PARTNERSHIP FOR PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCES 2019 SERVICE TO AMERICA MEDAL FINALISTS

May 5, 2019

“Oscars” of government service honor federal innovators from across government

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 5, 2019                                       

CONTACT:  Onamé Thompson

202-775-6898

WASHINGTON – The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service today announced the 2019 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) finalists – 26 federal employees and teams from more than 20 federal agencies and 15 states as well as Washington, D.C. and Haiti.

TheSammies have earned a reputation as the premier awards program recognizing America’s best in government. On Thursday, May 9, the finalists will be honored at a breakfast on Capitol Hill as part of Public Service Recognition Week. Among those scheduled to make remarks are Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.); Department of Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross; Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie; and Office of Personnel Management Acting Director and Office of Management and Budget Deputy Director for Management Margaret Weichert.

“Following the longest government shutdown in history, it’s imperative that we celebrate and recognize the important and critical work of our nation’s civil servants,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. “The 2019 Service to America Medalsshowcase our remarkable federal workforce who serve the public good and address many of the country’s greatest challenges.”

The 2019 finalists’ achievements include pioneering and perfecting a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found, cutting search and rescue times and saving thousands of lives; implementing facial recognition systems that simplify and fortify airport security; developing a way to quickly locate and assist chronic healthcare patients who are at risk of losing life-sustaining equipment due to widespread power outages; and uncovering and prosecuting the largest bribery and corruption scandal in the history of the U.S. Navy.

Other finalists include those who have revolutionized scientific research and our understanding of the long-term effects of concussions in veterans and athletes; transformed the historic Kennedy Space Center into a globally distinguished multiuser launch site for government and commercial space exploration; discovered six different genetic origins of kidney cancer and provided the foundation for the development of targeted therapies that have saved thousands of lives; and strengthened our nation’s defenses against nuclear and radioactive threats by developing performance standards and tests for detection systems that screen nearly 7 million cargo containers entering U.S. seaports each year.

A complete list of the 2019 Service to America Medal finalists is attached.

Each finalist is a contender for one of our seven Service to America Medals, including the newly renamed Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal, which honors Paul Volcker, a devout public servant who, over three decades, served two terms as Federal Reserve chairman, headed two non-partisan Commissions on the Public Service and spearheaded sweeping overhauls of the federal government. The naming of this award was made possible through the generous support of Ray and Barbara Dalio and The Volcker Alliancea nonpartisan organization that advances effective management of government to achieve results that matter to citizens.

“We are thrilled that the Sammies Career Achievement Award has been renamed to honor the Volcker Alliance’s chairman and founder, Paul A. Volcker,” said Thomas W. Ross, president of the Volcker Alliance. “Mr. Volcker’s nearly thirty years of service in the federal government was defined by his belief that government should be responsive to its citizens and accountable for delivering on its promises. We hope that this award will elevate and acknowledge the significant contributions of other dedicated citizens who strive for excellence in public service.”

Other medal categories include Science and Environment; Safety and Law Enforcement; National Security and International Affairs; Management Excellence; and Federal Employee of the Year. All 26 finalists are eligible for the Service to America Medals People’s Choice Award. Beginning Friday, May 10, members of the public can vote online for the federal employee they believe has made the most significant contribution to the American people. The People’s Choice winner will be announced at a Partnership event on July 18.

Medal recipients will be announced and honored on October 16, 2019, during an awards gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

In addition, the Partnership will present its second annual private-sector Spirit of Service Award to Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and the 108th Mayor of New York City. Designed to shine a spotlight on individuals outside the federal workforce who have made significant contributions to public service, Mayor Bloomberg will be recognized for the positive impact he has made through his leadership in business, government and philanthropy, and for the countless lives he has improved through his national and international support of programs benefitting the arts, education, the environment, government innovation and public health.

The Service to America Medal recipients will be chosen by a prestigious selection committee that includes Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.); Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.); former Utah Governor Mike Leavitt; Siemens USA CEO Barbara Humpton; Chairman of the USAA Board Lester Lyles; Microsoft Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Amy Hood; The Volcker Alliance President Thomas W. Ross; Partnership Co-founder Ronnie F. Heyman; FORTUNE CEO Alan Murray; Fox News Channel Anchor Martha MacCallum; Georgetown University President Jack DeGioia; Motion Picture Association of America Chairman and CEO Charles Rivkin; Author Michael Lewis; and other leaders from government, academia, media, the private sector and philanthropic community.

The premier and national sponsors for the 2019 Service to America Medals include Mrs. Ronnie F. Heyman and Family, Bloomberg Philanthropies and Chevron.

Since its inception in 2002, the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals program has honored more than 500 outstanding federal employees. More information about the program and the 2019 finalists is available at servicetoamericamedals.org.

During the past 18 years, the nonpartisan, nonprofit Partnership for Public Service has been dedicated to making the federal government more effective for the American people. We work across administrations to help transform the way government operates by increasing collaboration, accountability, efficiency and innovation. Visit ourpublicservice.org to learn more. Follow us on social @RPublicService and subscribe today to get the latest federal news, information on upcoming Partnership programs and events, and more.

2019 SAMMIES FINALISTS

PAUL A. VOLCKER CAREER ACHIEVEMENT MEDAL FINALISTS
This medal recognizes a federal employee for leading significant and sustained accomplishments throughout a federal career of 20 or more years. 

Arthur A. Allen 

Oceanographer 

U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Search and Rescue 

New London, Connecticut 

Pioneered and perfected a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found, cutting search and rescue times and saving thousands of lives during a 35-year career 

William K. Boyes, Ph.D. 

Environmental Health Scientist 

Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development 

Research Triangle Park, North Carolina 

Conducted important research on the harm that commonly used chemicals have on eyesight and the central nervous system, leading to new standards to protect the public from overexposure to these toxic substances 

Michael G. Kozak 

Senior Bureau Official 

Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor 

Washington, D.C. 

For nearly five decades, helped shape foreign policy to protect U.S. interests abroad and advance democracy and human rights around the world 

Ann McKee, M.D. 

Chief of Neuropathology 

Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Boston Healthcare System 

Boston, Massachusetts 

Revolutionized scientific research and our understanding of the long-term effects of concussions, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in veterans and athletes 

Venkatachalam “Ram” Ramaswamy, Ph.D. 

Director, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 

Princeton, New Jersey 

Developed a state-of-the-art modeling system to enhance understanding and prediction of global climate and provide earlier and more accurate forecasts of severe weather events, helping save lives and property

MANAGEMENT EXCELLENCE MEDAL FINALISTS
This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment that exemplifies efficient, effective and results-oriented government.

Victoria Brahm 

Medical Center Director 

Department of Veterans Affairs, Tomah VA Medical Center 

Tomah, Wisconsin 

Restored the quality and safety of a broken health care center for veterans that had become notorious for unsafe medical practices, excessive opioid use and a toxic work environment 

Robert Cabana and the Kennedy Space Center Senior Management Team 

Director, John F. Kennedy Space Center 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration 

Kennedy Space Center, Florida 

Transformed the historic Kennedy Space Center into a globally distinguished, multiuser launch site for government and commercial space exploration, helping preserve our country’s leadership in this important field 
 

Krista L. Caudle, Ph.D. and the Laboratory Assay for Traumatic Brain Injury Integrated Product Team 

Product Manager, Traumatic Brain Injury 

Department of the Army, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity 

Fort Detrick, Maryland 

Developed, tested and acquired FDA approval for the first-ever blood test that detects mild traumatic brain injury in military service members and civilians 

Osama El-Lissy 

Deputy Administrator, Plant Protection and Quarantine 

Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service 

Washington, D.C. 

Created a highly effective plan that led the United States to become the first and only country to eradicate the pink bollworm, saving cotton growers tens of millions of dollars annually 

Shannon Sartin and Team 

Executive Director, Digital Service at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services 

Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Digital Service 

Washington, D.C. 

Led the development of digital tools to make it easier for Medicare patients to access their electronic health records and for doctors to receive payment for the quality, not the quantity, of the care they provide  

Paul Shute, Christopher Aragao and David Enright 

Chief of Operational Innovation (Shute); Supervisory Veterans Service Representative (Aragao); Management Analyst (Enright) 

Department of Veterans Affairs 

Washington, D.C. (Shute); Providence, Rhode Island (Aragao); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Enright) 

Dramatically cut the time and manpower needed to make decisions on service-related mental health claims for veterans, helping tens of thousands of individuals each year receive their benefits faster

NATIONAL SECURITY AND INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS MEDAL FINALISTS
This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as border security, counterterrorism, defense and military affairs, intelligence, nuclear nonproliferation, diplomacy, foreign assistance and trade.

Kara L. De Castro 

Management Analyst 

National Nuclear Security Administration 

Washington, D.C. 

Led pivotal international programs to convert weapons-grade nuclear materials for civilian use and enhanced security cultures to guard against their mishandling and misuse  

Leticia Pibida, Ph.D. 

Physicist 

National Institute of Standards and Technology 

Gaithersburg, Maryland 

Strengthened our nation’s defenses against nuclear and radioactive threats by developing performance standards and tests for detection systems that screen nearly 7 million cargo containers entering U.S. seaports each year 
 

Ryan Shelby, Ph.D. 

Diplomatic Attaché and Foreign Service Engineering Officer 

U.S. Agency for International Development 

Port-au-Prince, Haiti 

Provided vital training and resources to help people in Haiti rebuild thousands of homes and roofs ripped apart by a Category 4 hurricane, making the structures safer and stronger to withstand future disasters 

John P. Wagner 

Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner 

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations 

Washington, D.C. 

Implemented facial recognition systems that simplify and fortify airport security, helping travelers reach their destinations faster while stopping suspected terrorists and others attempting to enter and leave the U.S. using false documents 

Kurt Yankaskas 

Program Officer, Noise Induced Hearing Loss Research Program 

Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research 

Arlington, Virginia 

Identified and implemented solutions to combat noise-induced hearing loss, which affects hundreds of thousands of sailors and Marines, and costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year in treatments for veterans 

SAFETY AND LAW ENFORCEMENT MEDAL FINALISTS
This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as civil rights, consumer protection, cybersecurity, transportation safety, worker safety, and emergency preparedness and response.

Emily Banuelos and the Taxiway Tango Tiger Team 

Team Manager, Western Service Area 

Federal Aviation Administration, Runway Safety Group 

Des Moines, Washington  

Designed and implemented enhanced surveillance technology that warns when commercial aircraft are lined up to land on a taxiway instead of the intended runway, averting the potential for catastrophic accidents  
 

Kristen P. Finne 

Senior Program Analyst and Manager, HHS emPOWER Program 

Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response 

Washington, D.C. 

Developed a system for first responders to quickly locate and assist 4.3 million Medicare beneficiaries who rely on life-sustaining, electricity-dependent medical equipment and are at risk during prolonged power outages 

Emily Joy Haas, Ph.D. 

Senior Research Behavioral Scientist, Pittsburgh Mining Research Division 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Improved the health and safety of our nations’ mine workers by using behavioral science to influence the adoption of new technologies and practices that reduce their exposure to known hazards 
 

Jamie Rhome 

Storm Surge Specialist and Team Lead, National Hurricane Center 

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service 

Miami, Florida 

Created a new forecasting model and warning system that more accurately predicts the deadly storm surge caused by hurricanes, saving lives by alerting residents sooner of the approaching danger

James McWhirter, Mark W. Pletcher and the Navy Bribery Scandal Team 

Assistant Special Agent in Charge (McWhirter); Assistant U.S. Attorney (Pletcher) 

Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (McWhirter); Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California (Pletcher) 

Mission Viejo, California (McWhirter); San Diego, California (Pletcher) 

Uncovered and prosecuted the largest bribery and corruption scandal in the history of the U.S. Navy, resulting in dozens of federal criminal convictions and sanctions against numerous Navy officers 

SCIENCE AND ENVIRONMENT MEDAL FINALISTS
This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as medicine, economics, energy, information technology, space, meteorology and resource conservation.

Othmane Benafan, Ph.D. 

Materials Research Engineer 

National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Glenn Research Center 

Cleveland, Ohio 

Advanced the science and use of a special alloy that returns to its original shape after being heated, leading to groundbreaking technologies that enable safer, more efficient aviation and space exploration 

McMahan “Mac” Louis Gray 

Physical Scientist, Separations Materials Team 

Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

Created a game-changing technology that removes carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and absorbs heavy metals, such as lead, from municipal water supplies 

Daniel B. Jernigan, M.D. 

Director, Influenza Division 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases 

Atlanta, Georgia 

Led response efforts for dozens of disease crises, including Ebola, SARS and West Nile virus, while greatly improving our country’s ability to identify, prepare for and respond to inevitable flu pandemics 

W. Marston Linehan, M.D. 

Chief, Urologic Oncology Branch 

National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute 

Bethesda, Maryland 

Discovered six different genetic origins of kidney cancer and provided the foundation for the development of targeted therapies that have saved thousands of lives 

Christina A. Neal and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Team 

Scientist in Charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory 

U.S. Geological Survey 

Hilo, Hawaii 

Carefully monitored a large and sustained eruption of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii and provided vital updates to protect residents, tourists and property from ash, lava and toxic fumes 

Publication Type: News Release

Publication Topic: Federal workforce,Inspire and Hire Mission-Critical Talent,Service to America Medals