Hunter Announces Winners of 9th Annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize

Jennifer J. Raab, Hunter College President, and Laurie M. Tisch, Founder and President of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, have announced that Families for Safe Streets and Rebecca Telzak of Make the Road New York are the recipients of the ninth annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. These prestigious awards honor both individuals and nonprofit organizations in the New York metropolitan area for distinguished accomplishment in urban public health. Families for Safe Streets advocates for life-saving changes to prevent traffic violence and provides support to those who have been impacted by crashes; Rebecca Telzak is Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York and a leader in expanding health access for immigrant New Yorkers.

The recipients were honored at a ceremony and reception on Tuesday, February 4 at The Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College.

President Raab commented: “We are incredibly proud and excited to honor these urban health heroes. They truly exemplify the Tisch Family’s mission by making a difference within their communities, and they will all benefit enormously from these generous $10,000 prizes. Our thanks again and always go to Laurie Tisch for her innovative spirit and extraordinary generosity—with a special debt of gratitude and affection for Laurie’s mother, the late Joan Tisch, an activist and philanthropist who made healthy living for all New Yorkers both a priority and a passion.”

Ms. Tisch, president of the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, sponsor of the prize added: “It is a great pleasure to confer these awards to Families for Safe Streets and to Rebecca Telzak. Families for Safe Streets has had an extraordinary impact on increasing safety for pedestrians and drivers in New York, while Rebecca Telzak, in leading the health initiatives at Make the Road New York, provides vital services and mobilizes immigrant communities to advocate for health as a social justice issue.”

Dr. Raul Perea-Henze, Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services, stated: “Public health in New York City depends on active and innovative input from community partners to local government, and so on behalf of the de Blasio administration, I am pleased to congratulate this year’s recipients of the Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. Families for Safe Streets and Rebecca Telzak of Make the Road New York inspire us all with their efforts to advance our shared priorities of safe streets and access to health care for immigrants. Having witnessed Joan’s tireless dedication to those in need as a young doctor on the frontlines of the early HIV/AIDS epidemic in New York City, I am delighted to see these honorees continue her powerful legacy to uplift New Yorkers across every borough.”

Amy Cohen, Co-Founder of Families for Safe Streets, said on behalf of the organization: “We are so honored to receive The Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. As all of us at Families for Safe Streets know all too well, traffic violence is a silent killer — and is not yet widely recognized as the preventable public health crisis that it is. Every two hours someone is killed or seriously injured in a traffic crash in New York City. One hundred Americans are killed every single day and millions suffer life-altering injuries. These are not accidents. So it is particularly moving to us that Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute is recognizing our efforts and drawing attention to this preventable epidemic.”

Rebecca Telzak, Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York, commented: “I am honored to receive the Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize. This award is a testament to the work and accomplishments of Make the Road New York’s health team over the years to improve the health of immigrant and working class communities in New York. Thank you to everyone who made this award possible and to Make the Road New York and our members for providing the support, perseverance and creativity to move our work forward.”

The Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize honors not-for-profit organizations and individuals for distinguished accomplishment in the field of urban public health. Made possible by support from the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the Prize is part of the Joan H. Tisch Legacy Project, which is based at Hunter College, and is a tribute to Joan H. Tisch in recognition of her humanitarian activism in health care and social services in New York City.

The jury will open nominations for the 10th annual prize in the spring. Future nominees’ work should focus on improving urban public health in areas such as: reducing health disparities; environmental health; obesity/diabetes/nutrition; chronic disease prevention and management; HIV/AIDS; health problems associated with poverty; healthy aging; mental health; substance abuse and addiction; public health policy and advocacy; using the arts to improve individual and community health; and widening access to quality care.

About the Honorees:

Families for Safe Streets (FSS), Organizational Honoree, confronts the epidemic of traffic violence by advocating for life-saving changes and providing support to those impacted by crashes. Comprised of individuals who have been injured or lost loved ones, FSS was founded in partnership with Transportation Alternatives in 2014 in New York City and has grown into a national movement with chapters across the country dedicated to ending preventable traffic crashes.

FSS members transform their grief by telling personal stories of trauma and loss to raise awareness and bring about policy and legislative change. Through hard-fought campaigns, FSS has lowered the speed limit and brought speed safety cameras to nearly every school district in New York City. Their support services include monthly support communities, peer-mentoring, logistical assistance and a detailed resource guide.

Rebecca Telzak, Individual Honoree,is a leader in expanding health access for immigrant New Yorkers. As Director of Health Programs at Make the Road New York (MRNY), she built its health department into a 25+-person operation that serves over 8,000 community members a year and operates throughout the boroughs of Queens, Brooklyn, and Staten Island, as well as Westchester and Long Island. She has advised government agencies on the creation of public programs to serve immigrants. Under her leadership, MRNY services have expanded to include health insurance enrollment, health navigation services, food stamp enrollment, community health worker training and home visiting services, two food pantries, and TGNCIQ health services.

Prior to working at MRNY, Ms. Telzak received a Fulbright scholarship to Argentina and lived in Nicaragua for a year while working at a women’s sewing cooperative. She helped found a workers center in Michigan, where she tackled immigrant rights issues. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from the Residential College at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in Latin American and Caribbean Studies and Social Science. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Administration from Baruch College.

Selection Committee for the 9th annual Joan H. Tisch Community Health Prize:

Lilliam Barrios-Paoli, (Co-Chair) Senior Advisor to President of Hunter College and the Former NYC Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services; Harold Holzer, (Co-Chair) Jonathan F. Fanton Director, Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College; Carol Boas, member of the University of Pennsylvania Nursing School Board of Overseers; Elizabeth Cohn, Rudin Professor of Nursing and Interim Associate Dean for Research at Hunter Bellevue School of Nursing; Michael Dean, M.D., Member of the Hunter College Foundation Board of Trustees; Joan Grabe, Chair, Hunter College Foundation Board of Trustees and Hunter-Bellevue School of Nursing Advisory Board; Angela Haddad, Senior Associate Dean for Student Success at Hunter College; David Himmelstein, M.D., Professor, Hunter College School of Urban Health; Sue Kaplan, Research Associate Professor, Department of Population Health, New York University School of Medicine; Rufina Lee, Assistant Professor, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College; H. Carl McCall, the Hunter College Roosevelt House Leader-in-Residence, former New York State Comptroller and State Senator; Barbara Salmanson, President, Jewish Child Care Association; and Susan Steinhardt, member of the Roosevelt House Advisory Board.