DPH Commissioner Receives Friend of Children Award

November 10, 2014

Since assuming leadership of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) in 2011, Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., has shown herself to be a dynamic and enthusiastic leader with a particular interest in advancing pediatric public health issues — whether it affects infants, children or adolescents.

This past week, her continued diligence to promote and protect the health of Georgia’s youth was recognized as she was awarded the Friend of Children Award by the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 

AAP is a national non-profit organization committed to ensuring optimal physical, mental, and social health and wellbeing for all infants, children, adolescents and young adults. The Georgia chapter of AAP promotes the mission of the national organization in addition to protecting and improving public health throughout the state and advancing the medical profession.

Friend of Children Award recipients are individuals who have dedicated their time, attention and work to advancing pediatric health. In addition to Commissioner Fitzgerald, Alan Judd, investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was also recognized with this award for his editorial series examining child abuse in Georgia.

“It is an honor to receive an award for a cause that is so important to me both professionally and personally,” Fitzgerald said. “It is important that we use our knowledge and resources to support the continued improvement and expansion of pediatric health care services. Children are Georgia’s future and they deserve the opportunity to grow up healthy and lead happy and fulfilling lives.”

During her tenure as Commissioner at DPH, Fitzgerald has pursued a wide array of public health initiatives created to advance or protect the health of the state’s youngest citizens such as increasing childhood immunization rates, reducing infant mortality and improving birth outcomes, reducing childhood obesity and encouraging smoking cessation.

She has also launched “Talk With Me Baby,” an collaborative among public and private partners that addresses language development in babies. The initiative encourages parents and guardians to talk to their babies to increase the amount of words babies hear during the most critical phases of their language development. Earlier this year, Fitzgerald took this message to the masses by delivering a TEDxAtlanta speech on the value of language nutrition and its impact on children’s education, health and overall development.

In addition to honoring the work of Commissioner Fitzgerald, pediatric gastroenterologist, Jeffery Lewis, M.D., director of clinical research at GI Care for Kids, was recognized with the annual Treating Children with Special Health Care Needs award. 

This award, co-presented by DPH’s Maternal and Child Health (MCH) section and the Georgia chapter of AAP, recognizes physicians who provide superior care for children with chronic physical, developmental, behavioral or emotional conditions.  Dr. Lewis earned the award due to his extensive contributions to advancing medical knowledge of pediatric gastroenterology and increasing the availability of social support resources for children with gastrointestinal (GI) health challenges.

“We are pleased to recognize Dr. Lewis with the Treating Children with Special Health Care Needs award this year,” said Seema Csukas, M.D., Ph.D., director of the MCH section at DPH. “Too often we fail to think about the emotional, social and clinical challenges facing children with chronic disease – especially those who at first glance may appear to be just as healthy as their peers. Through the work of Dr. Lewis and others like him, we are better able to improve the overall health status of children across Georgia.”

In his role at GI Care for Kids, Dr. Lewis has focused on identifying innovative treatments to address Crohn’s and celiac disease as well as a variety of other GI disorders. He has also collaborated with the Marcus Autism Center to address the intersections between autism spectrum disorders and gastroenterology.

To learn more about the Georgia chapter of AAP and its pediatric health resources, visit www.gaaap.org.

About the Author

You might like...

December 1, 2014

The Georgia chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association awarded Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH), the Forget-Me-Not Award last week for her work on the Georgia Alzheimer’s and Related Dementias State Plan.  The Alzheimer’s state plan is a multi-year initiative created to ensure Georgia is dementia-capable, or better equipped to fulfill the needs of those living with dementia and their families, caregivers and medical professionals.

September 8, 2014

Program Findings Demonstrate Link Between Child Activity in School and Overall Health

The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) now has scientific evidence to show that physical activity does improve a student's overall health.

August 18, 2014

Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., and other DPH leaders are set to meet this week with senior government officials from the Taiwan Ministry of Health and Welfare to exchange ideas and best practices to best protect the public.

“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.”