The Lexington-Fayette County Health Department’s Board of Health has selected Jon Parker as the 2020 Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Hero. The award is given annually to individuals who have demonstrated their dedication to improving the health of Lexington residents. The winner is announced each April as part of National Public Health Week (April 6-10, 2020).
Parker is the executive director of AVOL Kentucky, Inc., a statewide organization whose mission is to “collaborate with communities to END HIV in the Commonwealth.” Parker has led HIV prevention teams across the state of Kentucky for more than three decades, including during the peak of the HIV epidemic in the 1990s. He holds a Master’s Degree in social work from the University of Kentucky.
Parker served on the original steering committee for AVOL Kentucky’s Solomon House, a long-term community residence for people with AIDS. Parker joined AVOL Kentucky in 2015, at a time when the board of directors was looking to move the organization into a more sustainable trajectory. AVOL has now expanded its mission to serve more medically vulnerable populations in the area of stable and affordable housing.
During his tenure at AVOL Kentucky, Parker has organized strategic planning efforts, created quality, low-income accessible housing for the medically vulnerable, expanded prevention services and enhanced outreach and empowerment for at-risk populations in Lexington. He has led events including the AIDS 5K Walk/Run and “Dining Out for Life,” AVOL Kentucky’s largest annual fundraiser.
Parker will be recognized at a future Board of Health meeting. He will also be honored during a Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council meeting. The awards are typically presented in April but are being postponed because of social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Previously known as the Public Health Hero Award, the Board of Health renamed the award in 2016 in memory of the late Dr. Rice C. Leach, Lexington’s former Commissioner of Health who spent more than 50 years as a public health physician. Leach died April 1, 2016.
Past winners include Mark Johnson (2019), Dr. Svetla Slavova (2018), Reginald Thomas (2017), Dr. Rice C. Leach (2016), Dr. Susan Pollack and Marian F. Guinn (2015), the Rev. Willis Polk and Baby Health Service (2014), Anita Courtney and Teens Against Tobacco Use (2013); Vickie Blevins and Jay McChord (2012); Jill Chenault-Wilson and Dr. Malkanthie McCormick (2011); Dr. Jay Perman (2010); the Lexington Lions Club (2009); Dr. David Stevens and the late Dr. Doane Fischer (2008); Dr. Ellen Hahn, Mary Alice Pratt and Therese Moseley (2007); Dr. Andrew Moore and Rosa Martin (2006); Jan Brucato and Dragana Zaimovic (2005); and Dr. John Michael Moore, Ellen Parks and Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (2004). Dr. Robert Lam received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2007.
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