CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and bestselling author Michael Lewis, celebrate public servants
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CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and bestselling author Michael Lewis, celebrate public servants

May 8, 2020 | Updated on May 17, 2022

On Thursday, May 7, the Partnership teamed up with Axios, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and bestselling author Michael Lewis to host a virtual event celebrating the 27 finalists for the 2020 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals. The “Sammies,” considered the Oscars of government service, celebrate the incredible accomplishments of the most effective federal employees and recognize their lifelong dedication to service.

“If the current pandemic tells us anything, it’s that government matters,” Cooper said, as he praised the doctors and nurses taking care of veterans at VA hospitals; the scientists at NIH, FDA and CDC developing treatments, vaccines and tests to stop the spread of the deadly virus; and the Small Business Administration employees who are helping businesses—many of them on the brink of failure due to lack of customers—get loans to pay their employees’ salaries and save jobs.

Michael Lewis is the author of “Moneyball,” “The Big Short” and “The Blind Side.” His most recent book, “The Fifth Risk,” describes extraordinary federal employees who are vital to running the country. When Cooper asked why he chose to write about government, Lewis said he found himself moved by the civil servants he met in interviews he did during the transition to the Trump administration. “I needed to know what these people were doing because [it] was very important…They were doing it for a lot less money than they could make in the private sector and [they had a] sense of mission.”

In one segment, Mike Allen, co-founder of Axios, interviewed Sammies finalist Dr. Vikram Krishnasamy, who established a training program and communications network to help local public health officials deal with the opioid epidemic. “I feel incredibly lucky to be where I am today. My parents immigrated in the 1970s, and my siblings and I knew how lucky we were. It’s why I give back in public service.”

Cooper interviewed Sammies finalist Dr. Beth Ripley about her work using 3D printers to assist VA hospitals with surgeries. “It turns out that CT scans, MRI scans and the routine imaging we do is a digital blueprint of your anatomy of your body,” she said. “We can take that digital blueprint and what comes out is a near exact replicate of that patient’s heart. Then we can hand it to the doctor, the veteran and the family, and they come up with a plan.”

Dr. Ripley said the VA is now using 3D printing to make personal protective equipment, including face shields and masks, to protect against COVID-19. “When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and we started to see our colleagues in New York or Europe that needed things they couldn’t get, we scaled rapidly and put all of the resources and knowledge to turn out a product that helped,” she said.

In closing the event, Cooper said, “I hope you know how grateful we are for your service, your sacrifices, particularly at this difficult time in our country.”

To learn more about the 2020 Sammies finalists visit