Dr. Amy Acton honored with Profile in Courage Award


BOSTON, Massachusetts (WCMH) — Former Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Amy Acton was one of seven people honored by the John F. Kennedy Library Foundation with a special award for her role during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Acton, along with the six others, received a special Profile in Courage Award from the foundation during a ceremony Sunday.

According to a press release from the foundation, the special awards were created to honor those on the frontlines of the pandemic who were going “above and beyond their everyday responsibilities to help those in their communities.”

The foundation’s website wrote the following about Acton:

Before COVID-19 had claimed the lives of more than a handful of Americans, Dr. Amy Acton, the first woman physician appointed to Ohio’s top public health position, boldly proposed an aggressive shelter-in-place order to slow the spread of COVID-19. While her leadership put Ohio ahead of most other states in responding to the virus, she became the target of protestors and legislators who sought to limit her power while engaging in personal attacks against her.

“Dr. Acton embodies strength, truth, humility, and heart. She is driven by a conviction that everyone deserves the opportunity to be healthy, and this was certainly evident in her leadership during the COVID pandemic. Dr. Acton was a speaker of truth – even when that truth seemed unlikely, was ugly, needed to be spoken to power, or was professionally risky. People are drawn to her sincerity, compassion, and extraordinary ability to relate to others. Her intelligence and passion for public health made her a successful convener and her genuine empathy made her a trusted and natural public spokesperson. And, what you see in her public persona is exactly what she is outside of the spotlight. It was an honor to serve with her, learn from her, and to know her.” – Joanne Pearsol, former deputy director, Ohio Department of Health

Along with Acton, the other recipients of the special COVID-19 award are:

  • Burnell Cotlon, owner of Burnell’s Market in Louisiana. When the pandemic began, Cotlon allowed customers to take groceries on credit, opening tabs for more than 60 customers who could no longer afford food.
  • Fred Freeman, fire department captain in Massachusetts. Freeman led the establishment of a mobile health unit which allowed the town of Hanover to deliver COVID-19 testing and other critical health services to residents, allowing vulnerable patients to stay home.
  • Antonio Green, Amazon associate and former delivery associate in South Carolina. While working as a delivery driver, Green noticed a sign on a door of a customer which stated the resident was undergoing chemotherapy and was immunocompromised as a result. Green left the package and came back a short time later with flowers and a message of support. A week later, Green returned to check on the man, establishing an unexpected bond between them.
  • Lauren Leander, intensive care nurse in Arizona. Leander, with three of her colleagues, held a silent counter-protest at a rally where hundreds of angry protestors demanded the state immediately reopen. Leander stood in silence as rally attendees intentionally coughed on her and her fellow nurses, accusing them of being paid actors. Leander used her newfound notoriety to raise more than $286,000 for PPE, medical supplies, and compassion fatigue gifts for frontline nurses serving Native American tribes.
  • Darrell R. Marks, Native American academic advisor in Arizona. Marks, an indigenous Dine’/Navajo, advocates for the rights and works to met the needs of Navajo and Hopi tribal communities, coordinating food and supply deliveries to families struggling during the pandemic, advocating for Native American voting rights, worked to provide remote learning opportunities in tribal areas, and helped students struggling with loss and depression.
  • Gretchen Whitmer, governor of Michigan. When Michigan encountered its first COVID-19 case in March 2020, Whitmer invoked emergency powers to issue early, controversial orders to close schools and businesses, mandate face masks, and ban large gatherings. She faces substantial backlash over the state’s stay-at-home orders, with protests escalating to the point armed demonstrators stormed the state capital. Whitmer was also the subject of a kidnapping plot, for which 13 men were charged.

The ceremony, headlined by Mitt Romney receiving the Profile in Courage Award, will be broadcast on May 26.

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