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2021 Golisano Global Health Leadership Award Honorees

Four award recipients on a zoom call receiving awards.

The Golisano Global Health Leadership Award honors health champions and their extraordinary efforts toward fulfilling the goals, values, and mission of the Special Olympics global health program. These 39 honorees were recognized in 2021 at the country or U.S. state level.

Dr. Vincent Siasoco, CD: Dr. Siasoco is the clinical director for MedFest and Health Promotion from Special Olympics New York. During the pandemic, Dr. Siasoco was asked to be part of a Medical Council led by Dr. Alicia Bazzano, Chief Health Officer of Special Olympics International, to assist in developing a virtual health screening strategy that would best support the health of Special Olympics athletes during the pandemic.

Dr. Nely Garcia: Dr. Garcia's involvement with Special Olympics El Salvador began 10 years ago. The nominee has contributed to the healthy athletes program by actively helping to improve athletes' oral health, providing dental services, managing the facilitation for holding health events, carrying out family forums with topics that support actions to improve the oral health of athletes, and supporting training for professionals and students in dental careers. Through her efforts, multiple trainings have been developed for clinical volunteers, students, and health professionals.

Children’s Hospital New Orleans (John Nickens, CEO): Children's Hospital of New Orleans is a non-profit, pediatric acute care children's teaching hospital. Children’s Hospital health professionals currently serve as volunteers for Special Olympics Louisiana health and fitness programming and are committed to continue to work in this capacity, as well as to have their health professionals trained to serve as Clinical Directors of Healthy Athletes.

Delta Dental (Marybeth Goodwin, Program Officer): Delta Dental's financial contribution and overall support has allowed Special Olympics Colorado (SOCO) to focus on increasing access to dental care for athletes, and ensuring dental professionals and students are properly trained in treating patients with intellectual disabilities. Through the expansion of Special Smiles, SOCO has been able to increase athlete reach and train new Clinical Directors.

University of Central Arkansas: The University of Central Arkansas was honored for their continuous support of Special Olympics Arkansas and their commitment to incorporating inclusive health practices in their classroom discussions, learning seminars, service learning and inter-professional events and activities. They encourage volunteers to attend events year-round for Healthy Athletes. In the last three years they have become a leader in inclusive health programming for undergraduate students.

General Incorporated Association Japan Lions: General Incorporated Association Japan Lions have been involved in Opening Eyes since its beginning. Their support over the years has led to treatment and identification of serious eye conditions. By utilizing their funds to increase health, wellness, and fitness opportunities for athletes, Special Olympics Japan has created opportunities for health care professionals, students and athletes to experience health programming like Healthy Athletes.

Mr. S.P. Roussety: Mr. Roussety, the Commissioner of Health in Rodrigues Island, helps facilitate the Healthy Communities program in Mauritius by providing logistical support and venues. Through the Commission, he also facilitates follow-up treatment for athletes at hospitals.

Serhiy Komisarenko: Special Olympics Ukraine honored Mr. Komisarenko (former Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine in the early 1990s). He was the initiator and founder of Healthy Athletes in Ukraine. He is expanding Healthy Athletes at medical events and personally negotiates for increasing athletes’ ability to access quality follow-up care.

Dr. Ngambe Tharcisse, CD: Special Olympics Rwanda honored Dr. Tharcisse, a Clinical Director and a board member of Special Olympics Rwanda. He makes himself available when athletes travel during both international and national competitions and games. He deploys clinical volunteers at all events.

Special Education Division - Ghana Education Service: Special Olympics Ghana honored the Special Education Division which has been involved in Healthy Athletes for seven years. They have provided facilities, meals, transportation, coaches and referrals to Special Olympics Ghana. As part of the Ghana Education Service, they have also helped Special Olympics Ghana secure access to schools that recruit more people with intellectual disabilities for health screenings.

Dr. Coulibaly Madiarra Espe Offia: Dr. Offia, who has been involved with Special Olympics Cote D’Ivoire for more than 15 years, has provided vital support to Healthy Athletes for five years. She and others are in talks with the Ministry of Health proposing to create a national healthcare curriculum module around treating patients with intellectual disabilities. She has been advocating at meetings with Health officials and other government dignitaries for the effective implementation of laws promoting the rights of people with disabilities.

Mrs. Constandia Voniatis: Special Olympics Cyprus honored Mrs. Voniatis. She is the District Governor of the Lions Club International 117B 2020-2021 and was the key person for all awareness campaigns with Lions International in Cyprus. She has set up trainings in Lions Clubs aiming to improve competency for healthcare professionals, students, and fitness professionals in providing quality care and services to people with intellectual disabilities.

Mrs. Vivienne Azran: Mrs. Azran works directly under the CEO of the Ministry of Social Welfare of Israel and has directly supported Special Olympics Israel since opening the first Healthy Community Club for people with intellectual disabilities 21 years and older. In addition to providing funding to run and open the club, her office has provided Special Olympics Israel funds for four Special Smiles screenings per year.

Johanna Oskarsson, CD: Johanna Oskarsson is the Clinical Director for FunFitness for Special Olympics Sweden and is a Physical Education teacher at a school for students with intellectual disabilities (ID). Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, she was involved in recording sessions for ParaPrepp -- which offers online workouts for people with ID.

Sands China Ltd.: Sands China Ltd (SCL), known for hotel management, has provided financial and volunteer support for Special Olympics Macau through Healthy Athletes for seven years. Thanks to their funding, people with intellectual disabilities who have discovered a health problem can select from five private medical clinics to receive follow-up treatment. SCL employee volunteers are also trained to assist in Healthy Athletes disciplines.

Abu Dhabi Public Health Center: The Abu Dhabi Public Health Center (ADPHC) has been involved in Special Olympics United Arab Emirates through Healthy Athletes since 2017, and seven of their employees are Health Promotion Clinical Directors. ADPHC played a huge role in Healthy Athletes at the 2019 World Games and trained hundreds of volunteers. They have also provided COVID-19 virtual awareness sessions this year.

Dr. Adib Jaber: Special Olympics Lebanon (SOL) honored Dr. Jaber, an ophthalmologist who has been involved with SOL since 2003 as part of Opening Eyes. He has ensured a long-running Healthy Athletes and Opening Eyes program in Lebanon and has trained Clinical Directors for numerous World Games, including Athens, Greece and Graz, Austria.

Aruna Abhey Oswal: Aruna Abhey Oswal was instrumental in supporting Healthy Athletes and family health programs in the country through a major donation and partnership in support of Lions Club Hospitals in India. The nominee contributed financially to support Special Olympics Bharat initiatives in Health such as screenings, follow-up care, Family Health Forums and FIT 5.

Dr. Ouafaa Bouragba: Dr. Bouragba is one of the founders and supporters of Healthy Athletes programs in Morocco. With her help, Special Olympics Morocco successfully launched the first Healthy Athletes program. Among her other accomplishments was a presentation of the Healthy Hearing project to a committee of the Ministry of Health, whose mission is to introduce screening for deafness at a national level.

Hopital Ophtalmologique de la Fondation Bouamatou a Nouakchott: Since 2001, in Nouakchott, the Bouamatou Foundation's ophthalmological hospital has been providing free cataract operations for patients from all over West Africa. The hospital has a formal relationship with Special Olympics Mauritania in the form of free eye screenings and care services for athletes.

Dr. Pedro Rivera Soto, CD: Dr. Rivera has been working with Special Olympics Puerto Rico since 2018, and with Healthy Athletes since 2019. He is the MedFest Clinical Director and was the medical chief for the Puerto Rico delegation to the Special Olympics World Games in 2019, facilitating the athletes' participation in Healthy Athletes screenings. He also helped lead orientations for family members in preparation for the World Games.

Ana Edith Hernández Escobar, CD: All the clinic doctors who have worked as volunteers in Special Olympics Guatemala Healthy Athletes events have been trained by Special Smiles Clinical Director, Ana Escobar. During the last year, they have screened at least 500 athletes. Once a year, they conduct follow-up care for athletes, with the support of Open Wide Foundation. They also offer athletes free exams for different complicated dentistry processes.

School of Odontology of the Universidad de Valparaiso: The dental faculty at the Universidad of Valparaiso has participated with Special Olympics Chile in health events at the Los Fresnos School since 2018, impacting 150 athletes. Both undergraduate and postgraduate students from the university have participated, conducting Special Smiles evaluations, oral hygiene education, referrals for care in the university clinics, and in some cases, procedures are conducted at the same moment thanks to the contribution of a mobile clinic that the university team brings with them.

Escuela de Nutricion POLISAL – UNAN: The nutrition school has been working with Special Olympics Chile for three years, helping to give seminars, talks and nutrition evaluations with the students. The students have helped us ensure that our athletes have a good diet depending on the economic possibilities of the family.

Dr. Melissa Brown: Dr. Brown has been a champion for improving nutrition knowledge and education among individuals with intellectual disabilities. She has mentored her students at University of Saint Joseph Nutrition and Dietetics, and together with them has organized and led Special Olympics Connecticut’s (SOCT) nutrition Performance Station at three state-wide competitions, as well as leading a 2-hour Family Health Forum nutrition education activity. Dr. Brown has utilized Healthy Athletes Health Promotion data to conduct research on the nutrition knowledge and deficiencies among SOCT and North American athletes.

Selena Snowden, CD: She has been a Clinical Director for Special Olympics Florida for the past 14 years. She has been a lead Clinical Director at numerous County, Area and State level competitions in order to offer Healthy Hearing to athletes. Healthy Hearing has conducted over 12,000 screenings since 2006 with Selena’s assistance. Selena has also been a trainer for Clinical Directors for Special Olympics Florida and Special Olympics International. When not volunteering for Healthy Athletes Healthy Hearing events, Selena offers pro-bono services to athletes, including fitting, cleaning and fixing hearing aids, and other services required such as ear wax removal.

Pixie Plummer, MD, FAAP: Pixie Plummer, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, is board certified in Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. The focus of her career is to support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities across the lifespan and furthers her work alongside Special Olympics Iowa. Dr. Plummer believes that people with disabilities and their supporters are important teachers to physicians in training to improve access to quality health care for all. 

Dr. Jen Smart, CD: Dr. Smart has been a Healthy Hearing Clinical Director since 2012 and also serves as lead Clinical Director for Healthy Athletes in Maryland. In addition to serving on the event planning committee, as well as organizing Clinical Directors of other disciplines, Jen has been instrumental in the growth of our partnership with the College of Health Professions at Towson University. She mentors graduate research in the field of audiology and people with intellectual disabilities.

Renne Wyman: Renne Wyman has been a Special Olympics Michigan certified coach for the past 8 years, and holds certifications in 8 different sports. She coaches both Unified and traditional teams, and started a Unified Champion School program four years ago which gained recognition as a National Champion School in 2017. Renne implemented Michigan’s Health and Wellness program, Special Olympics Michigan Ifit, for two semesters during the 2019-2020 school year. Through this program Renne lead athletes through strength and cardiovascular workouts, nutrition education, and social & emotional health lessons.

Missouri Care - Edward Williams: Missouri Care is a consistent contributor and partner with Special Olympics Missouri (SOMO). They make a generous donation to SOMO's Health Programs each year. They have multiple staff who volunteer at state events. SOMO has been able to provide screenings, host Health Expos and much more because of the relationship with Missouri Care.

Rebecca Morley, CD: Rebecca is the Senior Community Health Specialist for the Missoula City-County Health Department. She has spent over 10 years as a Special Olympics Montana Clinical Director for Health Promotion. Starting in 2007, Rebecca mentored dozens of University of Montana students in public health, always including opportunities to support Special Olympics Montana (SOMT) Healthy Athletes. In 2016, after hearing about efforts in other states, Rebecca engaged students in SOMT’s first attempts to bring Health Promotion onto the field during the State Summer Games.

Lisa Esparza: For over 20 years, Lisa has been pivotal in the growth of Special Olympics New Mexico Healthy Athletes program. She has built lasting relationships with volunteers, universities, professional associations, and funders. She personally recruited and trained key volunteers in Special Smiles. She created the first Special Smiles referral list and established relationships with Delta Dental New Mexico, the Dental Hygienists Association of New Mexico, and Dr. Lyons and Dr. Grady at the New Mexico Delta Dental Specialty Dental Clinic.

University of Toledo Exercise Science Department: The University of Toledo Exercise Science Department has created a free course for individuals with intellectual disabilities and Special Olympics Ohio athletes that educates them about various topics of health and wellness. The course teaches them about the benefits of regular exercise and incorporates exercise into every class. The course is part of the curriculum for the Exercise Science Masters program where graduate students develop the curriculum each semester, teach the course, and evaluate the course upon the completion.

Ahead in the Game - Tara Costello: Tara developed a Mental Skills Toolkit through her business, Ahead in The Game, that she uses with Special Olympics Prince Edward Island athletes on provincial and national teams to enhance their performance on the field of play and in life. She has also helped other Canadian chapters grow their Healthy Athletes programming. The province continues to build on the first Strong Minds event in 2016 to offer more and more screenings in all disciplines.

McGill School of Physical and Occupational Therapy: McGill School has included a specific workshop in the curriculum of physiotherapists master’s students. This workshop helps define physiotherapy considerations for clients living with intellectual disabilities and promoting confidence and practical skills. Since 2018, more than 120 students attended the workshop, which will come to benefit Special Olympics Quebec athletes, and other individuals with intellectual disabilities in the area.

Medical University of South Carolina (Dr. LaRosa): Dr. LaRosa and her team recruited well over 100 volunteers in 5 Healthy Athletes disciplines, including healthcare professionals and medical students. She and her team communicate with other healthcare systems in the state and encourage them to liaise with Special Olympics South Carolina. In addition, Dr. LaRosa’s team worked on building a list of follow-up providers for athletes.

Speak Up Africa: Special Olympics Senegal signed an MOU with Speak up Africa (SUA) in 2014. SUA is an NGO focused on public health and sustainable development. They have trained coaches and athletes on malaria prevention, the importance of vaccinations, and menstrual hygiene, and they send volunteers to Healthy Athletes screenings.

The Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians: The Tennessee Association of Optometric Physicians (TAOP) has served as the foundational Healthy Athletes contributor in Tennessee and has successfully coordinated Opening Eyes screenings every year since 1997. Over the course of its 23-year-long relationship with Special Olympics Tennessee, TAOP has engaged approximately 500 clinical event volunteers, leading a new generation of activist physicians who are sensitive to the diversity of needs represented by the populations they will come to serve.

Dr. Matt Adamkin, CD: Dr. Adamkin has been involved in MedFest since 2014, serving as Clinical Director since 2015. He has integrated MedFest into the Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation residency program at the University of Louisville School of Medicine. He has been responsible for over 700 free physical exams provided to Special Olympics Kentucky athletes. Outside Special Olympics, he sees patients with intellectual disabilities (ID) at Lee Specialty Clinic, a multidisciplinary clinic for people with ID.