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September 22, 2017

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2017 Service to America Medals honor America’s best in government


WASHINGTON – The nonprofit, nonpartisan Partnership for Public Service will present seven Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) on Wednesday, September 27 to outstanding civil servants whose accomplishments are making a meaningful difference here at home and throughout the world.


The Sammies have earned a reputation as the premier awards program recognizing the important accomplishments of federal civil servants.


“The federal government is a unique instrument for our country. The 2017 Service to America Medal recipients represent the best in government, the unsung heroes who quietly work behind-the-scenes to serve their country and the public good,” said Max Stier, Partnership for Public Service president and CEO. “It is important, especially in these uncertain times, to celebrate and recognize the Sammies honorees and their colleagues throughout the government who are making a positive difference in people’s lives.”  


The 2017 Service to America Medals Master of Ceremonies is John Dickerson, chief Washington correspondent and moderator, “Face the Nation,” CBS News.


Special guests include best-selling author Michael Lewis, Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, Deputy National Security Advisor Dina Powell, and inventor Dean Kamen.


The seven award winners were chosen from 26 finalists and more than 440 nominees by a prestigious selection committee that includes leaders from government, business, the foundation and nonprofit community, academia, entertainment and the media.


The 2017 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals recipients are:


The evening’s top honor, Federal Employees of the Year, will be presented to Phillip A. Brooks, Byron Bunker and Joshua H. Van Eaton, a team from the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Justice. These civil servants led multiagency teams that halted a scheme by Volkswagen to rig more than a half million vehicles to circumvent U.S. auto emission standards. Their work led to a record $17.4 billion in legal settlements—including large sums of money that have been dedicated to reducing pollution and compensating car owners. Their painstaking effort also laid the foundation for subsequent investigations that resulted in indictments against Volkswagen executives and a total of $4.3 billion in civil and criminal penalties and fines.


The Career Achievement Medal recipient is Dr. Tedd V. Ellerbrock of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Ellerbrock played a vital role in building, expanding and improving the U.S.-led program that provides medicine and assistance to 11 million people worldwide living with HIV and AIDS. He has built international partnerships and oversaw evaluations to scale up the system to deliver life-saving medicine to patients in more than two dozen developing countries.


Rory A. Cooper of the Department of Veterans Affairs is the recipient of the Science and Environment Medal. Wheelchairs offer increased mobility for people with disabilities, but there are limits to where they can go and what they can do. Cooper designed innovative wheelchairs and other assistive technologies that have markedly improved the mobility and quality of life for hundreds of thousands of veterans and others with disabilities. He led innovations that include a wheelchair with robotic arms and hands that can grasp, personal vehicles enabling people to access terrain their wheelchairs couldn’t traverse, and manual wheelchairs with more comfortable and adjustable seats.


The Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal winner is Timothy P. Camus and the IRS Impersonation Scam team. This team led a multiagency investigation and public awareness campaign to stop a massive fraud that involved more than 1.8 million threatening phone calls and resulted in some 10,000 Americans paying $54 million in bogus tax bills. The team’s quick, strategic work to dismantle the fast-moving criminal enterprise led to the indictment of 61 people last year. The indictments and public education went a long way to shutting down the massive scheme, and reports of the calls plunged by more than 90 percent.


Alex Mahoney and the Middle East Crisis Humanitarian Response team are the winners of the National Security and International Affairs Medal. The U.S. Agency for International Development team led U.S. relief efforts in Syria and parts of Iraq, where an on-going civil war and ISIS terrorists have trapped or displaced record numbers of innocent civilians. Working with the United Nations and other organizations, the team continually delivers food, medicine, drinking water and other aid to 7 million people in these war-torn countries.


New this year is the Promising Innovations Medal, which recognizes a federal employee for leading a promising discovery or creating a breakthrough technology. Flora "Mackie" Jordan of the Marine Corps Systems Command is the recipient of this award. Marines have entered combat for years wearing cumbersome protective gear that weighs 150 pounds, making it difficult for them to be nimble or stand guard for long periods. Thanks to the innovative equipment developed by Jordan, new body armor that is 45 percent lighter is on its way to service members. The armor is equally protective and can be adjusted to better fit men and women of all sizes.


Courtney Lias, Stayce Beck and the FDA Artificial Pancreas team are honored with the Management Excellence Medal for paving the way for the first artificial pancreas device to receive FDA approval three years faster than expected. Their work could help transform the lives of the 1.2 million Americans with Type 1 diabetes, who must constantly monitor their body’s blood sugar level and correctly dose insulin for their very survival. Recognizing the tremendous need and opportunity to help this community, the team helped manufacturers get the regulatory green light for a groundbreaking medical device that for the first time automates some of the complicated steps needed to keep blood sugar under control.


The third annual Service to America Medals People’s Choice award is presented to Surabhi Shah and the interagency Urban Waters team. While all 26 Sammies finalists were eligible to win this award, the public voted for Shah and the Urban Waters team because they believe they have made the most admirable contribution to the American people. Many American urban waterways and surrounding lands are heavily polluted, due to decades of neglect and degradation. Surabhi Shah and an interagency Urban Waters team partner with local organizations to clean up pollution; spur redevelopment of abandoned properties; promote new businesses; and provide parks and access for boating, swimming, fishing and community gatherings.

The entire awards ceremony will be streamed live from Washington, D.C. and viewable on the Partnership for Public Service’s Facebook page beginning at 6:30 p.m. EDT.

The premier and national sponsors for the 2017 Service to America Medals are Mrs. Ronnie Heyman and the Heyman Family, Chevron and Booz Allen Hamilton.

Renamed the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals in 2010 to commemorate the organization’s founder, the program has honored more than 480 outstanding federal employees since its inception in 2002. For profiles and videos of the medalists, and to nominate a federal employee for a 2018 medal, visit

During the past 16 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 to learn more.


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