AMA honors physicians for leadership and service

Response to Hurricane Katrina and youth smoking prevention programs were among the efforts lauded.

By Damon Adams — Posted Dec. 11, 2006

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Several physicians at the AMA Interim Meeting took home awards for their work ranging from health education to disaster response.

The American Medical Association gave its highest honor to U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Rear Adm. William Craig Vanderwagen, MD, giving him the Distinguished Service Award for his work leading the federal disaster health response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Dr. Vanderwagen, of Columbia, Md., also is acting chief medical officer for the Indian Health Service and previously served as chief of public health in Iraq under the Coalition Provisional Authority.

"Dr. Vanderwagen's leadership helped get the public health infrastructure back up and running in the wake of hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and the AMA is proud to present him with the Distinguished Service Award," said AMA President William G. Plested III, MD.

The AMA Medal of Valor was given to David C. Rutstein, MD, MPH, chief medical officer of the U.S. Public Health Service. He received the award for leadership in public health after the spring 2005 earthquake on the Indonesian island of Nias. Dr. Rutstein, of Silver Spring, Md., is deputy director of the Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion in the Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Services.

Boris D. Lushniak, MD, MPH, Food and Drug Administration assistant commissioner on counterterrorism policy, received the Dr. William Beaumont Award in Medicine for his leadership addressing public health issues after Katrina, assisting more than 12,000 hurricane evacuees. Dr. Lushniak, of Rockville, Md., rear admiral/assistant surgeon general in the U.S. Public Health Service, established the Health and Human Services Secretary's Response Team, working with state and local officials.

David F. Der, MD, retired general surgeon and current general practitioner in Oakland, Calif., was awarded the 2006 Benjamin Rush Award for Citizenship and Community Service. He was recognized for his dedication to giving needed health care services to the Asian community in Oakland.

Alice A. Tolbert Coombs, MD, received the 2006 AMA Foundation Award for Health Education, which recognizes physicians who have led, developed or implemented professional and public health education activities. Dr. Coombs, of Sharon, Mass., has long been an advocate for health education issues and has dedicated many years to educating youths about the hazards of tobacco.

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