Risa Lavizzo-Mourey Receives Lienhard Award From National Academy of Medicine for Leadership to Improve the Health of All Americans


The National Academy of Medicine today announced Risa Lavizzo-Mourey is the recipient of the 2021 Gustav O. Lienhard Award for Advancement of Health Care for her unwavering efforts to improve the health of all Americans by expanding health care coverage, addressing childhood obesity, and creating a vision for a “Culture of Health” in the United States. The award, which recognizes Lavizzo-Mourey’s achievements with a medal and $40,000, will be presented at the National Academy of Medicine’s virtual annual meeting on Oct. 17. Lavizzo-Mourey is the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Population Health and Health Equity Professor Emerita at the University of Pennsylvania and former president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF).

During her nearly 15-year tenure leading RWJF, Lavizzo-Mourey championed bold health initiatives such as reducing the number of uninsured Americans, improving the quality of health care in outpatient settings, identifying local strategies to build healthier, more equitable communities, and ensuring every child in the U.S. has the opportunity to grow up at a healthy weight. These intensive efforts, which integrated health, health care, and social determinants of health, culminated in RWJF’s vision to build a “Culture of Health” to enable everyone in the U.S. to live longer, healthier lives.

Lavizzo-Mourey’s efforts to reduce the number of uninsured included building upon RWJF’s support for programs aimed at helping individuals obtain health care coverage, funding relevant research, reaching out to consumers, and providing technical assistance to states implementing the Affordable Care Act. For example, in the years after the passage of the Children’s Health Insurance Program when uptake was poor due to the enrollment process, she led campaigns to simplify the process and promote enrollment of all eligible children by engaging community leaders, schools, businesses, churches, and civic groups. An annual effort, “Cover the Uninsured Week,” during which thousands of events were held in communities across the country, communicated research highlighting that being uninsured had negative consequences on individuals, families, and communities in terms of both health and financial security.

Recognizing the increasing numbers of overweight and obese children, Lavizzo-Mourey began in 2003 spearheading a national, multipronged strategy to raise awareness and use policy and public health approaches to combat the epidemic. This expanded the tools being used to include strategies beyond individual clinical interventions, which created healthier school environments through better nutrition and more physical activity, engagement of organizations such as the YMCA and 4H Clubs, and the promotion of evidence-based policies suitable for implementation at local, state, and federal levels. Lavizzo-Mourey helped solidify sustained, national efforts to address childhood obesity by investing $500 million to reverse the trend within 10 years and to rigorously measure progress. She then put in place a $1 billion 20-year commitment. During this time, she worked closely other messengers, such as leaders of the American Pediatric Society, retired military leaders, and First Lady Michelle Obama.

Under Lavizzo-Mourey’s leadership, RWJF launched “Aligning Forces for Quality,” a 16-site, 10-year effort to employ reporting of data, quality improvement techniques, payment innovations, and consumer engagement to improve the quality of health care and reduce health care disparities, citing the importance of the delivery of high-quality medical care to minority populations.

In addition, she led a national conversation on how to build a Culture of Health in America, underscoring findings from RWJF-funded research that found good health depends more on where people live, learn, work and play than on medical care alone. Social determinants became part of the factors health care entities such as Aetna and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services use when considering how to improve the outcomes of health care interventions and the health status of communities. In 2018 the American Public Health Association awarded Lavizzo-Mourey its highest honor, the Sedgwick Memorial Medal, in recognition of this work.

Throughout her career, Lavizzo-Mourey sought to empower leaders in health care, which included committing to elevating the role of nurses as well as developing new generations of nurse leaders. Through action coalitions in every state and Washington, D.C., she championed a campaign targeting policymakers, health care professionals, educators, and business leaders to respond to the country’s increasing demand for safe, high-quality, and effective health care. In recognition of this work, she received an honorary fellowship from the American Academy of Nursing. Since returning to University of Pennsylvania in 2018, she has focused on expanding leadership opportunities for under-represented groups and worked to meet the challenges presented by COVID-19 and calls for racial justice.

“Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey’s pioneering work has truly shifted the paradigm of health and health care access in the U.S., as she recognized that creating a healthier society requires looking upstream, beyond the traditional scope of medical care, to address social and economic factors influencing health,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “From her tireless dedication to building healthier, more equitable communities to harnessing the strength of broad-based coalitions to ensuring the development of leaders for the provision of quality care nationally and globally, it is clear that Dr. Lavizzo-Mourey is one of the most outstanding health figures of our generation and most deserving of this prestigious award.”

Lavizzo-Mourey has been an NAM member since 1997. Prior to her tenure at RWJF, Lavizzo-Mourey served as the Sylvan Eisman Professor of Medicine and Health Care Systems at the University of Pennsylvania. She also directed the university’s Institute on Aging and was chief of geriatric medicine at its School of Medicine. In previous years, Lavizzo-Mourey worked on the White House Health Care Reform Task Force and served on numerous federal advisory committees. For several years, she was listed among the World’s 100 Most Powerful Women in Forbes.

Lavizzo-Mourey is the 36th recipient of the Lienhard Award. Given annually, the award recognizes outstanding national achievement in improving personal health care in the United States. Nominees are eligible for consideration without regard to education or profession, and award recipients are selected by a committee of experts convened by the National Academy of Medicine. This year’s selection committee was chaired by Donald M. Berwick, president emeritus and senior fellow, Institute for Healthcare Improvement; and former administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

The Lienhard Award is funded by an endowment from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Gustav O. Lienhard was chair of the foundation’s board of trustees from the organization’s establishment in 1971 to his retirement in 1986 — a period in which the foundation moved to the forefront of American philanthropy in health care. Lienhard, who died in 1987, built his career with Johnson & Johnson, beginning as an accountant and retiring 39 years later as its president.


Spero M. Manson Receives Sarnat Prize for Contributions to Improving Mental Health Care and Services for American Indian, Alaska Native Communities


The National Academy of Medicine (NAM) today announced Spero M. Manson is the recipient of the 2021 Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat International Prize in Mental Health, for his 43-year career dedicated to improving the mental health of American Indians and Alaska Natives — and bringing a culturally informed lens to the assessment, epidemiology, treatment, and prevention of mental health conditions. The award, which recognizes Manson’s achievements with a medal and $20,000, will be presented at the NAM’s virtual annual meeting on Oct. 17.  Manson, Pembina Chippewa, is a distinguished professor of public health and psychiatry and the Colorado Trust Chair in American Indian Health at the University of Colorado’s School of Public Health.

As the founder of the Centers for American Indian and Alaska Native Health (CAIANH), Manson pursues research, education, program development, training, and collaboration with 250 Native communities, spanning rural, reservation, urban, and village settings. In this role, he has worked to improve access to and delivery of mental health services, inform policy change for Native veterans, and mentor younger generations of American Indian and Alaska Native scientists.

Mental health conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and alcohol and substance abuse, are highly stigmatized among American Indian and Alaska Native people. Discriminatory public policies, generational trauma, and Western treatment models have also affected the quality and outcomes of mental health care. Throughout his career, Manson has sought to redress these historical inequities and incorporate Native experience, culture, and traditions in his research.

Manson has spearheaded initiatives to integrate mental health services in primary care settings in tribal and Indian Health Service programs. He has worked with Southcentral Foundation, First Nations Community HealthSource, Tanana Chiefs Conference, and Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

One of Manson’s areas of research — combat trauma among Native veterans of the Vietnam War — has prompted lasting policy change. His research demonstrated the role of traditional tribal ceremonies in ameliorating serious emotional and psychological problems among returning veterans, and in contributing to the long-term well-being of American Indian and Alaska Native peoples in general. Leveraging this research, he assisted tribal nations in negotiating an April 1998 memorandum of agreement with the Veterans Administration to ensure traditional medicine services were reimbursed for Native veterans suffering from PTSD. This agreement still stands today, and it has set the stage for compensating tribes for similar use of cultural healing resources.

As early as 1999, Manson helped to develop real-time interactive videoconferencing to increase American Indian veterans’ access to medical and behavioral health care services. He also laid the groundwork for a nationwide program through which the VA funds 14 tele-psychiatry clinics supported by CAIANH. These clinics serve hundreds of patients and family members and offer diagnostic services, brief psychotherapy, medication prescription and monitoring, and support groups. In many remote rural communities, this is a critical resource for people who would otherwise be even more isolated and without help.

Manson’s research contributions are a hallmark of graduate medical education today. He was engaged in the development of the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM) handbook, which is widely used by clinicians and psychiatrists to diagnose psychiatric illnesses. Manson and his colleagues introduced culture into the diagnostic criteria and their operationalization, outlining how cultural understanding can improve assessment and treatment for a range of clinical cases.

As the first member of his family to complete a post-secondary education, Manson is invested in mentoring the next generation of American Indian and Alaska Native Ph.D.s. NIH principal investigators now number more than 120 American Indians and Alaska Natives — many of whom are Manson’s mentees. He has also worked to establish more ethical, collaborative research partnerships between tribal nations and academic institutions.

“Dr. Manson courageously focused on the mental health of American Indian and Alaska Native people at a time when it was seen as a narrow interest. His tremendous contributions to research on American Indian and Alaska Native mental health have not only advanced the scientific evidence base but also informed how we can provide more accessible, culturally informed, and compassionate care for all members of society,” said National Academy of Medicine President Victor J. Dzau. “And because of Dr. Manson’s mentorship, a new generation of American Indian and Alaska Native scientists is shaping a mental health research agenda that is responsive and meaningful to their local communities.”

Manson has been an NAM member since 2002. He has written 280 peer-reviewed publications, and has earned 35 awards from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Indian Health Service, American Public Health Association, Veterans Administration, universities, and numerous professional organizations.

Since 1992, the Sarnat Prize has been presented to individuals, groups, or organizations that have demonstrated outstanding achievement in improving mental health. The prize recognizes — without regard for professional discipline or nationality — achievements in basic science, clinical application, and public policy that lead to progress in the understanding, etiology, prevention, treatment, or cure of mental disorders, or to the promotion of mental health. As defined by the nominating criteria, the field of mental health encompasses neuroscience, psychology, social work, nursing, psychiatry, and advocacy.

The award is supported by an endowment created by Rhoda and Bernard Sarnat of Los Angeles. Rhoda Sarnat was a licensed clinical social worker, and Bernard Sarnat was a plastic and reconstructive surgeon and researcher. The Sarnats’ concern about the destructive effects of mental illness inspired them to establish the award. This year’s selection committee was chaired by Gary L. Gottlieb, professor of psychiatry, Harvard Medical School.

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