Inside NHPHA: Annual Meeting 2021

by April Mottram, NHPHA Executive Director

Spring is the season of transition and new beginnings, and NHPHA is experiencing both.  April is the month that NHPHA holds its Annual Meeting and announces the change in board leadership and members.  On the evening of April 21st, close to 100 participants joined Zoom to learn about building community resilience after COVID-19, participate in conversations about NHPHA's policy priority areas, view student poster presentations, and network.  The meeting provided an opportunity for participants to celebrate NHPHA’s annual award recipients and welcome the Board of Directors for the upcoming year. 

During the first part of the Annual Meeting, there were several roundtable breakout sessions where participants could view student poster presentation and join conversations about Community Health Workers, Community Resilience, the COVID Equity Task Force, the Food Access Coalition, the new Immunization Coalition, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, and NHPHA leadership.  There were also breakout rooms set up for participants to meet NHPHA leadership, network, and speak with the family of Raaga Devineni.  Following the breakout session, Anna Adachi-Mejia, PhD, CPCC, delivered an engaging keynote presentation focused on resilient active living, whole communities, where healthy living is the default option rather than something hard to achieve. 

The meeting then transitioned to the awards ceremony, which started with the Student Research Awards to honor the winning student poster presentations.  Mikaela MacKinnon received the Undergraduate Student Research Awardand Bryan Patriquin received the Graduate Student Research Award.  The remainder of the awards ceremony recognized outstanding individuals who have impacted New Hampshire’s public health landscape.  Jess Barnett received the 2021 President’s Award for the exemplary support she provided to New Hampshire Public Health Association in her prior role as the Program Assistant.  The New Hampshire Community Service Award for Health recognizes a group or person who has made a significant contribution to improving the health of NH communities.  David Kreuger, Governor Sununu’s primary ASL interpreter, received the New Hampshire Community Service Award for Health for his outstanding work at the Governor’s COVID-19 press conferences.  The Friend of Public Health Award is presented to a person or to a group who has been instrumental in practicing or promoting public health in the state. This year, NHPHA decided to give out two Friend of Public Health Awards, one to an organization and one to an individual.

The organizational award for the Friend of Public Health was given to Makin’ It Happen under the direction of Executive Director Mary Forsythe Taber. Makin’ It Happen’s mission is to create a coordinated response among individuals, organizations, businesses, and communities to promote behaviors that measurably improve the overall health and well-being of youth, families, and communities with a focus on alcohol, tobacco, and other drug prevention.  The individual award for the Friend of Public Health was presented to Alyson Cobb with the Community Health Institute/JSI for her work with a variety of partners across New Hampshire at the state, regional, and local levels on a wide range of public health initiatives and efforts.  Alyson joined New Hampshire’s COVID-19 response efforts in March 2020 and is currently serving as a Contact Tracing Branch Co-Director.  The Rising Star Award honors a public health professional who has been in the field less than five years and has both contributed to public health and demonstrated significant potential - a true rising star in the field.  NHPHA awarded Salinda Chagnon with the 2021 Rising Star Award for her outstanding contributions to the NH Bureau of Infectious Disease Control, which includes serving as a COVID-19 Epidemiologist within the Epidemiology and Surveillance Branch of the state’s Public Health COVID-19 Operations Center. 

NHPHA has established the Raaga Devineni Equity and Justice Award in memory of Raaga Devineni, who served as the first coordinator of the NH COVID-19 Equity Task Force. This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated passion, commitment, and dedication to promoting health, economic, and social justice for everyone in New Hampshire. The 2021 Raaga Devineni Equity and Justice Award was awarded to Trinidad Tellez, MD, and Kirsten Durzy.  Trini served as Director of the NH Office of Health Equity for over ten years, and in the last year, she has worked to address the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Kirsten Durzy serves as the evaluator for the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Bureau of Infectious Disease Control. In response to the COVID pandemic, Kirsten has served as the Equity Subject Matter Expert for the NH COVID-19 response and Incident Management Team and the Branch Director for the Vaccine Equity Branch, and she served on the NH Governor’s COVID Equity Response Team.  Kirsten and Trini co-lead the NH COVID Equity Task Force, with logistical support from the New Hampshire Public Health Association. 

The 2021 Roger Fossum Award for Lifetime Achievement was presented to Neil Twitchell.  This award is presented to a senior public health individual who has made significant contributions to public health throughout their career. Neil has worked for the NH Division of Public Health Services since 1988 and became the Administrator of the Community Health Development Section in 2006.  He has worked diligently to strengthen local, regional, and statewide public health infrastructure and has actively supported the 13 Regional Public Health Networks. Neil has also been a member of the NHPHA board of directors and chaired the Program Planning Committee for many years and most notably has helped organize the annual Team Up, Take Action Conference in collaboration with the Vermont Public Health Association and Dartmouth Hitchcock Health.

The 2021-2022 NHPHA Board of Directors and Officers are Gail Tudor, Board President; Tory Jennison, President-Elect; Lisa Bujno, Immediate Past President; Nancy Frank, Secretary; Sharon Beaty – Treasurer; Bryan L’Heureux; Denise Pouliot; Tammy Carmichael; Jennifer Alford-Teaster; Catherine Bardier; Jonathan Stewart; Sai Cherala; Lisabritt Solsky; Marilee Nihan; Jayme Simões; and Fiona McEnany.  There is one vacancy on the Board due to a board member moving into the Secretary position.  The HR Nominating Committee and Board of Directors will fill this position as outlined in NHPHA’s bylaws. NHPHA would like to thank Bryan Patriquin, student Board member 2020-2021; Lisa Vasquez, Board member 2018-2021; and Marcella Bobinski, Board member and Immediate Past President 2017-2020, for their service to the NHPHA Board.  In addition, NHPHA welcomes Lisa Vasquez and Terrance Geenarain to the HR Nominating Committee.

In closing, there are two additional transitions to share.  The first transition is NHPHA’s monthly newsletter will not include a specific policy section because Corinne Lamond, a student intern, is working with the Policy Committee to send out a weekly Health In All Policies newsletter during the legislative session.  The second transition to share is bittersweet.  Andrea Guzman, NHPHA’s Workforce Coordinator, is relocating to continue her work in the public health field.  We wish her all of the best in her future endeavors.  If you have workforce-related needs, please contact April Mottram, NHPHA’s Executive Director, at [email protected]

NHPHA staff and Board of Directors will be updating the organization’s communication plan, reviewing progress on NHPHA strategic imperatives, and looking for additional volunteers to serve on NHPHA’s committees over the coming months.   Please email [email protected] if you have any interest in joining the Membership, Policy, or Communications Committee.

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