Meet Our Award Winners: Sista Yaa Simpson - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Meet Our Award Winners: Sista Yaa Simpson

August 10, 2022

Lifetime Achievement Award
Sista Yaa Simpson

Yaa Simpson (Sista Yaa), M.P.H., is a veteran, advocate, and community epidemiologist for The Association of Clinical Trial Services (TACTS) and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). TACTS is a Black, women-led, and veteran-owned business that is the only one of its kind in Illinois.

“I’m standing on the shoulders of my ancestors, but I’m the first epidemiologist in my family,” Sista Yaa shares. “I am the result of the Great Migration. I am the first in my generation that has accomplished the things I have. I am grateful so I have to mention that being the first is a good thing am so grateful.”

Sista Yaa has been a public health practitioner for more than 32 years, with 23 years as an epidemiologist. She has presented, taught, and published at numerous community forums, professional workgroups, conferences, and schools. Her professional focus is on expanding the knowledge of health equity and social justice issues as they relate to life expectancy through quality-of-life research.

Sista Yaa exemplifies Heath & Medicines commitment to social justice: “In many public health contexts, you hear people refer to health equity. It’s a buzzword. What they aren’t saying is ‘and social justice.’ There are inequities that happened in the historical context that now have to be changed and reevaluated,” she says. “It cannot continue to be what it was—it has to be better. I am not just talking about it, I am exercising it in all of my activities.”

She was recently honored by the HIV Prevention Trials Network for the 2022 Black History Month Excellence in the Community Spotlight for her 25 years of service in the field of HIV research. She was also recognized by Mayor of Chicago Lori Lightfoot as coauthor of the Epidemiological Data Book entitled The State of Health for Blacks Living in Chicago. The book, published by CDPH in 2021, is the first of its kind.

In 2017, Sista Yaa was named Advocate of the Year. She has also been awarded Outstanding Worker in Health Care and designated a Community Epidemiologist for the CDPH COVID Team. She assisted in the development, presentation, and publication of the first CDPH Health Equity training webinar, Chicago Health 2025 Plans, Chicago Health Atlas, and Community Profiles.

Sista Yaa serves as a board member for the National Black Agenda Consortium of Chicago, Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity, Transforming Re-Entry Services and is a newly named board member for the Michael Reese Health Trust. She holds a Master of Public Health and Bachelor of Arts from the University of Illinois Chicago. She also holds an Associate’s of Applied Science from the Community College of AIR FORCE Surgical Service Technology and is pursuing a Doctoral Degree in Epidemiology. She is a wife, mother, aunt, sister, friend, and spiritual being having a human experience.

“If nothing else, I have a reason, season, and a lifetime for being here. That’s what this is about, and I’m going to actualize all that I’ve been given so I can give back to others. I am a committed, determined champion for health equity and social justice.”