A look back at past Sammies People’s Choice award winners
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A look back at past Sammies People’s Choice award winners

June 11, 2019 | Updated on May 17, 2022

For nearly 20 years, the Partnership has been awarding the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals to exceptional federal employees who have made important contributions to the health, safety and prosperity of our country. In 2015, we added a new award to the Sammies—the People’s Choice award.

While the winners in other categories are chosen by a blue-ribbon selection committee of leaders from government, business, entertainment, media and the nonprofit community, the People’s Choice award allows the public to vote for its favorite Sammies finalists.

Voting for this year’s People’s Choice award is open through July 8, but don’t wait. We’ve already narrowed the field from 26 finalists to 12. We will reset the ballot again on June 19 with just the top four finalists. Then we’ll announce the winner on July 18.

With the deadline to vote for the People’s Choice award approaching, let’s look back at our previous winners.

Jean Claude Zenklusen, Carolyn Hutter and the Cancer Genome Atlas Team (2015) mapped thousands of gene sequences for more than 30 types of cancer, advancing precision medicine in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of these deadly diseases. Their work provided scientists with critical information not previously available and has led to important discoveries and life-saving treatments.

Edward Grace and the Operation Crash Team (2016) headed a national investigation that led to the arrest and prosecution of numerous individuals who profited from smuggling and illegally selling rhino horns and elephant tusks. At the time of their 2016 win, the work of Grace and his team had led to 41 arrests, 30 convictions and the seizure of smuggled tusks and horns with a street value of more than $75 million.

Surabhi Shah and the Urban Waters Team (2017) created public-private partnerships to clean up and revitalize urban waterways and surrounding lands, spurring economic development and reversing decades of neglect. The Urban Waters program is active in more than 250 locations and has resulted in significant economic development in cities such as Atlanta, Baltimore, Grand Rapids and San Antonio.    

Alison Smith (2018) pioneered the use of nanoparticles to mark sensitive military equipment with a unique fingerprint. Smith’s innovative research is an important step in preventing counterfeit and potentially defective components from making their way into weapons and equipment for our military, and could also be used to authenticate products in the pharmaceutical and fashion industries. 

Now you can help choose our 2019 People’s Choice winner.  Read the finalists’ accomplishments and vote at servicetoamericamedals.org. Be sure to share the finalists’ stories so their colleagues, friends and family members can vote as well.