Looking back at five years of Sammies People’s Choice award winners
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Looking back at five years of Sammies People’s Choice award winners

June 4, 2020 | Updated on April 27, 2021

Photo above: 2019 People’s Choice award winners Robert Cabana and the Kennedy Space Center Senior Management Team pose backstage at the 18th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals Gala. (Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

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 you—the public—to vote for your favorite Sammies finalists.

Voting for the People’s Choice award is open now through June 26, and you can vote once a day until then. On June 10, we will narrow the field from the top 12 finalists to 5.

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

Robert Cabana and the Kennedy Space Center Senior Management Team (2019) transformed the historic Kennedy Space Center into the world’s preeminent launch site for government and commercial space exploration. The Kennedy Space Center now works with private sector partners to send astronauts to space, as seen in the recent SpaceX launch.

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. 

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.  

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.  

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.

It’s time for you to help choose our 2020 winner. Read the finalists’ accomplishments and vote using the People’s Choice poll. Spread the word about your favorite finalists using #Sammies2020 on social media. You can also download and share the promotional graphics on the right-hand side of the voting page.