Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare

The Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare was created jointly by The Arnold P. Gold Foundation and The Vilcek Foundation in 2019 to recognize a foreign-born individual who has had a demonstrable impact on humanism in healthcare through their professional achievements. This award marks the first health-focused honor for the Vilcek Foundation and the first immigrant-designated humanism honor for the Gold Foundation.

On May 20, 2019, The Vilcek and Arnold P. Gold Foundations announced the inaugural recipient of the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanim in Healthcare – Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, pediatrician and public health advocate who exposed the Flint water crisis. Read more in our news release.

2019 honoree

MSU's Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha.

Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha [photo courtesy of MSU Division of Public Health, College of Human Medicine, March 2017]

Dr. Hanna-Attisha, a pediatrician and associate professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine, is an immigrant born in the United Kingdom to parents of Iraqi descent; she drew nationwide attention to the widespread lead-poisoning of children in Flint, Michigan, through the public water supply.

Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s public health activism arose from a deep wellspring of humanism – an ideal that puts human interests, values and dignity at the core of healthcare. The Vilcek and Gold foundations sought to honor the impact of humanism and compassion in medicine while spotlighting immigrant leaders in American healthcare when they joined forces to create the award.

In September 2015, Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s research uncovered high blood lead levels found in Flint children after the city’s water supply was switched to a new source as a part of austerity measures in 2014. Despite denials from state officials that the water source was responsible for the elevated blood lead levels, Dr. Hanna-Attisha’s persistent advocacy, along with that of Flint community activists, forced city management to acknowledge wrongdoing, switch the water supply back to a safe source, and commit to long-term public health measures to mitigate the lead poisoning.

She is receiving the Vilcek-Gold Award for Humanism in Healthcare not only for this monumental work, but also for her continued activities as the director of the Michigan State University Hurley Children’s Hospital Pediatric Public Health Initiative, serving as a champion for underprivileged kids worldwide. Read more in the news release and in this special piece: A choiceless choice: Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on standing up and speaking out.

About The Vilcek Foundation

The Vilcek Foundation was established in 2000 by Jan and Marica Vilcek, immigrants from the former Czechoslovakia. The mission of the foundation, to honor the contributions of immigrants to the United States and to foster appreciation of the arts and sciences, was inspired by the couple’s respective careers in biomedical science and art history, as well as their appreciation for the opportunities they received as newcomers to this country.

“One does not have to look far to find evidence of immigrant contributions to American society, and medicine is no exception,” said Dr. Jan Vilcek, CEO and Chairman of the Vilcek Foundation. “With the Vilcek-Gold Award, we are proud to honor immigrants in healthcare who serve the American public with both their hearts and their minds.”

Jan Vilcek, MD, PhD
Chairman and CEO, The Vilcek Foundation

About the award

The award includes an unrestricted cash prize of $10,000.

About the AAMC lecture

The award will be presented at Learn Serve Lead 2019: The AAMC Annual Meeting this November in Phoenix, Arizona. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has been a champion for immigrant physicians and their contributions to academic medicine, and the honoree will share insights as part of the Voices in Medicine and Society lecture series during the meeting.

Award criteria

Nominees must have been born outside the United States and have made contributions to humanism in healthcare with demonstrated impact in the fields of health, well-being and/or healthcare.