Press Room

Public Health Heroes Honored by the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials

Portland, Oregon, Oct. 21 – Each year at its annual meeting, the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) recognizes a number of public health leaders for their dedication and service. This year’s meeting in Portland, Oregon, honored seven individuals for their work. 


This year’s McCormack Award went to Paul Halverson, DrPH, FACHE, Director and State Health Officer of the Arkansas Department of Health. Established in 1950 to honor the late Arthur T. McCormack, a Kentucky state health official, the McCormack Award is presented each year to a current or former public health official who has served for at least ten years, been a chief state health official for at least five years, demonstrated excellence, and made a significant contribution to the knowledge and practice of the field. Dr. Halverson has been a consistent leader in the work on accreditation throughout his career, and his tenure as president led ASTHO through the change of a national administration as well as through H1N1. Dr. Halverson was professor and the chairman of the Department of Health Policy and Management at the Dr. Fay W. Boozman College of Public Health at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Prior to that he served for almost seven years as a member of the senior scientific staff at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At the CDC, Dr. Halverson was appointed to the Silvio Conte Senior Biomedical Research Service and Director of the Division of Public Health Systems Development and Research. Dr. Halverson was appointed by the World Health Organization as the director of its Collaborating Center in Public Health Practice. Prior to the CDC, Dr. Halverson was a member of the faculty at the University of North Carolina School of Public Health. 


The Swearingen Award was given to Arvy Smith, deputy state health officer for the North Dakota Department of Health. Since 1979, the Noble J. Swearingen Award, named for a former Executive Director of ASTHO, has been bestowed on one individual in public health administration who has ten or more years of experience in a state health agency and five or more years in service to the ASTHO Senior Deputy Committee or in some other capacity. Arvy Smith has almost 28 years of experience in state government in North Dakota and has served on ASTHO’s Senior Deputies Committee for eight years. As the deputy state health officer she assists the state health officer in implementing state laws governing the department and serves on several boards and commissions in lieu of the state health officer. In addition, Arvy provides leadership in administrative and support functions for the department, such as budget, accounting, payroll, human resources, public information, and facilities.  In addition to her administrative responsibilities and having been involved in every major departmental administrative decision over the past 10 years, she also serves as the North Dakota health department’s legislative liaison.   


The Presidential Meritorious Service Award is given by the ASTHO President honoring outstanding contributions to ASTHO and the state public health. Any health leader is eligible. This year, ASTHO President John Auerbach recognized two individuals with this award. Susan Cooper, the first nurse ever to serve as the Commissioner of Tennessee Department of Health, was recognized. She was Commissioner from 2007-2010. While in office, she worked hard to fight childhood obesity, lower tobacco use, and eliminate health disparities. She also testified to Congress several time on behalf of ASTHO and Tennessee on topics such as health reform, childhood obesity, climate change, and preparedness. C. Earl Hunter, Commissioner of the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, also received the award. Hunter has been a steady champion for environmental causes. During his tenure as Commissioner there has been a consistent overall decrease in the state’s infant mortality rate, an overhaul of the state’s vital records program, the expansion of the Brownfields redevelopment initiative, the expansion of HIV testing efforts and cancer prevention efforts, and numerous other successes.   


ASTHO’s Alumni Award is presented to a former chief state health official who has demonstrated his/her continued commitment to public health. This year’s Alumni Award went to Eduardo Sanchez, MD, MPH, VP and Chief Medical Officer, BlueCross & BlueShield of Texas. Dr. Sanchez has been an engaged alumnus since his tenure as Commissioner of Health in Texas. He serves on national committees, serves as a mentor to new state health officials, and participates actively on ASTHO policy committees and task forces. 


Kaye Bender, PhD, RN, FAAN, was given the national-level Excellence in Public Health Award. Dr. Bender is the executive director of the public health accreditation board and has taken this work to its national launch in September, 2011. The state-level Excellence in Public Health Award went to Lawrence S. Sturman, MD, PhD, of the Director of NYSHD Wadsworth Center Public Health Laboratory, NY. Dr. Sturman has played a leading role in promoting newborn screening and genetic services to prevent disease and promote health. 


ASTHO is the national nonprofit organization representing the public health agencies of the United States, the U.S. Territories, and the District of Columbia, as well as the 120,000 public health professionals these agencies employ. ASTHO members, the chief health officials of these jurisdictions, are dedicated to formulating and influencing sound public health policy and to assuring excellence in state-based public health practice. 


CONTACT: Scott Briscoe, 571-527-3173, cell 703-328-2761,