Through the prestigious Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Medicine Award program, the Gold Foundation is recognizing three remarkable women as Honorable Mentions in 2022: Dr. Julie Aultman, Dr. Jennifer L. Haak, and Dr. Aliza S. Norwood.
“The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Humanism in Healthcare Award recognizes extraordinary women leaders in healthcare who are imaginative about progress. Who embrace the variables and unknowns. Who push the boundaries of what is possible. Women who care, listen, and act. Drs. Aultman, Haak, and Norwood have each been lifelines for humanism at a time when our collective resolve is being tested. We are delighted to honor their service,” said Dr. Richard I. Levin, President and CEO of the Gold Foundation.
The Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award for Humanism in Healthcare honors a woman who exemplifies humanism and has advanced, through her scholarship, advocacy, leadership or work, the well-being of underserved or vulnerable populations in the healthcare arena. Through this annual award, the Gold Foundation honors the spirit of Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz, who was inspired by her son to create change for children with disabilities. This honor was established in 2014 through a generous gift from Dr. Ronald Arky, Daniel D. Federman Professor of Medicine and Medical Education at the Harvard Medical School.
Julie Aultman, PhD
Dr. Julie Aultman has spent the past two decades working with children and young adults with autism, serving as a caregiver, fierce advocate and committed researcher. She is being recognized for her steadfast advocacy and innovative research of persons with disabilities as well as her work providing care to, and advocacy for, refugees and undocumented populations.
Dr. Aultman is Interim Dean of the College of Graduate Studies, Professor of Family and Community Medicine, and Director of Medical Ethics and Humanities at Northeast Ohio Medical University (NEOMED). She also developed the Master of Medical Ethics and Humanities degree and certificate programs, which she now directs.
As NEOMED’s sole bioethicist, Dr. Aultman brings specialized knowledge to many committees and is often called to weigh in on issues that involve ethics, diversity, and underrepresented populations. For instance, she was a NEOMED panelist in a university forum organized around the topic of racism in the wake of the shootings of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.
In the same spirit with which Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz advocated for children with developmental disabilities, Dr. Aultman, too, has petitioned for funding while also educating students in the Youngstown, Ohio, area at The Rich Center for Autism Education and Research. Dr. Aultman works on Data Safety Monitoring Boards tasked with ensuring that the most vulnerable human participants are supported and protected from abuses during valuable research programs across the nation. In addition to her passion for serving those with developmental disabilities, Dr. Aultman is also equally connected to the plights of refugees and undocumented populations through her research and humanitarian trips to the U.S.-Mexico border. She is a strong advocate for NEOMED’s Latinx, Black, and LGBTQ+ students.
Alongside her active community and student involvement, she also provides leadership in bioethics research review for national and international research with an emphasis on marginalized populations. She is an Editorial Board member for the AMA Journal of Ethics, The Journal of Medical Humanities, and Clinical Research in HIV/AIDS, and Bioethics section editor for the International Journal of Academic Medicine.
Dr. Eugene Mowad, Interim Dean at the College of Medicine at Northeast Ohio Medical University, wrote in his nomination: “If you asked any one of Dr. Julie Aultman’s colleagues how you would describe her, these words would be uttered: compassionate; student advocate; champion for the underserved and health equity; incredibly hard worker; clinical ethicist who serves multiple institutions; expert researcher on bioethical issues. Personally, I cannot think of another faculty member who has so much energy to teach as much as she teaches, engage students in her research efforts and field experiences, work with underserved patients in clinical and community environments, and handle so many committees that address the concerns of our diverse communities.”
Jennifer L. Haak, MD
Dr. Jennifer Haak is being honored for her groundbreaking work to improve the healthcare of underserved populations in Buffalo, New York, her visionary leadership, and her commitment to preparing the next generation of medical students, residents, and fellows to address both obstacles and possibilities within the area of child/adolescent psychiatry.
Dr. Haak is a Clinical Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo and a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Specialist at John R. Oishei Children’s Hospital. She is also Medical Director of several programs at Oishei Children’s Hospital: the Child and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Services, the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Intensive Outpatient Program, and the OCD Specialty Clinic.
As a child, Dr. Haak grew up in a small, economically disadvantaged town outside of Buffalo. She witnessed people close to her, as well as classmates, who had mental health issues and no access to substantial support or treatment – which affected everyone around them. She always knew she wanted to help people, especially children, which led her to apply to medical school, and bent her path ultimately toward schools.
After a school day treatment program, where she worked at the start of her career, closed due to funding, she searched for new solutions to reach the students – a “fork in the road,” as she calls it. Her quest led her to work as a consultant with three school districts, bringing services to students who are marginalized. Then, when she and a colleague at the university clinic became worried about patients who were not showing up for their appointments, they started something even larger.
Dr. Haak is the co-founder of a grant-funded in-home psychiatric treatment program that has provided in-home psychiatric services to those in need for the past three years. Known as The CAMPs program (“Child and Adolescent Mobile Psychiatric Services”), the initiative is designed for patients who are unable to attend clinic or virtual appointments due to a host of external barriers. The mobile service treats patients and families in their homes in low-income, underserved areas with great social burden.
Dr. Haak’s program has helped over 80 youth and families to receive much-needed care, have school interventions, decreased hospitalizations, and improved health outcomes for children, including supporting higher attendance rates and helping them succeed in regular curricular classes rather than more isolating special programs. In the COVID-19 era, CAMPs was one of the few programs that continued to offer services and in-person contact during the height of the crisis.
In her nomination materials, Steven Dubovsky, MD, Chair of the Department of Psychiatry at the University at Buffalo, wrote, “Dr. Haak has been consistently dedicated to improving the mental health care of diverse populations of children in the community. She demonstrates enormous awareness and knowledge of social, cultural and economic factors that influence mental health and of approaches to addressing those influences in comprehensive care. She spends more clinical time in community settings than in hospital and other institutional settings and is universally viewed by members of our faculty and other practitioners as a strong and consistent voice for the underserved.”
Aliza S. Norwood, MD
Dr. Aliza Norwood is being honored for her pioneering leadership in ensuring equitable, compassionate care for marginalized populations in Austin, central Texas, and beyond, including patients with HIV/AIDS and transgender people. Her work extends from direct patient care to statewide advocacy to medical education.
Dr. Norwood’s commitment and approach to establishing trust in the patient-physician relationship and infusing a sense of humanity and agency for patients and communities in their local care centers is humanism at its most realized. She has been an enterprising educator in constructing approaches that recognize the convergence of a patient’s goals, their lived experiences, their family structures, and the social environments in influencing their medical issues.
As one medical student wrote in her nomination, “Kindness and respect are at the heart of everything she does, whether that’s facilitating lectures on health equity in primary care, supervising medical students in the local free clinic, or seeing her own patients.”
Dr. Norwood is Medical Director at Vivent Health in Austin, formerly AIDS Services of Austin, the oldest AIDS service organization in Central Texas, and Assistant Professor in the Department of Internal Medicine, with a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Population Health, at the University of Texas at Austin Dell Medical School. She is an expert in HIV prevention and a Gender-Affirming Care Education and Training Specialist and Consultant at the Southern AIDS Education Training Center.
She is also co-director of the primary care, family and community medicine clerkship at Dell Medical School. This past year, she collaborated with a community advisory board of gender-diverse and transgender Texans to develop and implement a case-based curriculum on transgender care for medical students. This curriculum helped fill a large void in the undergraduate medical education at Dell, her nominators wrote, and a manuscript on this initiative was recently published to further disseminate the findings.
Growing up in the eastern region of Austin, Texas known as the “crescent of inequality,” Dr. Norwood understood from a young age the stark difference in wealth between east and west Austin, which carried over into access and quality of healthcare. As she grew older, Dr. Norwood became aware of the legacy of such differences in the community and in her patients. She also saw deep inequalities while teaching English to day laborers in California, working in hospitals abroad as a medical student, and delivering care in the only hospital in the Saipan, a commonwealth of the U.S. in the Pacific Ocean. All of these experiences molded Dr. Norwood’s approach to healthcare for local communities and migrant health.
One of Dr. Norwood’s students shared in the nomination: “Dr. Norwood helps patients of all backgrounds and demographics. If a patient is undocumented, she helps connect them with safe resources for employment and legal counsel for immigration. As her student, I have assisted in letters for asylum-seeking patients who have been physically abused for their sexual orientation or gender expression. She creates a safe environment that allows patients to speak about experiences that they haven’t shared with anyone else.”