Home » Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky announces seven Healthy Kentucky Champions

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky announces seven Healthy Kentucky Champions

LOUISVILLE, Ky. —  The Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky has announced its 2022 class of Healthy Kentucky Champions. The awards recognize individuals dedicated to improving the health of Kentuckians at a community level and/or state level.

The Healthy Kentucky Champions are:

Dr. Patricia Bautista-Cervera, La Casita Center

Dr. Patricia Bautista-Cervera is a pediatrician and pediatric allergist with a Master of Public Health. She joined La Casita Center (LCC) in 2019, an organization dedicated to enhancing the well-being of Louisville’s Latinx and immigrant community. As the Health Empowerment Coordinator, Dr. Bautista-Cervera works to promote health through workshops, informational videos, one-on-one communications, and other various means.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Bautista-Cervera delivered important information to the Spanish-speaking community through the online video series: “Consejos de Salud con la Dra. Paty.” She also was instrumental for LCC to develop virtual forums with stores and restaurants to educate the Hispanic community about the virus and promote preventive measures and vaccination. During 2020 alone, Dr. Bautista-Cervera supported 994 COVID-19 positive patients, offering medical guidance and, through an empowering model, connecting them to LCC’s wrap-around services and other resources in the community.

Eric Crawford, Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana

Eric Crawford, a Maysville native, joined Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana in 2013. Crawford’s education in the endocannabinoid system and cannabis, as well as his experience as a quadriplegic, has fueled his passion for advocating for the legalization of medical marijuana in Kentucky. Over the years, Crawford has been involved in crafting such bills and has testified at the Kentucky Capitol about how cannabis improves his quality of life. He currently is a member of the Governor’s Medical Cannabis Advisory Committee. Crawford is well known at the Kentucky Capitol and has also traveled the state with Kentuckians for Medicinal Marijuana for more than 50 medical cannabis educational seminars.

Crawford remains active in the Maysville community by serving on the Lions Club and volunteering at a nursing home. He is Finis Davis Fellowship recipient through the Kentucky Lions Eye Center and a Kentucky Colonel. Crawford is also a past member of Kentucky Partners in Policymaking through the Commonwealth Council for Developmental Disabilities.

Terry Gehrke, Kentucky Diabetes Network

Terry Gehrke has been in the fitness/wellness industry for more than 30 years. She founded Balanced Wellness LLC in 1999 in Jefferson County and still leads the organization as president and wellness consultant/health educator. Gehrke joined Kentucky Diabetes Network (KDN) in 2019 as executive director and has guided the organization to promote better health for Kentuckians at-risk for and living with diabetes. She leads KDN’s symposium committee each year to offer the largest professional education opportunity for diabetes training in the state, the Kentucky Diabetes Symposium.

Gehrke’s background includes teaching in the University of Louisville Health and Sport Sciences Department and working with Southeast Christian Church’s Sports & Fitness Ministry. Gehrke is also a member of several organizations including the National Wellness Institute, National Physical Activity Society, and Exercise is Medicine.

Denise Hall, Trimble CARES Coalition

Denise Hall, of Trimble County, Kentucky, began working in the substance use prevention field in 1998 at Seven Counties Services. In 2003, she became the coordinator for Trimble County Family Resource and Youth Services Center (FRYSC) before writing two Drug-Free Communities Grants (DFC) and directing them. The DFC grant is now in its 10th and final year.

Hall’s work includes implementing a Drug Education Series in Trimble County and a Sources of Strength (SOS) group at the Trimble County Junior/Senior High School. She administers a survey to middle and high schoolers to understand their substance misuse prevention needs. Hall was crucial in getting vape detectors installed at the high school. Hall is also managing director of Trimble CARES Coalition.

Michelle Howell, Need More Acres Farm

Michelle Howell co-owns Need More Acres Farm in Scottsville with her husband Nathan. She has an agriculture degree from WKU and previously worked for the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension assisting tobacco farmers as they transitioned to fruit and vegetable production. She collaborates with local and state partners to increase equitable opportunities for farmers. Howell has also been involved in writing grants worth more than $2.4 million to benefit food access, women’s life courses, and urban-rural development.

Need More Acres co-founded the Community Farmers Market (CFM) in Bowling Green, which piloted several Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentives. CFM was essential to growing Kentucky Double Dollars into a statewide program and CFM is one of the organization’s pilots of the Fresh Rx MOMs program for expecting mothers on Medicaid. Both programs help under-resourced Kentuckians access fresh, healthy food from farmers’ markets. Additionally, Howell partners with the University of Kentucky, Western Kentucky University, and Kentucky State University for interactive professional development on diversity and inclusion.

Dr. Patrick Kitzman, UK College of Health Sciences

Dr. Patrick Kitzman is a professor in the University of Kentucky Department of Physical Therapy. He’s also the founding director of Kentucky Appalachian Rural Rehabilitation Network (KARRN), a team that develops strategies to reduce disability and improve the quality of life for individuals with neurological impairments living in underserved rural Appalachian counties.

Dr. Kitzman and his team established projects CARAT and CARAT-TOP. CARAT (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology) is a program where students learn to refurbish used medical equipment and donate it to those in need in the community. CARAT-TOP (Coordinating and Assisting the Reuse of Assistive Technology- Together One Priority) is a training program created through a partnership with the University of Kentucky Center of Excellence in Rural Health and KARRN. It brings together community members and high school students of all abilities to learn new skills to help individuals and communities impacted by disability.

Mark Thomas, Todd County School District

Mark Thomas, Todd County Schools superintendent, was instrumental in establishing the “AXIS Program: Centering All Services,” in the district. In partnership with the Todd County Health Department, the program addresses students’ social and emotional well-being through mental health case management. The program also assists with basic needs such as nutrition, clothing, toiletries, housing, transportation, and treatment for substance use disorder. Thomas played a crucial role in gaining the needed buy-in of the program from staff and the community. Through his support, the program is expanding services to include parenting classes, prenatal classes, and mental health awareness programs for students and staff.

Thomas began his career in Shelby County in 1996 as a middle school teacher. He has served in a number of school and district administrative roles across Kentucky before starting his current position in 2020.

“These seven Healthy Kentucky Champions are an inspiration to all working to better the health of our state,” said Ben Chandler, president, and CEO, of Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky. “We owe them much gratitude for their dedication to addressing some of the health challenges Kentuckians face. The Commonwealth is better because of these Healthy Kentucky Champions.”

Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Champion Award

As Healthy Kentucky Champions, these seven individuals are eligible for the 2022 Gil Friedell Memorial Health Policy Champion Award. The Friedell Award comes with a $5,000 grant from the Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky to a Kentucky-based nonprofit of the winner’s choice.

This year’s Friedell Award winner will be announced at the Howard L. Bost Memorial Health Policy Forum on October 17.

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