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For Release: May 28, 2009
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications

Oklahoma Department of Health Recognizes Outstanding Employees

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) recognized outstanding employees and agency programs at its annual Employee Recognition Ceremony held in Oklahoma City recently.

“We are pleased to recognize these employees and programs for the outstanding services they provide in their communities,” said Interim Commissioner of Health Rocky McElvany. “Their day-to-day dedication and determination are helping to create a healthier Oklahoma.”

The awards and honorees recognized include the following: County Health Department Employee of the Year – Tracie DeLano, Ottawa County Health Department; Central Office Employee of the Year – Marisa New-Wells, Oklahoma City; Central Office Program of the Year – Immunization Service; and County Health Department of the Year – Carter County Health Department. Their accomplishments are noted below:

County Health Department Employee of the Year: Tracie DeLano, Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coordinator at the Ottawa County Health Department, has made it her mission to reach out to the adolescents in her community. Building upon an idea started by local school-based social workers, DeLano developed the “A Promise to Keep” project. This project targets young girls with a three-fold purpose: to promote positive life choices, to provide accurate information on issues that affect them and their sexuality, and to make them feel worthy of making good choices. More than 170 girls attended a one-day “A Promise to Keep” conference in Miami and Tracie has been asked to repeat the conference for high school students in other school systems.

Central Office Employee of the Year: Marisa New-Wells is Director of the Health Equity and Resource Opportunities division at the OSDH. This new division is thriving under her leadership, focusing on the social determinants of health such as poverty, lack of transportation, and lack of education. New-Wells has led more than 20 town hall meetings across the state in an effort to ensure critical issues are considered by the OSDH to assist all Oklahomans in making basic lifestyle changes, including eating better, moving more and being tobacco free.

Central Office Program of the Year: The OSDH Immunization Service was recognized for its role in improving Oklahoma’s child immunization coverage rate. Oklahoma’s immunization coverage rate ranking for 19- to 35-month-old children has improved from 44th nationally to 25th, with more than 80 percent of Oklahoma’s young children completing their primary immunization series.

County Health Department of the Year: The Carter County Health Department was recognized for its committed workforce, customer service, community partnerships, and creative and innovative programs. All clinic services, with the exception of maternity services, are provided on a drop-in basis. The health department is open 11 hours each workday and staff provided services in almost 20,000 client appointments in 2008. The Carter County Health Department is the lead agency in community emergency preparedness planning, with Ardmore as the only community in the nation to address community-level continuity of operations planning. The health department conducts several joint community projects with the Ardmore Fire Department including drive-through flu clinics at fire department locations, and certification training for child car seat installers. The agency has also partnered with several community organizations to pilot a health access project that provides routine health visit screenings, immunizations, and WIC services monthly on-site at an Ardmore non-profit day care center. Carter County Health Department Administrative Director Mendy Spohn was recently awarded the Oklahoma Public Health Association’s Exceptional Merit Award for her work in finding solutions to address health inequalities and eliminate barriers to service.

Receiving Honorable Mention as a finalist for the County Health Department

Employee of the Year were Cheryl Peters, Garfield County Health Department; Graciela Ruiz, Jackson County Health Department; Richard Forbes, Creek County Health Department; and Ben May, Mayes County Health Department. Central Office Employee of the Year finalists included Anthony Lee, Acute Disease Service; Patsy Leisering, Information Technology; Sheryll Brown, Injury Prevention Service; and Suzanna Dooley, Maternal and Child Health Service.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health is the public health authority responsible for protecting and promoting the health of the citizens of Oklahoma. The number of agency employees total about 2,200 and are located at the central office in Oklahoma City and in 68 county health departments. The Employee Recognition Awards were selected from nominations for accomplishments occurring in 2008, with final approval awarded by the Oklahoma State Board of Health.

For more information about the OSDH Employee Recognition Program and those recognized, contact Patti Ream, (405) 271-4171 or pattijr@health.ok.gov.


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