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Gilbert Friedell, MD

2010 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award

Dr. Gil Friedell is a physician who has devoted his professional career to preventing and treating chronic illness, with a focus on attending to the holistic and environmental needs his patients. He is renowned for his work in the field of cancer and was integral in the establishment of the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health and was the Chair of the National Cancer Institutes Appalachia Leadership Initiative on Cancer.

Dr. Friedell developed the Community-Based Research in Eastern Kentucky (CREEK) program in Kentucky to attracted talented young people who are interested in health services (including social work) to study and work in Eastern Kentucky. He has played an important role in the creation and development of the University of Kentucky School of Social Work campus in Eastern Kentucky, and has served on the Advisory Committee, which he refers to as one of the most important professional endeavors he has undertaken.

Although he is officially retired, Dr. Friedell founded the Friedell Committee on Health System Transformation. The Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation is a grassroots, citizen-based organization whose mission is to improve the health of Kentuckians by promoting an effective, values-based health system, advocating for community action, and measuring the system's performance. Dr. Friedell has implemented the innovative idea of “community encouragers”, or social workers who engage individuals at risk for developing type two diabetes, and take steps to prevent or mitigate the disease. His vision is to strengthen the health of the Appalachian region of Kentucky by building capacity of the communities through individual education and research. In a culture that tends to be exceptionally private and wary of unfamiliar professionals, Dr. Friedell knew that recruiting, training, and employing social workers from and in Appalachia was vital to the success of the program.

Dr. Friedell is a consistent and outspoken advocate for the profession of social work, and has opened doors and developed opportunities for social workers in health settings that did not previously exist. He won the NASW-KY Public Citizen of the Year Award in 2010, and the Dorothy I. Height Lifetime Achievement Award from the Intercultural Cancer Council for his significant achievements in addressing the unequal burden of cancer borne by under-represented individuals.

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