A Health Center Leader to Receive White House Honor

By Amy Simmons Farber

A health center leader is being honored by the White House this week. Mary’s Center President and CEO Maria Gomez has been selected to receive the 2012 Presidential Citizens Medal, the second highest civilian award in the United States (second only to the Presidential Medal of Freedom). President Barack Obama will formally honor the recipients on February 15, 2013. Gomez was among the 18 Americans selected out of nearly 6,000 public nomination submissions.

“It is my distinguished honor to award these individuals the 2012 Citizens Medal for their commitment to public service. Their selflessness and courage inspire us all to look for opportunities to better serve our communities and our country,” said President Obama.

The White House press release notes: “Gomez founded Mary’s Center 25 years ago with the mission to build better futures through the delivery of health care, family literacy and job training. Mary’s Center is part of the working group launching First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Read Let’s Move Campaign.’ Prior to establishing Mary’s Center, Maria was a public health nurse with the D.C. Department of Health. She has also worked for the Red Cross, directing community education programming and disaster services, and with the Visiting Nurses Association. She currently serves as Regional Representative for the South East to the National Council of la Raza, and previously served two terms on the board of the Nonprofit Roundtable of Greater Washington.”

Mary’s Center is a Washington, D.C. based health center that serves low-income, immigrant families, with linguistic and cultural obstacles to affordable health care. Since its doors opened in 1988, Mary’s Center has grown from a small basement clinic that served 200 women a year to a Federally Qualified Health Center that serves over 24,000 men, women, and children. Mary’s Center now provides comprehensive services through four health center sites and operates two mobile units: the Mama & Baby Bus, provding health screenings throughout the D.C. area, and a pediatric dental unit reaching underserved middle school students in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

We also note another health center leader of sorts, former U.S. Senator Harris Wofford, was among the honorees. In addition to his public service, Wofford was also the CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Service. As the federal funding agency for AmeriCorps, Wofford led the agency when NACHC’s Community HealthCorps program was launched. He continues to be a champion for national service and volunteerism, and addressed Community HealthCorps’ grantees last year about his 60 plus years in public service.

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