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CDC scientists honored as 2020 Service to America Medal Finalists

This is the third year in a row that one or more CDC employees have been honored as finalists.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Control (CDC) scientists Dr. Vikram Krishnasamy, and Dr. Peter Briss and the 2019 Lung Injury Prevention Team, have been named finalists in the Partnership for Public Service’s annual Service to America awards.

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The awards, named after Partnership founder Samuel J. Heyman and known as the “Sammies,” recognize the talents and achievements of federal employees. This is the third year in a row that one or more CDC employees have been honored as finalists. The winners will be announced in the fall.

“CDC is proud that Dr. Briss and his team and Dr. Krishnasamy are being recognized across the federal government for their extraordinary work,” said CDC Director Robert R. Redfield, MD. “Their commitment to excellence and innovation while addressing two of the most significant public health issues of our time is a true testament to public health service.”

Peter Briss, MD, MPH, is the director of the Office of Medicine and Science in CDC’s National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (NCCDPHP), as well as the center’s medical director. He and the 2019 Lung Injury Prevention Team are being recognized for their work in 2019 “identifying the chemical compound in e-cigarette or vaping, products that caused life-threatening lung injuries predominately among young adults, communicating the danger to public health and saving lives.”

Prior to this discovery, it was unclear what caused e-cigarette, or vaping, associated lung injury (EVALI). Dr. Briss and the EVALI team were able to identify the major culprit from tiny amounts of the compound recovered from patients’ lungs. This work led to a sharp decrease in emergency room visits and deaths for EVALI.

The team included Dr. Briss, who led the effort and focused it on the crucial scientific questions that needed answers; Dana Meaney-Delman, MD, MPH, who put together CDC response teams and coordinated with local and state partners; and Chris Jones, PhD, who moved the team’s short-term activities into long-term programs. Hundreds of other CDC staff also made major contributions.

Vikram Krishnasamy, MD, MPH, is an innovative leader in the fight against opioid addiction in the United States. He is a senior medical officer in CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control and is nominated for his work in CDC’s response to the opioid overdose epidemic.

A member of CDC’s Opioid Response Coordination Unit since 2018, Dr. Krishnasamy established a training program and communications network to help local public health officials address the opioid overdose epidemic. His work has led to the training of more than 1,000 CDC employees and US Public Health Service officers from other agencies who now have both basic knowledge about the opioid epidemic and the skill sets needed to support local and state health departments. He continues to lead opioid-related initiatives across CDC, coordinating emergency response needs and working with funded partners.

In 2019, more than 60 medical professionals in six states were arrested for illegally prescribing and distributing opioids. In a first-ever federal coordination between law enforcement and public health officials, Dr. Krishnasamy led a team that focused on ensuring that patients dependent on pain medications and left without medical care could be directed to legitimate professionals and addiction treatment providers.

The Partnership for Public Service, a non-partisan non-profit, has sponsored the awards and campaign for the last 19 years. The program has honored more than 500 outstanding federal employees since its inception in 2002. This year there are 27 finalists from 11 cabinet agencies and their operating divisions.

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