Seven Healthy Kentucky Champions named by Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky; finalists for Friedell Award to be given Oct. 17

The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has announced its 2022 class of Healthy Kentucky Champions. The awards recognize individuals dedicated to improving the health of Kentuckians at a community level or state level; they are finalists for a statewide award to be announced in October.

“These seven Healthy Kentucky Champions are an inspiration to all working to better the health of our state,” said Ben Chandler, president and CEO of the foundation. “We owe them much gratitude for their dedication to addressing some of the health challenges Kentuckians face. The commonwealth is better because of these Healthy Kentucky Champions.”

The seven Healthy Kentucky Champions are nominees for the 2022 Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Champion Award, which comes with a $5,000 grant from the foundation to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice. This year’s Friedell Award winner will be announced at the Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum Oct. 17. The forum will focus upstream the social determinants of health on the connection between educational opportunities and health outcomes of Kentuckians. To learn more and register for this free, virtual event, click here.

The Healthy Kentucky Champions are Dr. Patricia Bautista-Cervera of Louisville, Eric Crawford of Maysville, Terry Gehrke of Louisville, Denise Hall of Trimble County, Michelle Howell of Scottsville, Dr. Patrick Kitzman of the University of Kentucky and Mark Thomas of Todd County.

Dr. Patricia Bautista-Cervera

Dr. Patricia Bautista-Cervera is a pediatrician and pediatric allergist at the La Casita Center, an organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of Louisville’s Latinx and immigrant community. As health empowerment coordinator, Bautista-Cervera works to promote health through workshops, informational videos, one-on-one communications, and other various means. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she delivered important information to the Spanish-speaking community through the online video series, “Consejos de Salud con la Dra. Paty.” She also was instrumental in developing virtual forums with stores and restaurants to educate the Hispanic community about the virus and promote preventive measures and vaccination. In 2020 she supported 994 Covid-19-positive patients, offering medical guidance and, through an empowering model, connecting them to LCC’s wrap-around services and other resources in the community.

Eric Crawford

Eric Crawford, a Maysville native, joined Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana in 2013. Crawford’s education in the endocannabinoid system and cannabis, as well as his experience as a quadriplegic, has fueled his passion for advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky. He has been involved in crafting legislation and has testified at the state Capitol about how cannabis improves his quality of life. He is a member of the Governor’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee and has also traveled the state with Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana for more than 50 medical cannabis educational seminars. Crawford remains active in the Maysville community by serving on the Lions Club and volunteering at a nursing home. He is a Finis Davis Fellowship recipient through the Kentucky Lions Eye Center and a past member of Kentucky Partners in Policymaking through the Commonwealth Council for Developmental Disabilities.

Terry Gehrke

Terry Gehrke has been in the fitness-wellness industry for more than 30 years. She founded Balanced Wellness LLC in 1999 in Jefferson County and still leads the organization as president and wellness consultant/health educator. Gehrke joined the Kentucky Diabetes Network in 2019 as executive director and has guided the organization to promote better health for Kentuckians at-risk for and living with diabetes. She leads KDN’s symposium committee each year to offer the largest professional education opportunity for diabetes training in the state, the Kentucky Diabetes Symposium. Gehrke’s background includes teaching in the University of Louisville Health and Sport Sciences Department and working with Southeast Christian Church’s Sports & Fitness Ministry. Gehrke is a member of several organizations including the National Wellness Institute, the National Physical Activity Society, and Exercise is Medicine.

Denise Hall

Denise Hall of Trimble County began working in the substance use prevention field in 1998 at Seven Counties Services. In 2003, she became coordinator for Trimble County Family Resource and Youth Services Center before writing two Drug Free Communities grants and directing them. The DFC grant is now in its 10th and final year. Hall’s work includes implementing a Drug Education Series in Trimble County and a Sources of Strength group at Trimble County Junior/Senior High School. She administers a survey to middle and high schoolers to understand the needs for substance-misuse prevention. Hall was crucial in getting vape detectors installed at the high school and is managing director of the Trimble CARES Coalition.

Michelle Howell

Michelle Howell co-owns Need More Acres Farm in Scottsville with her husband Nathan. She has an agriculture degree from Western Kentucky University and previously worked for University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension assisting tobacco farmers as they transitioned to fruit and vegetable production. She collaborates with local and state partners to increase equitable opportunities for farmers. Howell has also been involved in writing grants worth more than $2.4 million to benefit food access, women’s life courses, and urban-rural development. Need More Acres co-founded the Community Farmers Market in Bowling Green, which piloted several Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program incentives. CFM was essential to growing Kentucky Double Dollars into a statewide program and CFM is one of the organization’s pilots of the Fresh Rx MOMs program for expecting mothers on Medicaid. Both programs help under-resourced Kentuckians access fresh, healthy food from farmers markets. Additionally, Howell partners with UK, WKU and Kentucky State University for interactive professional development on diversity and inclusion.

Patrick Kitzman

Dr. Patrick Kitzman is a professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Physical Therapy. He’s also founding director of the Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network, a team that develops strategies to reduce disability and improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments living in underserved rural Appalachian counties. Kitzman and his team established projects CARAT and CARAT-TOP. In CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology) students learn to refurbish used medical equipment and donate it to those in need in the community. CARAT-TOP (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology- Together One Priority) is a training program created through a partnership with the UK Center of Excellence in Rural Health. It brings together community members and high-school students of all abilities to learn new skills to help individuals and communities affected by disability.

Mark Thomas

Mark Thomas, Todd County Schools superintendent, was instrumental in establishing the AXIS Program: Centering All Services in the district. In partnership with the Todd County Health Department, the program addresses students’ social and emotional well-being through mental-health case management. The program also assists with basic needs such as nutrition, clothing, toiletries, housing, transportation, and treatment for substance use disorder. Thomas played a crucial role in gaining needed buy-in of the program from staff and the community. Through his support, the program is expanding services to include parenting classes, prenatal classes, and mental health awareness programs for students and staff. Thomas began his career in Shelby County in 1996 as a middle school teacher. He has served in a number of school and district administrative roles across Kentucky before starting his current position in 2020.

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