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I enjoy popular culture with the best of them, including current music, movies, books, TV shows, dance, etc. I can chat about this season of Fringe and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo AND debate whether or not genetics trumps culture as a determinant of health disparities.

As someone who follows an A&E blog or two, I sometimes struck by differences between the celebrity experience and that of people out there who do amazing work and don’t get any attention for it.

The Campaign for Public Health Foundation reminds us to thank the people who dedicate their lives to disease control and prevention, in local communities and around the world, and don’t expect much in return. Their inaugural Unsung Hero Awards honored two very dedicated heroes.

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Ms. Janet Zola, MPH, a 30-year veteran of disease control and prevention work, is the 2010 winner of our Rock in the Pond Award. Her cutting-edge prevention efforts with at-risk and minority populations have been applauded as a model program by federal agencies. Her work helped to prevent and control hepatitis B infections in the San Francisco area and is now having an impact nationally. Several communities across the nation have turned to Ms. Zola to help establish similar programs. The majority of her career has been spent working for the San Francisco Department of Public Health where she currently serves as a health promotion specialist in Communicable Disease Control and Prevention. Ms. Zola’s career highlights only solidify her as an Unsung Hero of Public Health: Initially an instructor in family planning at San Francisco State University, Ms. Zola later worked educating seniors about medication and eventually established the San Francisco Immunization Coalition. These experiences all helped her recognize a need to educate high-risk men and Asian Pacific Islanders about the importance of hepatitis testing and vaccinations. Ms. Zola’s 30-year, service-focused career, the “San Francisco Hep B Free” program and her passion for improving the health of the population are worthy of national recognition. We are honored to help draw attention to a great career and a most deserving unsung hero of public health.

The winner of our 2010 Wavemaker Award is epidemiologist Dr. Cecilia Rosales. Dr. Rosales has worked in the field of public health for 20 years. Some of her professional experiences include serving as a doctor, as chief of the Arizona Department of Health Services’ Office of Border Health, and as a university professor. She has worked binationally to track infectious disease; assess, control and prevent diabetes; study the challenges to farm worker health; and coordinate the treatment of patients with tuberculosis who migrate between Mexico and the United States. Dr. Rosales is also a co-principal investigator in researching ways to counter chronic diseases in the region. Her passion for border and binational disease control and prevention led to her nomination. Her work has significantly improved the health and quality of life among border populations in both the Southwestern United States and in Mexico. With this award we commend Dr. Rosales for her collaborative and persistent disease control and prevention efforts.