IOWA CITY – Tai Burkhart, Director of Buchanan County Public Health (BCPH), was honored recently as an Iowa Public Health Hero for her public health and community leadership as well as her vision and commitment in building and fostering relationships within Buchanan County and across the state.
The Iowa Public Health Hero Awards, presented annually by the University of Iowa College of Public Health, honor local leaders for outstanding efforts to promote better health, prevent disease, and build stronger communities throughout the state. The awards were presented Tuesday, May 3, during a reception and awards ceremony at the Public Health Conference of Iowa in Ames.
“The health of all Iowans is enhanced through the leadership and service of so many dedicated professionals working in the public health sector and in related fields that support community health,” says Edith Parker, dean of the College of Public Health. “We are proud to honor Tai and to recognize her outstanding work serving people and communities in Buchanan County.”
A long-time advocate of building community partnerships, Burkhart has worked closely with the Amish Community in Buchanan County, including efforts to increase the vaccination rate among Amish children. These efforts laid the foundation for additional partnerships, including opportunities to provide training in hands-only CPR, Stop the Bleed, and first aid, as well as roadway safety, car seat safety, pedestrian safety, poison prevention, immunization information and well water testing information.
During the COVID response, Burkhart reached out early to Amish community leaders and worked closely with the County Sheriff, business owners, and others to increase awareness about disease spread and build trust. She led the three-member health department’s COVID-19 vaccination program, including coordinating vaccine distribution throughout the county, setting up community clinics, arranging online and phone scheduling systems, and recruiting staff.
“I couldn’t do the job without the people in the office and our community partners,” said Burkhart. “Thanks to all of them for their help.”
In addition to Burkhart, the Iowa Public Health Heroes Awards were presented to Kathy Leinenkugel, recently retired program manager for the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Occupational Health & Safety Surveillance Program in Des Moines; and Charla Schafer, executive director of the Community Foundation of Greater Muscatine in Muscatine.
Since 2012, the Iowa Public Health Heroes Award program has recognized exceptional efforts by individuals from diverse career paths whose work improves health and wellness throughout Iowa. Award recipients are nominated by their peers in the Iowa public health practice community.