DALLAS, June 28, 2018 ― The former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a mother who lost her teenage son to heart disease and the president of one of the largest trade contractors in Illinois are among those who received national volunteer honors from the American Heart Association. As the world’s leading voluntary health organization devoted to fighting cardiovascular diseases and stroke, the Association presents the awards annually to recognize outstanding service on behalf of its mission. This year’s awards luncheon was held on June 27 at the Hilton Granite Park in Plano, Texas.

The Ron Haddock American Heart Association/American Stroke Association International Impact Award, presented to an individual or group for outstanding contributions to the Association’s global efforts, was awarded to Thomas R. Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. Frieden is president and CEO of New York City-based Resolve to Save Lives, an initiative of Vital Strategies. Resolve to Save Lives aims to make the world healthier and safer by preventing 100 million deaths from cardiovascular diseases. As the former director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and one of the world’s preeminent health experts, Frieden knows firsthand the devastation of global diseases. During his term as New York City Health commissioner, he collaborated with the Association on controlling tobacco use, reducing salt intake and eliminating trans fat from restaurants.

The Award of Meritorious Achievement was presented to Shelly Church of Naples, Florida, and Jim Hill of Chicago, Illinois. The award recognizes significant volunteer accomplishments or projects that impact the lifesaving work of the Association on a nationwide level.

Church, senior vice president for investments at Raymond James Financial, has served in various volunteer leadership roles for more than 21 years. She most recently reached the milestone of raising more than $1 million through the Collier County Heart Walk to honor the memory of her son, Kyle, who died of heart disease at age 18.

Hill, president of The Hill Group, a leading trade contractor in Illinois, was recognized for creating Hard Hats with Heart Chicago, a local fundraiser to train construction workers in CPR. Founded in memory of Hill’s colleague, Bob Krier, who died suddenly from a heart attack, donations to the local program have nearly doubled from $430,000 in 2015 to $800,000 last year. Hill is committed to ensuring that automated external defibrillators (AEDs) are widely available on jobsites. Additionally, he was instrumental in placing two of the nation’s first publicly available CPR kiosks in Chicago and San Francisco. Hard Hats with Heart has expanded to 15 markets across the country.

The Louis B. Russell, Jr. Memorial Award was presented to Marcella A. Roberts, Esq., of Birmingham, Alabama, for outstanding service to minority and underserved populations. As chair of the American Heart Association’s Greater Southeast Affiliate multicultural committee, Roberts led the launch of the Association’s first EmPOWERED To Serve™ affordable housing pilot in the Mississippi Delta. This unique collaboration serves as a model for partnering with housing authorities nationwide to create safe, healthy and affordable environments to address social determinants that impact the health and well-being of minority populations.

Karen Larimer, Ph.D., ACNP-BC, FAHA, was recognized as the Healthcare Volunteer of the Year. This honor goes to a healthcare professional, lay administrator or volunteer for achievements in cardiovascular disease or stroke patient care, or improvements in the delivery of healthcare. Larimer, community engagement coordinator at DePaul University School of Nursing, led advocacy efforts for the Cook County sugar-sweetened beverage tax campaign and the addition of vaping to the Clean Air Act in Chicago. She also supports community involvement among students, activating a young, strong and engaged volunteer force that could have impact for years to come.

The Physician of the Year Award was presented to Robert Sanchez, M.D., FAHA, for outstanding contributions to the Association’s mission to build healthier lives, free of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Sanchez, a cardiologist at The Heart Institute in St. Petersburg and director of cardiovascular medicine at HCA West Florida’s Northside Hospital, was honored for his exemplary achievements in advocating for all Tampa Bay school districts to make CPR training a graduation requirement and championing efforts that resulted in over 220,000 people learning hands-only CPR in three short years.  As co-chair of Mission: Lifeline® STEMI Accelerator Tampa Bay, Sanchez also improved medical care response rates for better patient outcomes.

The Morgan Stark Memorial Award was presented to Bernard P. Dennis, an executive coach and communications advisor from Acton, Massachusetts, for outstanding stewardship of the Association’s resources and operations. Since 1995, Dennis has been a volunteer leader in multiple Association committees and served as treasurer and chairman at the local, affiliate and national levels. He currently chairs the national Corporate Relations Review Committee.

The American Heart Association Merit Awards were presented to Michelle A. Albert, M.D., M.P.H, FACC, FAHA, and to Walter J. Koch, Ph.D., FAHA. Merit Awards are given annually to two proven, visionary researchers who are undertaking high-risk projects with the potential to revolutionize the treatment of cardiovascular diseases and stroke. These awards provide each recipient with $1 million over five years to fund scientific explorations, both of which are relevant in this era of precision medicine. 

Albert, professor of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Adversity and Cardiovascular Disease at the University of California, San Francisco, will implement a unique obesity intervention program she developed that is focused on the role social determinants play in the health of socially disadvantaged individuals.

Koch, professor and chair of pharmacology and director of the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, will expand on his recent discovery that the heart may act as a signaling organ by secreting substances that influence fat in distant tissues.

Additional Resources:

  • Photographs and video clips of honorees are available on the right column of the release.
  • Follow AHA/ASA news on Twitter @HeartNews


About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – the two leading causes of death in the world. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit heart.org or call any of our offices around the country. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

For Media Inquiries: 214-706-1173

Cathy Lewis; 214-706-1324 or cathy.lewis@heart.org

For Public Inquiries: 1-800-AHA-USA1 (242-8721)

heart.org and strokeassociation.org