Annual Satcher Awards Celebrate Work Toward Community Health Improvement & Health Equity

May. 30, 2024

The 15th annual Dr. David Satcher Community Health Improvement Awards celebrated University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) faculty and staff, as well as their community partners, for their dedication to helping people lead healthier lives, and advancing health equity, throughout our region. Presented by the URMC’s Center for Community Health & Prevention (CCHP), the event featured keynote speaker Sacoby Wilson, MS, PhD, director of Community Engagement, Environmental Justice, and Health at the University of Maryland School of Public Health.  

Sacoby Wilson, MS, PhD, delivered his keynote address at the Dr. David Satcher Community Health Improvement Awards ceremony.

In his keynote, “The Power of Community Engagement in the Fight for Environmental, Climate, and Energy Justice: Approaches, Solutions, and Impact,” Wilson addressed the history of environmental justice in the U.S., including the relationship between environmental injustice and health inequity, how climate change impacts these inequities, and how community engagement can be used to study and address environmental, climate, and energy injustices and related health outcomes. About 100 people, including community members, URMC faculty, staff, medical students, and others attended the event, which was hosted fully in person for the first time since before the pandemic.

“Dr. Satcher has had such a rich impact on public health throughout the nation and has brought so much meaning to this local event,” said Edith Williams, PhD, MS, director of the CCHP. “It’s an honor to be able to continue these awards for more than a decade and recognize the changemakers doing such meaningful health equity work in our region.”

Created in 2010, the Dr. David Satcher Community Health Improvement Awards reflect the shared mission of CCHP and URMC to develop and expand University-community partnerships that support participatory research and interventions to reduce health inequities and improve the community's health.

2024 Award Recipients

Senior Faculty Award

Tarun Bhalla, MD, PhD, received the 2024 Senior Faculty Award.

Tarun Bhalla, MD, PhD, is the vice chair of Regional Neurosurgery and chief of the Division of Stroke and Cerebrovascular Neurosurgery.  Bhalla is also an associate professor of Neurosurgery, Neurology and Imaging Sciences. Bhalla has dedicated his career to extending access to advanced neurosurgical care to local and regional communities, with particular focus on expanding services to underserved populations.

In 2018, Bhalla initiated UR Medicine’s groundbreaking Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), the area’s first and only state-of-the-art mobile treatment ambulance delivering rapid stroke diagnosis and treatment services at the patient’s location. The MSU is stationed directly within the city of Rochester and is strategically deployed to underserved local communities at higher risk for debilitating strokes.

As part of the MSU program, Bhalla also secured substantial grant funding exceeding $1 million to establish a community-based partnership focused on delivering culturally sensitive stroke literacy programs within underserved Rochester communities. This partnership includes nonprofit organizations Action for a Better Community, Lifespan of Greater Rochester, and Ibero-American Action League, as well as UR Medicine. The coalition of agencies has successfully implemented widespread in-person and multimedia education initiatives that raise awareness and promote stroke prevention strategies.

Junior Faculty Award

Maria Quiñones-Cordero, PhD, received the Junior Faculty Award.

Maria Quiñones-Cordero, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and assistant professor of Clinical Nursing at the University of Rochester School of Nursing. She leads the Latino Engagement sub-core of the National Institute on Aging-funded Rochester Roybal Center for Social Ties and Aging Research (STAR).

A key focus of her work is on mechanism-driven intervention development and delivery that is aimed at reducing middle-aged and older Latino dementia caregiver disparities.

She also leads work on expanding and implementing systematic approaches to cultural adaptation of evidence-based interventions to fit the needs and characteristics of the Latino culture in order to improve access to and delivery of care, as well as cognitive and mental health-related outcomes.

Quiñones-Cordero works with a variety of community partners, with her primary partner being Centro de Oro of Ibero-American Action League.

Staff Award

Brooke Levandowski, PhD, MPA, received the Staff Award on behalf of Susan B. Rietberg-Miller, MPH.

Susan B. Rietberg-Miller, MPH, is a senior public health project specialist in the URMC’s Obstetrics and Gynecology research team. She coordinates the LGBTQ+ Health Initiative, which was funded by NYS Department of Health AIDS Institute to offer technical assistance and capacity building to health and human service organizations that care for the LGBTQ+ community.

In this role, Rietberg-Miller works with community partners, individuals, and organizations to improve LGBTQ+ people’s access to affirming and competent care in New York state and the Rochester region. Susan is interested in LGBTQ+ health care, health equity, organizational development, and coalition building. They believe that community-driven research and advocacy are key to creating equitable and just health care systems.

Her primary community partner is Trillium Health.

Team Award

The EAST-UR collaborative, comprised of over 20 team members, received the Team Award.

The EAST-UR Collaborative represents many EAST-UR program collaborations, including phlebotomy, medicine, nursing, neuroscience, and imaging, among others. This variety showcases the importance of pipeline programming for the diversification of the health care workforce and supporting students at EAST High to achieve greater academic and career success.

More than 20 dedicated individuals make up the EAST-UR collaborative and were asked to stand to be recognized at the award event.