Making a Difference

Sam cover

Government service is rarely glamorous or heralded. More often than not, the media highlights problems, not successes, in public sector programs. But in the sprawling federal government, there are many people whose work, performed to high standards of excellence, is essential to the health, welfare and security of American society.

The Service to America Medals program celebrates their achievements, by selecting a handful of individuals whose efforts have been especially notable. In this, the fifth year of the program, winners are chosen in eight categories, and one person, Nancy Cox of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is designated Federal Employee of the Year. She and the other Service to America Medal winners this year have left important marks in the fields of medicine, physics (a Nobel Prize), science, the environment, and legal and military affairs. They were chosen by a committee of prominent leaders in various walks of American life.

This year's nine winners bring the total of SAM awards to 44 over the history of the program. Most awards have gone to individuals, some to teams. Even after five years, we have covered just a smattering of the occupations represented in the public sector. But the winners' examples can serve as beacons to those who may doubt the government's potential to make a difference in matters of national and international importance.

The Service to America Medals program is supported by the three magazines of Atlantic Media Co.-Government Executive, National Journal and The Atlantic-and is produced in association with the Partnership for Public Service, a nonprofit organization dedicated to revitalizing the federal workforce. Profiles of the 2006 SAM winners will be published in the three magazines, reaching more than 1 million readers.

This special supplement was written by Denise Kersten Wills, a former staff correspondent for Government Executive. Editing assistance was provided by Deborah Acomb.

-Timothy B. Clark, Editor

On the pages that follow, profiles of those honored this year:

Federal Employee of the Year
Nancy Cox, Ph.D., a CDC virologist who has studied the influenza virus and worked to eliminate the threat of a global pandemic.

Career Achievement
William D. Phillips, Ph.D., whose research in using lasers to cool atoms and improve the accuracy of clocks led to a Nobel Prize.

Call to Service
Christina Sanford, who took a leading role in Iraq's transition from an appointed government to an elected one.

Homeland Security
Ambassador Nancy Powell, who led a U.S. initiative to establish a worldwide protocol for response to avian influenza.

International Affairs
Mark S. Ward, whose plans for allocating millions in federal aid following the Asian tsunami and the earthquake in Pakistan ensured funding got to the right places.

Justice and Law Enforcement
Martin Harrell, a leading expert with the EPA on environmental criminal prosecution, closed the doors on a chemical company for illegal storage and international shipping.

National Security
Ron McNeal, whose personnel recovery plans guide the safe return of American service members and civilians taken hostage or missing in action.

Science and Environment
Norden E. Huang, Ph.D., who, while correcting a mathematical error, unearthed a new way to analyze data across a multitude of scientific disciplines.

Citizen Services
Thomas Casadevall, Ph.D., and U.S. Geological Survey scientists, who immediately applied technology as well as boats to enable rescue efforts in New Orleans in the hours following Hurricane Katrina.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.