giving thanks to some of Colorado’s leading champions for the medically underserved; on September 24, CCMU hosted its annual fundraising luncheon. It was a packed house at the Denver Art Museum with nearly 300 health leaders from around the state coming together to be inspired, support CCMU, and express our collective gratitude to our 2015 Community Champion Award recipients.
Our keynote speaker, Thomas Goetz, delivered a powerful call to action of his own. Thomas urged leaders to be bold in our attempts to transform the health care system. His message was that civilization has unfolded in a way that facilitates poor health, so we must counter-program it–through laws, policies, and systems change–to eliminate barriers and create opportunities to good health. This year’s awardees embody this bold approach to change:
This year’s Physician of the Year award went to Dr. Fred Michel, a child psychiatrist with Mental Health Partners. Dr. Michel has worked closely with the Colorado Psychiatric Access & Consultation for Kids (C-PACK) program since its inception and has helped many children and adolescents who would not otherwise have had access to psychiatric and behavioral health care.
Karen Hayes, a physician assistant with ACS Community LIFT, received our Non-Physician Provider of the Year award for her help in establishing a completely free pharmacy, psychological counseling, and lab service at her safety net clinic, by partnering with hospitals and recruiting other volunteer providers.
Veronica Morales, a care coordinator and health coach at Mountain Family Health Centers, was awarded our Advocate of the Year Award. Veronica is a tireless advocate for the Latina community and an expert in engaging community members in their own health.
Our Lifetime Achievement award was won by Grant Jones of the Center for African-American Health. Grant’s leadership on issues of health disparities and health care reform has been lauded for years. He has also established and run many effective disease prevention, insurance enrollment, and care entry programs that have changed the lives of many. Grant is retiring at the end of this year and we were thrilled to be able to honor his incredible legacy.
We’ve been handing out our Community Champion Awards since CCMU’s early days, and have barely scratched the surface of the many deserving leaders around the state. We’d like to thank this year’s winners, and all the nominees, for leading us to a better Colorado. We’ll remember the joy this spirit of gratitude has given us in the tough months ahead as we continue to work toward a health care system that meets the needs of all Coloradans.