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Commissioner Fitzgerald Receives National Champion Award

April 29, 2014

Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D. has been awarded the Conference of Educational Administrators of Schools and Programs for the Deaf (CEASD) National Champion Award for 2014. The honor, awarded April 27 at CEASD’s annual conference in Indianapolis, is in recognition and appreciation for Dr. Fitzgerald’s idea that led to the 100 Babies Birth to Literacy Project.

Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D.

CEASD is a national organization of educators and administrators at schools for the deaf across the country and is the accrediting body for deaf schools.  CEASD provides an opportunity for professional educators to work together for the improvement of schools and educational programs for individuals who are deaf or hard of hearing. The organization brings together a rich composite of resources and reaches out to both enhance educations programs and influence educational policy makers. 

The purpose of the National Champion award is to recognize and express appreciation to key external stakeholders who provide exemplary strategic assistance, substantive financial or programmatic support, legislative or policy advocacy, or other unique efforts which directly impact the success of CEASD on behalf of the member schools and programs, students and their families.  The award may be given to an individual, group, agency, foundation, corporation, government entity or non-profit organization. 

“I am thrilled to receive this prestigious honor, and I accept it on behalf of all the dedicated people, organizations, and agencies in Georgia who are making the 100 Babies Project possible,” said Fitzgerald. “Ensuring that deaf and hard of hearing children read at level by third grade is essential and public health has the resources to reach children through our newborn screening process.”  

The 100 Babies Birth to Literacy Project is a collaborative initiative between DPH and Georgia Pathway. Georgia Pathway is a coalition of parents, professionals, medical personnel, and deaf adults whose mission it is to ensure that all children who are deaf or hard of hearing are on a path to third grade reading competency by 2020. The project began January 1, 2014, and includes all babies born in Georgia with a diagnosed permanent hearing loss. The literacy plan reflects all the steps that must occur during different stages of literacy development to be reading on grade level by third grade.

“Language development is so important for all children. Whether its sign language, spoken language or written language – it doesn’t matter. Language is language,” said Fitzgerald.

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“I am so excited to be a part of this important meeting,” Dr. Fitzgerald said. “No matter where you go, no matter what language you speak, no matter the political conflicts, public health employees have the same mission – prevent disease and injury and promote health and well-being.”