Introducing the top six finalists for the 2021 People’s Choice Award
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Introducing the top six finalists for the 2021 People’s Choice Award

June 22, 2021 | Updated on January 8, 2024
Greg Arcuri

From modern day pioneers of space travel to leaders in the fight against COVID-19, the top six finalists for the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals 2021 People’s Choice Award, announced last week, play critical roles in government and have made vital contributions to our national well-being.

Learn more about these exceptional public servants and then vote for your favorite as the 2021 People’s Choice Award winner. You can vote once every 24 hours through Friday, July 2.

Meet the 2021 People’s Choice finalists

At the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Barney Graham and Kizzmekia Corbett conducted critical research that led to the development of highly effective COVID-19 vaccines in record time. Corbett and Graham were able to design the basic structure for the new vaccines within days of Chinese scientists posting the gene sequence of the COVID-19 virus online. Today, the vaccines are protecting millions of people worldwide from contracting the deadly virus.

Ana Hinojosa and Eric Choy led a team at Customs and Border Protection that directed enforcement actions against companies seeking to import goods produced by forced labor in China and other countries. The team’s efforts helped CBP block almost as many shipments of products made by forced labor in the past five years as it had in the previous 80—a remarkable achievement that demonstrates the group’s commitment to human rights and human dignity around the world.

At the IRS, Virginia Busby, Dianne Garibotto and Camille Privett led a team that spearheaded the effort to disburse billions in relief payments to people adversely affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic. Under the team’s expert guidance, the IRS distributed more than half the funds within two weeks of Congress enacting the CARES Act, providing critical financial support to millions of eligible people.

Kenneth Graham of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration coordinated our national response to the most active hurricane season on record, during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a 100% evacuation rate in the hardest–hit area during Hurricane Laura, the strongest U.S. landfall of the 2020 season.

Stephen Jurczyk, NASA’s former associate administrator, helped the agency pull off several impressive feats during the coronavirus pandemic—from landing a rover on Mars to planning the nation’s next human mission to the moon. Under his watch, the agency also transported astronauts to the International Space Station aboard an American-built and -operated spacecraft for the first time since 2010.

For decades, Dr. Anne Schuchat at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has served as one of America’s leading infectious disease experts, overseeing both national and global responses to outbreaks of the H1N1 influenza virus, the Ebola and Zika viruses, the COVID-19 pandemic and more. She has authored or co-authored more than 230 scientific articles, book chapters and reviews, and has worked tirelessly to help leaders identify and mitigate deadly pandemics.

Vote for the People’s Choice winner through July 2, and spread the word about the finalists on social media using these promotional graphics and the #Sammies2021 hashtag. You can read more about the Sammies finalists here.

This post was authored by Greg Arcuri, an intern on the Partnership’s Communications team. 

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