Meet Our 2021 Health & Medicine Awards Winners – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Meet Our 2021 Health & Medicine Awards Winners

July 16, 2021

We’re pleased to announce the recipients of our 2021 Health & Medicine Awards representing Chicago-area leaders whose work exemplifies Health & Medicine’s mission to promote social justice and challenge inequities in health and health care.

This year, to celebrate our 40 years of advancing health equity, we are honoring public health champions with over 40 years of service, emerging leaders with under 40 years of service, and groups that have had a significant impact on public health.

Join us at our 2021 Health & Medicine Awards Gala on September 30 for an awards ceremony recognizing these public health leaders, live entertainment from Chicago musician Thaddeus Tukes, and food and refreshments from The Fat Shallot!

Over 40 Years of Service Award

Jacqueline Boone, RN, MSHA, Cook County Health
Jacqueline Boone, RN, MSHA, has 42 years of experience as a registered nurse and has dedicated the last 20 years of her career to public service at Cook County Health’s (CCH) Ruth M. Rothstein’s CORE Center, the largest HIV/AIDS center in the Midwest. Ms. Boone has worked tirelessly in collaboration with the infectious disease team to coordinate comprehensive quality health care for populations seeking HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C care and sexual health services at CCH.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Ms. Boone coordinated robust nursing support for all of CCH ambulatory COVID-19-related services, including testing, antibody infusion, and vaccinations. Her work also includes ensuring COVID-19 nursing services for detainees at the Cook County Jail, for whom CCH provides medical care.

Ms. Boone serves on the Nursing Advisory Board at Malcolm X College. She completed her undergraduate nursing degree at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois and her graduate studies in health administration at Saint Xavier University in Chicago.

Robyn Gabel, MSPH, MJ, Illinois House of Representatives

Robyn Gabel is from Evanston and has represented the people of the 18th house district since 2010. During her time in the Illinois House of Representatives, she has earned a reputation as an independent legislative leader, successfully passing over fifty sponsored bills. She serves on the Medicaid Working Group, the Budget Advisory Group, the Energy Working Group, and is the Chair of the Great Lakes Legislative Caucus of the Council of State Governments.

Recently, Rep. Gabel was appointed Assistant Majority Leader by Speaker Chris Welch. Her priorities include helping to lead the Illinois House of Representatives on a racial equity agenda, ethics reform, expanding affordability and access to quality health care, comprehensive clean energy policy, and increasing safety net funding for our most vulnerable residents.

Her legislative record has won her recognition from the March of Dimes, ACLU of Illinois, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action, Midwest Asian Health Association, the ARC of Illinois, Equal Hope, the Illinois Public Health Association, and the Illinois Environmental Council, among others.

Before coming to the legislature, Rep. Gabel was the Executive Director of EverThrive, a non-profit that advocates for increased health care resources for women, children, and families, from 1988 to 2010. She has a BA from Beloit College, an MSPH from the University of Illinois Chicago – School of Public Health, and an MJ in Health Law from Loyola University Chicago.

Joy Getzenberg, MA, UIC School of Public Health
Joy started her public health career as a master’s student at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration, completing her fieldwork at a federally-funded community health center and DHHS Office of Planning. After serving a year at the CHC after graduation, she then moved on to a major academic medical center’s Department of Community Health, primarily serving as a liaison to two affiliated neighborhood health centers.

Joy then settled in at the Chicago Department of Public Health for over 25 years, where she helped lead planning and policy efforts designed to address numerous public health issues, some as they were emerging, including AIDS, infant mortality, communicable disease control, chronic disease policy, and access to care.

Joy joined the faculty at the UIC School of Public Health in Fall 2011 and has taught policy courses and serves as the fieldwork liaison for both graduate and undergraduate students.

Jorge A. Girotti, PhD, MHA, UIC College of Medicine
During his nearly 37-year career at the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UI-COM), Dr. Girotti worked in a wide range of initiatives, primarily focusing on increasing the diversity of the physician workforce. Dr. Girotti founded the Hispanic Center of Excellence (HCOE) in 1991 and served as its director until his retirement in May 2019. The Center aims to promote science and medical careers for Latinx youth, expose undergraduate and medical students to biomedical and clinical research, and increase the representation of Latinx faculty in the medical school. Through the ongoing pipeline development of the HCOE, the UI-COM became the number one producer of Latinx physicians.

In addition to his role in the HCOE, Dr. Girotti served as Associate Dean for Admissions and Special Curricular Programs for the UI-COM. He developed, launched, and directed the Urban Medicine (UMed) Program in 2005. The mission of UMed is “to prepare physician-leaders to serve underserved urban communities.” The UMed served as a template for other special curricula in the college of medicine.

Dr. Girotti’s research interests reflect his focus on the development of opportunities for students in minority and disadvantaged populations. His scholarly priorities have been the design, implementation, and evaluation of educational programs to improve cultural and linguistic competence among physicians and other health professionals, as well as programs to improve leadership skills in future physicians. Dr. Girotti’s research and training work has been funded by federal agencies, foundations, and UIC.

Dr. Girotti earned a master’s degree in Healthcare Administration from the University of Illinois at Chicago; a Ph.D. in Public Policy Analysis, Educational Administration from UIC; an MA in Counseling and Guidance from Northeastern Illinois University; and the BFA in Art Education from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Dr. Girotti currently serves as Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical Education, UI-COM.

Berneice Mills-Thomas, RN, MSM, MBA, MPH, Near North Health Service Corporation
Berneice Mills-Thomas, RN, MSM, MBA, MPH, has served as Chief Executive Officer of Near North Health Service Corporation (NNHSC) since 1991. Under Ms. Thomas’ leadership, NNHSC has grown from one health center on the near north side to nine comprehensive full-service health centers and two supplementary Women, Infants and Children (WIC) sites that provide primary healthcare, social services, health and nutrition education, and behavioral health to more than 45,000 medically underserved and low-income men, women, and children throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.

With a career in health care that spans more than 40 years, Ms. Thomas is dedicated to improving the health and well-being of individuals and families who reside in low-income, medically underserved communities. Before NNHSC, she held managerial and clinical positions in several community health centers in Chicago and hospitals in Chicago and California.

An influential and active leader in the community, Ms. Thomas serves on the boards of the Alliance Chicago, C-Quest, the Illinois Primary Health Care Association. She holds memberships with the Illinois Primary Health Care Association and the National Association of Community Health Centers. She has been honored by public and private entities for her devotion and unparalleled commitment to empowering communities and for her ability to develop and implement human service health programs that improve the quality of life for many of Chicago’s forgotten citizens.

Peter Orris, MD, MPH, UIC School of Public Health

Peter Orris, MD, MPH, FACP, FACOEM, is a professor of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the UIC School of Public Health and Chief of Occupational and Environmental Medicine for UI Health. After over a decade of experience in antiracist struggles and study of Marxist theories of social change, he arrived in Chicago in 1970 to attend the Chicago Medical School. After graduation, he did residencies in internal and occupational medicine at the Stroger Hospital of Cook County (formerly Cook County Hospital), and then practiced and taught general internal and occupational medicine there for over 35 years. In addition to UIC, he has served on the faculties at Northwestern and Rush Universities.

His research and teaching have focused on international health care systems, the Cuban Health Care System, eliminating the racial and economic discrimination promoted by the US for-profit health system, unionization, occupational and community effects of toxic chemicals, and more recently, sustainable health care and climate change. Dr. Orris has served as an adviser to many federal/state/local government agencies, labor unions, and advocacy groups. He is one of the proud founders of the Chicago Area Committee for Occupational Safety and Health and the Physicians for a National Health Program.

Internationally, he has been a consultant to WHO, ILO, UNEP, PAHO, the Canadian Government, International Trade Union Confederation, Greenpeace, and Health Care Without Harm, participating in the negotiation of three international environmental treaties: Stockholm Convention, the Strategic Approach to International Chemical Management, and the Minamata Convention on Mercury. He is currently a co-chair of the Environmental Working Group of the World Federation of Public Health Associations and the World Medical Association’s Environmental Caucus.

Under 40 Years of Service Award

Keith R. Green, PhD, MSW, Loyola University Chicago
Keith R. Green, PhD, MSW is a native Chicagoan with strong community roots and an extensive history as an organizer, educator, researcher, and advocate. Dr. Green is currently an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. His current research agenda is focused primarily on understanding the role of community-based organizations (CBOs) in the antiretroviral-based HIV prevention era as well as the rise in methamphetamine use among Black gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men.

He graduated summa cum laude from Northeastern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Social Work, where he was also named a Ronald E. McNair Scholar. From there, he earned a Master of Social Work degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, with a specific focus on the needs of people living with severe and persistent mental illness. Prior to earning a PhD in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago, Dr. Green served as an associate editor for Positively Aware magazine and as director of federal affairs for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. In addition to his professional and academic achievements, Dr. Green is also an award-winning spoken word artist and was inducted into the Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame by Mayor Rahm Emmanuel in 2012.

Elizabeth Salisbury-Afshar, MD, MPH, University of Wisconsin, Madison
Elizabeth Salisbury-Afshar, MD, MPH, is a family medicine, addiction medicine, and preventive medicine (public health) physician. Elizabeth has served in a variety of roles where she works to improve the lives of people who use drugs and alcohol. Elizabeth served as the Medical Director of Behavioral Health Systems Baltimore where she developed and oversaw the Baltimore City Overdose Prevention Plan and the Opioid Fatality Review Board.

She also served as the Medical Director of Behavioral Health at the Chicago Department of Public Health, where she developed the Department’s strategy to address the opioid crisis, helped to standardize the way opioid-related outcomes were tracked, and developed provider education collaboratives to increase access to medications for addiction treatment (MAT).  Elizabeth has also served as the Medical Director of Heartland Alliance Health, the health care for the homeless provider in Chicago. In 2020 she moved to Madison, Wisconsin, where she now works at the University of Wisconsin, Madison as an Associate Professor, offering clinical care and participating in a variety of research projects, most of which focus on addiction-related services for people involved in the criminal legal system.

Group Award

Illinois Unidos


Illinois Unidos, co-founded by Xavier Nogueras and Cesar Rolón, is a consortium of over 150 Latino elected and appointed officials, health professionals, representatives of community-based organizations, business professionals, and stakeholders. The Initiative aims to present one united voice in stopping the devastating impact of COVID-19 in Latino communities.

Stop General Iron Campaign


Stop General Iron is a coalition of residents in Southeast Chicago who work to prevent General Iron — a proven polluter that has spewed toxic auto fluff, generated nauseous odors, created loud noises, and endangered neighbors for years — from moving to their neighborhood. They are nurses, students, teachers, faith leaders, and everyday citizens who believe they should not have to sacrifice their health for jobs and a shot at middle class life. Stop General Iron partners with other environmental justice organizations, nonprofits, and neighborhood groups to speak with a unified voice to stop General Iron.