Community Health Leader Receives Prestigious Jessie Trice Hero Award

Erin Kobetz, Ph.D., M.P.H., associate professor of public health sciences and Director of the Jay Weiss Institute for Health Equity at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, is the 2013 recipient of the prestigious Jessie Trice Hero Award for her unwavering commitment to improving the lives of underserved and minority populations.

Presented September 18 by Health Choice Network of Florida at the 13th annual awards luncheon and benefit at Trump National Doral Miami, the award recognizes the tireless advocacy and leadership Kobetz has exemplified for nearly a decade and the difference her efforts have made in many underserved communities in South Florida.

“Health Choice Network is one of the most important partners in our efforts to address health disparities, and our work with them reflects meaningful collaboration and co-learning,” said Kobetz, who is also co-director of Community Engagement for the Miami Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI). “For the past seven years, we have engaged in various research initiatives, all of which reflect our shared expertise and commitment to health equity.”

This is the second consecutive year a Miller School faculty member has been honored with the award, which is named for one of Miami-Dade’s greatest healthcare champions and recognizes individuals who exemplify excellence in health promotion, commitment to quality healthcare and successful partnerships in the community. Like last year’s winner, Robert Schwartz, M.D., professor and Chair of Family Medicine and Community Health, Kobetz has dedicated her career to providing care to the underserved.

While most young scientists in academia are focused on publishing their work as early as possible, Kobetz has committed her energies to building trust and long-term relationships in some of Miami’s most medically underserved neighborhoods, including Overtown, Liberty City, Hialeah, West Perrine and Little Haiti. These partnerships not only empowered community members to take control of their own health and illness prevention, but cultivated invaluable allies who furthered Kobetz’s research and advanced community health.

“Erin Kobetz is a remarkable professional with a profound commitment to social justice,” said José Szapocznik, Ph.D., professor and Chair of Public Health Sciences and Director of the CTSI and Center for Family Studies. “Her work with the most disadvantaged of populations has been exemplary of how a scientist, by establishing a strong partnership with the community, can improve the health of that community.”

Named for healthcare pioneer and nurse Jessie Trice, the first African American to graduate from the University of Miami’s nursing school and chair the Florida State Board of Nursing, the prestigious award also recognized Kobetz for her vast contributions to cancer disparities research.

“The Jesse Trice Hero Award honors a true pioneer, who helped serve a community whose needs are great,” said Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester. “Dr. Kobetz’s innovative work, to date, has already had an impact on the underserved. Her life’s dedication, like Jesse Trice’s, will impact this community for generations to come. The Cancer Center congratulates Dr. Erin Kobetz on making a difference!”

Soon after joining the Miller School faculty in 2004, Kobetz discovered a high rate of cervical cancer in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood and uncovered a number of complex social and cultural reasons why Haitian women there were not undergoing the simple Pap test that has significantly reduced cervical cancer in other populations.

Kobetz’s solution to address the disparity included a longstanding partnership between Sylvester and key community-based organizations to teach Haitian women to administer their own Pap tests at home. The practice is now a model for Community-Based Participatory Research that addresses health disparities through the promotion of culturally sensitive behavioral and social change.

Kobetz, who described Jessie Trice as a “champion for the medically disenfranchised,” said Trice’s legacy speaks volumes for how one committed individual can make a real difference in the lives of others. “It is an incredible and somewhat daunting honor to receive an award that celebrates her spirit,” she said. “She left some big shoes to fill.”

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