Ten government winners among 27 finalists will be recognized at the annual “Oscars of government service.”
Ten outstanding federal employees will be honored Monday night during the 19th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (the Sammies), which are considered the “Oscars of government service.” Dr. Anthony Fauci and other health officials will be among those recognized.
For the first time, the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service will be hosting a virtual event due the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Fauci––director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a member of the White House coronavirus task force––will be awarded the top honor, “Federal Employee of the Year,” for his over 50 years of public health service and leadership during the pandemic.
Actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani will host the ceremony, which will include remarks from former presidents George W. Bush and Obama. Additionally, top public health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institutes of Health and Veterans Health Administration, as well as the Veterans Affairs Department secretary will be “distinguished participants,” said the Partnership.
“Dr. Fauci and the 2020 Service to America Medal honorees represent the many exceptional federal employees who have proudly and passionately dedicated their lives to making a difference for our country and our world,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership, in a statement. “They have broken down barriers, pioneered new frontiers of medicine, protected our nation from cybersecurity threats and helped our nation during the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. We honor and thank them tonight for their service.”
A selection committee composed of leaders from government, business, charities, academia, entertainment and the media chose the six winners from among 27 finalists out of more than 350 nominations.
Dr. Ira Pastan, of the NIH’s National Cancer Institute, will receive the Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal for discovering a class of drugs to treat a rare and dangerous form of cancer called hairy cell leukemia, among other achievements during his 60-year career at NIH. Last year, the career achievement award was renamed the Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal to honor Volcker’s career in public service.
Other winners are: CDC’s Dr. Vikram Krishnasamy (emerging leader’s medal); VA's Dr. Neil Evans, Kathleen Frisbee and Dr. Kevin Galpin (management excellence medal); National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Donna Dodson (safety, security and international affairs medal); and VA’s Dr. Beth Ripley (science and environment award).
“I try to think of myself as someone who tries to do a lot of different things,” Krishnasamy, a 35-year old senior medical officer at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, told the Partnership. He’s contributed to work on the opioid crisis, lung injuries from e-cigarettes and now the pandemic.
“When I’m out in the field I might do some epidemiology work or I might do some infection and prevention work related to COVID, so being in hospitals, walking though how we work with personal protective equipment, what are strategies to make sure that we keep healthcare workers safe and patients safe when they’re in the hospital?” he said. “I think the best part about public service is that it’s given me the opportunity to work with incredible people from diverse backgrounds, all over the country.”
Additionally, the Treasury Department’s Lorraine Cole and Corvelli McDaniel will be recognized for winning the sixth annual “people’s choice award” over the summer for the mentor protégé program they started in 2018 to include more small, minority-owned and women-owned banks in the department’s bank partnerships.
“There’s really no discipline that is not represented within the federal government,” Cole told Government Executive during an interview in August. “So there are opportunities just in all sorts of career disciplines. But not only is there a breadth, there is a lot of room to grow, to really have a long-term career within the federal government.”
This year's Spirit of Service award will go to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella for helping to improve government operations and services through artificial intelligence, predictive analytics and cloud computing. The Spirit of Service award goes to someone outside government who has done expectational work to support the federal government and public-private partnerships.
"To all this year's honorees and all those who keep serving this country everyday without fanfare...your work could not be more important," said Obama. "Thank you for all that you do."
"It is important to remember that public service is a noble calling," said Bush.
The Sammies––renamed in 2010 for entrepreneur and Partnership founder Samuel J. Heyman–– began in 2002 as a way to highlight outstanding achievements in the public sector. Since then, it has honored over 550 federal employees.
Update: This article has been updated to include quotes from former presidents Obama and George W. Bush.