Meet Our 2022 Health & Medicine Award Winners - Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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Meet Our 2022 Health & Medicine Award Winners

July 5, 2022

Health & Medicine Policy Research Group is pleased to announce the winners of our annual awards for Chicago-area leaders who exemplify the Health & Medicine mission to promote social justice and advance equity in health care.

Join us at our 2022 Health & Medicine Awards Gala on September 29 for an awards ceremony recognizing these public health leaders. We will offer food and refreshments from The Fat Shallot!

Lifetime Achievement

Anne C. Evens, Elevate

Anne Evens, M.Sc., Ph.D., is the Chief Executive Officer of Elevate, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago. Elevate works to promote universal access to clean, healthy, safe, and affordable heat, power, and water for people in their homes and communities — no matter who they are, or where they live.

Elevate assists people in removing lead from and improving the indoor air quality of their homes, childcare centers, and environments. Elevate designs and implements programs that reduce costs, protect people from the health effects of climate change, and ensure that the benefits of clean and efficient energy use reach those who are most in need.

Dr. Evens has worked for more than thirty years in both the nonprofit and governmental sectors to advance public health and economic development in the United States and southern Africa. She acted as lead researcher of the Chicago Climate Action Plan and the Regional Energy Plan for the Chicago Metro Agency for Planning (CMAP). She also is an adjunct faculty member of the University of Illinois Chicago School of Public Health.

She serves on the boards of Health Alliance International and the Rebuilding Exchange.

Dr. Evens holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Cornell University, Master of Science from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Ph.D. from the University of Illinois Chicago. She is an alumna of the Harvard Business School’s program in Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management, and Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses program.

Sharon D. Gates, Rush University Medical Center

Sharon Gates, D.S.W., is a Chicago-based leader in the nonprofit sector. She has been a longtime employee of the Rush University Medical Center where she works in both the academic and corporate wings of the hospital’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion department. Dr. Gates has focused her career on addressing the social determinants of health, particularly housing, food insecurity, and workforce development.

At Rush, Dr. Gates works closely with students to support their academic journeys, particularly for those who hail from communities that are underrepresented in the health care field. She also oversees a student-run program that advances access to health care, pipeline programs, and educational outreach in the local community. The program celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2021. For nine years, graduating Rush University medical students have chosen Dr. Gates to perform their hooding ceremony, which is an honor reserved for one individual who has had the greatest impact on student lives.

Dr. Gates is the recipient of Rush University’s Henry P. Russe, M.D., Humanitarian Award, the Robert Clapp Diversity Leadership Award, the Leonias H. Berry Faculty Diversity Award, and the Larry J. Goodman Leadership Award. She recently received the Humanitarian Award from the I AM ABEL Foundation for her work supporting students.

Dr. Gates graduated from Roosevelt University with a degree in public administration, a Master of Arts from The University of Chicago in Social Work, Social Policy, and Social Service Administration. She most recently received her doctorate degree in social work from the University of Southern California.

Sista Yaa Simpson, The Association of Clinical Trial Services

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.

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 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.

Emerging Leaders

Michael Alebich, John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County

Michael Alebich, D.O., F.A.C.P., has dedicated his professional career to patients with substance use disorders by standardizing their alcohol withdrawal treatment protocols and expanding their access to inpatient medications for addiction treatment.

Dr. Alebich has practiced hospital medicine at John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital of Cook County since 2014. He also serves as an administrator in the hospital’s internal medicine residency training program, supervises rotating medical students, and works on several committees seeking to improve hospital quality and patient care. He holds academic appointments at Rush Medical College and Chicago Medical School and is an adjunct faculty member and frequent lecturer at the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine.

Outside of academic medicine, Dr. Alebich serves on the Governor’s Council of the Northern Illinois Chapter of the American College of Physicians (ACP) where he co-founded the ACP Northern Illinois podcast and assisted in organizing regional conferences. Dr. Alebich is a proponent of universal health care and the principle that health care is a basic human right. He has been honored with several awards recognizing his contributions to educating and mentoring students and residents.

Dr. Alebich is a graduate of Benedictine University and the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine. He was trained in internal medicine at Stroger Hospital of Cook County and Rush University Medical Center.

Crystal Pirtle Tyler, Rhia Ventures

Crystal Pirtle Tyler, M.P.H., Ph.D., brings over 15 years of experience advancing reproductive and maternal health equity.  As the Chief Health Officer at Rhia Ventures, she translates the needs of the women and birthing people most affected by systemic inequity into programming that fosters equitable reproductive health products and services.

Most recently, Dr. Tyler served as the Executive Director of Ci3 at the University of Chicago, a research center addressing the social and structural determinants of adolescent reproductive health and well-being through design, storytelling, play, and policy change.

Dr. Tyler began her career at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta first as an Epidemic Intelligence Service Officer then as an Epidemiologist within the Division of Reproductive Health. There, she served as a subject matter expert on adolescent sexual and reproductive health and translated research to public health and clinical practice.

Following her time at the CDC, Dr. Tyler became the Director of the Michigan Public Health Institute’s Center for Child and Family Health, where she implemented systemic improvements to promote equity in the quality and availability of public health programs.  She also served as a Senior Research Leader at IBM Watson Health, where she supported state implementation of Medicaid policy changes to advance maternal and child health outcomes.

Dr. Tyler is a trained facilitator and strategic planner who serves on the Board of Directors for the Society of Family Planning. She has published articles in Obstetrics and Gynecology, The Journal of Adolescent Health, Contraception, and The American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, among others. Dr. Tyler completed her Ph.D. and M.P.H. in Epidemiology at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan, respectively, and received a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies from Spelman College.

Group Awards

CROWD at Sinai Urban Health Institute

Sinai Urban Health Institute (SUHI) is a leader in the development, implementation, and evaluation of innovative approaches to improving population health management. For 22 years, SUHI’s health interventions have utilized the community health worker (CHW) model, showing positive health and financial outcomes.

The Center for CHW Research, Outcomes, and Workforce Development (CROWD), SUHI’s CHW training and consulting center, provides support to organizations to identify, hire, and train CHWs, along with quality assurance, and process and outcome evaluation.

CROWD’s team specializes in curricula development, tailored training development and implementation, intervention development and implementation, and evaluation.

Their approach, informed by CHWs, the community, and community partners, builds on more than two decades of direct experience utilizing, honing and evaluating the CHW model. Their work is enhanced throughout by a diverse staff including CHWs, administrators, evaluators, and community health, learning development and training specialists.

CROWD has trained more than 1,700 CHWs and consulted for some 50 organizations across the country including managed care organizations, public health departments, health systems, academic research studies, and community-based organizations. SUHI/CROWD is now serving on the leadership team that is implementing Chicago’s community pandemic response corps.

The Night Ministry

The Night Ministry is a Chicago-based organization that provides human connection, housing support, and health care to members of the local community who are unhoused or experiencing poverty. With an open heart, they compassionately accept each individual as they are and work alongside them to advocate for their immediate physical, emotional, and social needs while affirming their shared humanity. In 2021 alone, The Night Ministry served more than 4,500 people.

The Night Ministry’s Health Outreach Program, which includes a health outreach bus, street medicine team, and Chicago Transportation Authority outreach unit, brings health care, case management, and resources such as food and survival supplies to individuals and families who face barriers to accessing traditional points of service. The Night Ministry assists these populations with their immediate challenges and work with them to address longer term goals, such as improved health, income, and housing.

The Night Ministry youth programs offer a comprehensive continuum of care to young people who are unhoused, providing critical support along each person’s journey to greater stability. The Night Ministry’s housing programs, which range from overnight shelter to two years’ of transitional living, are safe environments in which young people can meet their basic needs and make progress on their goals for housing, education, income, and life skills. The Night Ministry’s youth program staff also support young people who are transitioning out of homelessness as they settle into more independent living.

Health Visionary Award

John McKnight

John McKnight co-founded Health & Medicine with Dr. Quentin Young. The two became fast friends and colleagues during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. In 1981, they laid the groundwork for a health policy organization that would uncover and challenge health inequities in Illinois. They envisioned an “action tank” that would be nimble and responsive to urgent health care issues and dedicated to the principle of health care as a human right. They proposed a leadership structure centered around working board members who were opposed to the exploitation of the health system for profit and were free from institutional ties and obligations.

John’s vision for a world in which every person has access to the conditions that create health remains at the core of our mission 41 years later.