Five Health Department Employees Recognized for Their Public Health Efforts and Accomplishments

Employees honored for work involving sodium policy, HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases  

May 20, 2016 – The Health Department today recognized five staff members for being awarded by several organizations in honor of their work. The honorees include: Thomas Merrill, JD, General Counsel, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, Dr. Neil Vora, Director of Special Projects for the Division of Disease Control, Dr. Isaac Benowitz, Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Officer and Medical Epidemiologist in the Division of Disease Control’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases and Dr. Christopher Lee, Epidemic Intelligence Service officer in the Division of Epidemiology.

“I am proud of the outstanding work of this department and the dedication of our employees to serve the people of this city,” said Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett. “I congratulate Thomas Merrill, Dr. Daskalakis, Dr. Vora, Dr. Benowitz, and Dr. Lee for this tremendous honor. Every staff member deserves to be recognized for the progress we’ve made toward ensuring New Yorkers live longer and healthier lives.” 

Thomas Merrill, JD, General Counsel was honored with the Haven Emerson Lifetime Achievement Award at the Public Health Association of New York City’s Annual Policy & Awards Breakfast for playing a major role in contributing to the public health of New York City.  The organization cited his 10 years of service at the Health Department working on initiatives that include menu labeling, sodium warnings and restaurant letter grading.

Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control, received the 2016 Esperanza (Hope) Award from the Latino Commission on AIDS at their annual Cielo Gala. Dr. Daskalakis was honored for dedicating his career to ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, including the launch of the #PlaySure HIV prevention campaign and engaging communities disproportionally affected by HIV/AIDS. The Esperanza Award was created by the Commission in 1996 to recognize leaders in medical research, public health, and treatment.

Dr. Neil Vora won both the CDC Steele Award for his contributions to veterinary public health and the Junior Physician of the Year Award from the Physician Professional Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the U.S. Public Health Service. Dr. Vora is the Director of Special Projects for the Division of Disease Control. These awards recognize Dr. Vora’s work on emerging infectious diseases, particularly those with animal origins, such as rabies, poxviruses and Ebola.
 
Dr. Isaac Benowitz won the Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) Mackel Award for the presentation that “best exemplifies the effective application of a combined epidemiologic and laboratory approach to an investigation or study.” Dr. Benowitz is an EIS Officer and Medical Epidemiologist in the Division of Disease Control’s Bureau of Communicable Diseases. His talk described how Health Department staff identified a single cooling tower as the source of the 2015 South Bronx Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, highlighting novel epidemiologic methods and the use of whole genome sequencing and polymerase chain reaction testing of environmental and patient specimens, in partnership with laboratory colleagues at the DOHMH Public Health Laboratory, the New York State Department of Health Wadsworth Center, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr. Christopher Lee won the J. Virgil Peavy Memorial Award, awarded to a first or second year EIS Officer for the study that best exemplifies the use of innovative statistical and epidemiologic methods. Dr. Lee is a first year EIS Officer in the Division of Epidemiology. Working with others in the Bureaus of Epidemiology Services and HIV/AIDS Prevention & Control, Dr. Lee used novel analytic approaches to describe how stable placement in the New York/New York III supportive housing program decreased new HIV diagnoses among participants.
 
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