Washington gives props to feds at annual awards gala

By Kellie Lunney

September 12, 2012

A doctor at the National Institutes of Health who helped pioneer the use of a drug to combat the transmission of HIV from infected pregnant women to their babies has been named federal employee of the year by a nonprofit group.

Lynne Mofenson, a pediatric infectious disease specialist, will be honored at a black-tie event Thursday in Washington for her work in the late 1980s and 1990s to prevent mother-to-child transmission of AIDS. At that time, there was little that could be done to prevent such infection; today the number of HIV cases found in U.S. children has dropped to less than 150 per year.

Mofenson helped design and lead a controversial clinical trial that paved the way for an effective prevention strategy, and she continues to influence the field with her research.

“I have no doubt that her scientific acumen to design critical research and translate findings into global clinical practice, her passion to share and collaborate, and her hard work and tenacity over the years have uniquely and substantially contributed to preventing AIDS in thousands of children in the United States and around the world,” Ambassador Eric Goosby, U.S. global AIDS coordinator, said in a profile of Mofenson on the Service to America Medals website.

The Partnership for Public Service hands out the annual awards, known as the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, to career federal employees who have contributed to the health, safety and well-being of Americans through government. Winners receive cash awards ranging from $3,000 to $10,000. “They deserve much more,” said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership.

Mofenson is one of nine Service to America award winners this year, whose work ranges from caring for homeless veterans to leading a successful undercover operation to nab a notorious arms trafficker.

Stier said the importance of honoring the government’s best civil servants, continues to resonate, particularly at a time when the political conversation around government has become “more intense and more negative.”

The winners exemplify the kind of lasting and positive contributions government can make to society. “You see a group of people who, despite great odds, have accomplished really meaningful achievements for the American people,” Stier said. The celebration comes just two days after four State Department employees, including U.S Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens, were killed in an attack on the consulate in that country. “It’s a reminder of not only how important the work is that civil servants do, but the price they pay for serving their country,” said Stier.

Other 2012 winners included James Cash of the National Transportation Safety Board, who received the Career Achievement Medal for his work during the last three decades unraveling the mysteries of electronic recording devices to piece together the cause of airplane accidents. In a nod to the role technology plays in advancing government responsibilities, Nael Samha and Thomas Roland Jr. of the Customs and Border Protection agency received the Homeland Security Medal for creating a smartphone application that allows agents to access law enforcement databases in real time, leading to more arrests of drug traffickers, weapons smugglers and illegal aliens.

The remaining recipients of the 2012 medals are:

The 2012 finalists were selected from among more than 400 nominations across government. Click here to read their profiles.

In the spirit of true nonpartisanship, journalists and husband-and-wife duo John Roberts of Fox News and Kyra Phillips of CNN will emcee Thursday’s awards.

By Kellie Lunney

September 12, 2012