17 People, Organizations Honored for Achievements in Public Health

Public Health Champion award

One was recognized for providing food and shelter to homeless people. Another for offering medical services to working class and underserved communities.

They are two of 17 people and organizations the County today honored for their achievements in improving the health and well-being of local residents.

The County of San Diego Health and Human Services Agency presented the honors during its 2019 Live Well San Diego 18th Annual Public Health Champion Awards Ceremony.

This is the County’s annual event held in recognition of the American Public Health Association’s National Public Health Week, which this year takes place from April 1-7.

The award recipients embody the County’s Live Well San Diego vision to promote healthy, safe and thriving communities.

This year’s theme is “Creating the Healthiest Nation: for Science. For Action. For Health.” The recipients are:


Brother Benno Foundation
Brother Benno Foundation was started by Kay and Harold Kutler as a soup kitchen in downtown Oceanside in 1983 and was inspired by Benedictine monk, Brother Benno Garrity. Brother Benno Foundation has expanded its services beyond food and strives to ensure that no one goes hungry, no one goes without shelter or clothing.

San Diego Blood Bank
Founded in 1950 through the support of the San Diego County Medical Society, San Diego Blood Bank has been providing blood products and services to Southern California for nearly 70 years.


Suzanne Afflalo, M.D.
Dr. Afflalo is a family physician with over 25 years in the medical field who is very passionate about working with minority and underserved communities, educating, encouraging and empowering people to improve their health.

Tracy Finlayson, Ph.D.
Dr. Finlayson has over 10 years of experience in public health as an educator, advocate, scholar, mentor and leader in San Diego County and beyond. Dr. Finlayson has dedicated her career to advancing population health, with an emphasis on oral health across the lifespan.


St. Paul’s PACE
St. Paul’s Program of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly is a managed care health plan exclusively for seniors who have chronic medical conditions and are struggling to live at home independently. PACE provides primary medical care, medication management, physical therapy, specialty services, in-home care, social work assistance, and more.

Survivors of Torture, International
Survivors of Torture, International’s (SURVIVORS) mission is to facilitate the healing of torture survivors and their families and educate professionals and the public about torture and its consequences, and advocate for the abolition of torture. SURVIVORS helps torture survivors get the help they need for free.


For over 50 years, Ms. Velasco has dedicated her life to serving the community and promoting health. While a County employee, she helped organize Aging and Independence Services’ first Vital Aging Conference. Ms. Velasco also worked with experts at San Diego State University to create the Feeling Fit Club, a fitness program for older adults that focuses on flexibility, strength, balance and endurance.

CENTRAL REGION—San Diego Community Mentors
Community Mentors connect with at-risk youth, make a true difference and create real change in a young person’s life by strengthening their attachments to education, work, family and community.

Established in 1970 in El Cajon, Crisis House’s mission is to respond immediately to stop the cycle of domestic violence and homelessness and connect families and individuals to crucial resources that empower them to renew their lives. Crisis House finds stable housing for more than 500 people a year and provides services to over 5,000 people in East County.

Ms. Lenyoun chairs the North Central Live Well San Diego North Central Region Leadership Team. She was instrumental in the formation, development and implementation of Impact Urban America. This organization offered housing to hundreds of families in a marginalized demographic and was recognized by several community leaders, received numerous awards and commendations.

Dr. Gross is a vital member of the Live Well San Diego North County Community Leadership Team and has been instrumental in the advancement of the Live Well San Diego vision in North County since its adoption. Dr. Gross has been actively designing and facilitating diversity and inclusion programs for more than 20 years.  He has led about 230 diversity trainings and anti-bias workshops that reached more than 4,500 participants.

Gently Hugged is a non-profit organization that was founded by two nurses working in Public Health. The nurses noticed that some families were struggling to acquire the basic necessities of life for their new babies, including clothing and blankets. In response, the nurses collect new or gently used items. In 2018, about 700 newborns across the county got enough clothing and blankets for their first year of life.

SOUTH REGION— Ramón Hernández, Dr.P.H., M.P.H.
Dr. Hernández is the Associate Director for the Center for Community Health at UC San Diego. He has over 20 years of experience in work preventing chronic disease and promoting health equity through policy, systems, and environmental changes in local communities with the largest health disparities.


Since 2012, the Health and Human Services Agency Director Nick Macchione has selected awardees for the Live Well San Diego Annual Public Health Champion Awards Ceremony. The recipients are honored for their outstanding contributions to public health and their collaborative efforts to the Live Well San Diego vision.

The 2019 recipients are:

The Children’s Initiative
The Children’s Initiative aims to help San Diego County’s low-income children, youth and families thrive and prosper. For more than 20 years, the Children’s Initiative has served as an advocate and supporter of effective policies, programs and services that support the education, health, safety and well-being of children and families in San Diego County.

NAMI San Diego
Founded in 1978, the National Alliance on Mental Illness in San Diego (NAMI San Diego) is the community’s voice on mental illness. NAMI San Diego’s mission is the sharing of information and striving to end the stigma associated with mental illness.

ABC10 partners with the County of San Diego and other organizations to positively impact all 3.3 million San Diego residents with information about positive choices that contribute to an improved quality of life and the overall well-being of residents and their communities.

Caleb with Curls
Caleb is a young boy with a mega personality who aims to educate, empower and entertain. He shares his adventures with home school, drops some nuggets of wisdom, reviews toys and activities, and shows his signature style.

José A. Álvarez is a communications specialist with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact