2023 OPHA Awards

Congratulations to this year's award winners!

Lifetime Achievement: Lydia "Mimi" Luther
Health Equity Champion: Dane Zahner
Policy Champion: Tom Sincic
Emerging Leaders: Oralia Mendez & Alyson Pinkleman
Outstanding Poster Awards

Lifetime Achievement: Lydia "Mimi" Luther

We are delighted to present the Lifetime Achievement Award to Lydia "Mimi" Luther

  • This award is given to a person who has demonstrated a lifetime commitment to public health and to the improvement of health in Oregon.
  • Mimi, who currently serves as the Vaccine Supply and Access Manager for the Oregon Health Authority, has been working in public health and improving the health of Oregonians for nearly 40 years in multiple leadership positions.
  • Mimi has demonstrated creative and innovative thinking when solving public health problems throughout her career. She is known as ‘the process queen’ and approaches every challenge with precision and creatively. Most of her ideas involve collaborating with the community.
  • One of Mimi’s most impactful efforts has been to expand and maintain the Vaccines for Children program throughout Oregon. She has been instrumental in providing equitable access to vaccines for all children, thus preventing countless cases of disease and death.
  • She has also tirelessly and enthusiastically invested in the future workforce for public health through mentorship and training. Many of her trainees have secured positions in government (including the CDC), health systems, nonprofits, and the private sector. Mimi has inspired and instilled a sense of compassion as well as strong work ethic in all her mentees.
  • In summary, she is one of the most respected leaders at the Oregon Health Authority and has done more than her share to support public health efforts in Oregon. Mimi's most notable attribute is her positive approach to work and life. She effortlessly makes Oregon a healthier place to be. Just knowing Mimi makes us better people.

Health Equity ChampionDane Zahner

Today, we gather to honor our 2023 Health Equity Champion. Dane Zahner is an extraordinary individual who has dedicated their life's work to fostering health equity and inclusivity within our public health community. Dane, the Prevention and Education Manager for HIV Alliance, has exemplified outstanding leadership and unwavering commitment in advancing the health and well-being of marginalized communities.
Dane and his team at the HIV Alliance serve some of our society's most marginalized individuals – those struggling with substance abuse, the unhoused, and members of the LGBTQIA2S+ community. He has been a tireless advocate for extending vital services, such as harm reduction, to rural Oregon communities and conservative areas where they are often misunderstood.

Dane's impact transcends his immediate role. He actively encourages diverse perspectives and voices, recognizing the importance of community involvement in public health. He supervises a workforce that represents the very community they serve and acts as a bridge between the community and local public health departments. Through his actions, Dane has demonstrated the tangible advantages of inclusiveness.

He believes that when we care for our most marginalized populations, we all become healthier. He collaborates with schools, correctional facilities, and various organizations to ensure that public health reaches every corner of our community. His dedication to grassroots outreach, advocating for various vaccines, and recruiting volunteers from the community itself showcases his creativity and innovation in promoting equity and diversity. His endorsement from the local government to provide harm reduction services in city parks is a testament to his systematic approach to advocacy.
Dane's exceptional achievements, leadership, and contributions have not only protected and promoted the health of Oregon residents but have also paved the way for a more inclusive, equitable, and healthier future for all. Let us celebrate Dane's remarkable journey and draw inspiration from his unwavering dedication to advancing health equity in our communities. He refers to himself as: “A caring, compassionate, human being striving to help safe guard others through Harm Reduction”. Thank you, Dane, for your outstanding work and leadership.

Policy Champion: Tom Sincic

It is my pleasure to introduce our Policy Champion of the Year, Mr. Tom Sincic. Tom has dedicated the past several years to working towards Universal Healthcare for ALL Oregonians. Tom has been the Chair of the Healthcare for All Oregon board since 2017, and in that time has helped pass landmark bills that will pave the way for healthcare for all in Oregon. Tom’s indefatigable energy and leadership for statewide advocacy efforts resulted in a momentous passage of Measure 111, which established healthcare as a right in Oregon’s state constitution. Tom then led efforts to successfully pass SB 1089, which funds a governance board to make recommendations on a detailed plan that will make healthcare for all a reality in Oregon.
Many people questioned whether Healthcare for All could ever become a reality – the hills are too steep they said. To that, Tom simply moved steadily onward, never letting people lose heart that we can do this. Tom’s dedication to his work is clear – just dial his mobile phone number: you will hear his voice mail greeting that ends with "working towards Universal Healthcare for All." He also signs his emails with the comment: Everybody in! Nobody out!

Tom bases his commitment to groundbreaking health policy change on his 30+ year career as a Nurse Practitioner in several states. He has always shown a passionate commitment to his clients, whether they be on a Native American Indian Reservation, a jail/corrections facility or in School Based Health Centers in Multnomah County. His dedication to policy change that will benefit all Oregonians is a testament to Tom’s "true north" of patient empowerment and advocacy. Thank you for all that you are doing to improve health care for all of us in Oregon as our OPHA Health Policy Champion.

Emerging Leaders: Oralia Mendez & Alyson Pinkleman 

Oralia Mendez, MPH, CHW, is a recipient for the 2023 Oregon Public Health Associations (OPHA) Emerging Leader Award. Oralia is a member of OPHA and currently is on the OPHA Board of Directors. She has a BS in Public Health and an MPH with a concentration in Health Management and Policy and has been a certified Community Health Worker with the state for more than 9 years. Prior to joining the Oregon State University Center for Health Innovation (OCHI) she served as a Community Health Worker for the Benton County Health Department. She currently serves as the Manager of Workforce Development & Community Programs in the OSU College of Health.

With a small team, Oralia has led growth and development of several training programs and continuing education courses.  One is an OHA approved Spanish Language Health Care Interpreter Training Program that has trained over 30 individuals. The second program is OSUs Community Health Worker (CHW) Training Program to better meet workforce needs in rural and frontier counties and has trained nearly 400 CHWs.

 Early in the pandemic, Oralia and others noted a significant need to connect Spanish-speaking and Mam-speaking community members in Lincoln County to COVID-19 testing and treatment resources. Oralia joined forces with local community organizers and other leaders to create Juntos en Coloboracion (JEC). JEC filled a critical gap in the COVID response by hosting listening sessions with experts with Spanish and Mam interpreters and creating language-specific informational videos as well as a Facebook page.

Oralia Mendez is a rising star in the public health field and will continue to make significant contributions to the profession. Her creative efforts and achievements will help to build the nations capacity for innovation, leadership, and action to address the broad range of factors affecting the health of minority populations. Not only does Oralia plan to continue working in the public health field, but she also has specific plans to continue improving health equity in Oregon.

Alyson Pinkelman, MPH, YPSS, is an early career professional who strives to advance public health in Douglas County through her position as the Public Health Program Coordinator at Aviva Health.

Alyson coordinates the Reproductive Health and School Based Health Center program at Aviva Health and has established and co-facilitated a Youth2Youth model group at Phoenix School of Roseburg and a Youth Action Council at Roseburg High School. Additionally, she assisted coordinating Sports Physicals using Aviva Health's Mobile Medical Units at nine high schools throughout Douglas County serving over 280 students.

Alyson is a leader on the Douglas County Tobacco Policy Committee, Aviva Health’s Day Care Project Committee, Aviva Health's Safety Committee, and was recently asked to help provide public health education to Aviva Health's Resident Doctors during their community health rotations.

Her community involvement includes working with the Douglas County Creating Community Resilience team and the Perinatal Task Force. Alyson’s clear commitment to the community earned her an invitation to serve on the Directive Board of Peace at Home, a survivor’s advocacy center, where she has been working to reinstate a co-located survivor’s advocate at Aviva Health to ensure patients can access needed resources.

Outstanding Student Poster Awards: 

Toward a New Paradigm in Global Health Research: Sustainable Community Partnership and
Empowerment (SCOPE)
Ivan Estrada, Courtney Jost, Mikala Kowal, Divya Reddy, Sunil Khanna

Advancing Health Equity: A Multidisciplinary Student Partnership To Improve Medication Access For
Low-Income And Uninsured Adults At A Safety-Net Clinic
Taylor Peters

Please contact Awards Committee Chair, Reneé Menkens ([email protected]) with questions.