Drs. Marjorie Bessel of Banner Health and Michael White of Valleywise Health have been honored by the Arizona Public Health Association for their outstanding leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Drs. Bessel and White received the Pete Wertheim Leadership Award at an AzPHA awards event Tuesday night. The award is named after former AzPHA President Pete Wertheim, a public health leader who died in May 2020 after a brave battle with glioblastoma multiforme.
“Drs. White and Bessel have shown remarkable leadership, courage, and candor during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association. “They’ve been stalwart champions for evidence-based public health measures like universal indoor masking and vaccinations and have been trusted and reliable voices from the healthcare sector during unprecedented political and public health challenges. Through their efforts, they’ve helped to save lives of countless Arizonans.”
Dr. Bessel, Chief Clinical officer for Banner Health, is one of the most prominent, respected, and trusted public voices keeping Arizona communities safely informed throughout the pandemic. At the early stages of the pandemic, Dr. Bessel quickly organized and led a statewide group of chief clinical officers to ensure that Arizona’s hospitals effectively collaborated to fight COVID-19. She persuaded this group to agree to load-balance patients so that no hospital caseload would surge while others had excess capacity – leading to the state-administered Arizona Surge Line. She engaged this group to communicate with one voice, helping guide vital state and local government actions.
Dr. White, Chief Clinical Officer of Valleywise Health, emerged as a community leader in public health during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in reaching out to low-income Latino and Black communities disproportionately impacted by the disease.
Dr. White led efforts to treat the most critically ill patients with COVID-19 and shared critical care guidance to educate health care providers across the state. During the pandemic, Dr. White, who also serves as a professor with the Creighton University Arizona Health Education Alliance, and his team cared for several thousand COVID-19 patients with the highest degree of expertise, compassion and humanity.
The Arizona Public Health Association is a statewide organization for public health professionals whose mission is to protect and improve health in Arizona by being a voice on public health issues through advocacy and meaningful and relevant professional development and networking opportunities. For more information, visit www.azpha.org