By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent
When Dr. Wally Smith began working with patients with Sickle Cell Disease (SCD), he said nobody wanted them.
However, the widely known SCD expert, who has dedicated his professional career to helping improve the lives of all who suffer from the genetic blood disorder, never gave up and continues to work diligently to help so many and to get much-needed funding, research and proper treatment.
Smith’s tireless efforts are among the many reasons the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) awarded the physician with a 2018 National Leadership Award for outstanding contributions in addressing the issues concerning SCD, which predominately affects those of African ancestry.
“The work he’s done is powerful,” said Dr. Kevin Williams, chief medical officer of Pfizer Rare Disease.
Williams accepted the award at the NNPA National Leadership Awards Reception in Washington on behalf of Smith and heaped praise on him.
Pfizer officials nominated Smith for the honor.
“It’s a very important work that he’s done,” said Williams, who writes the NNPA Newswire’s “Ask Dr. Kevin” column, which helps further educate the public about SCD.
A Florence Neal Cooper Smith Professor of SCD at Virginia Commonwealth University, Smith is also a general internist, health service researcher, and a national authority on health disparities, quality improvement and SCD.
He is the past Scientific Director of the VCU Center on Health Disparities and former Secretary of the Society of General Internal Medicine. Smith is the first African American Robert Wood Johnson Generalist Physician Faculty Scholar.
In addition to Smith, the awards reception honored eight other national leaders and activists, including Rep. Maxine Waters (D-S.C.), Rep. James Clyburn (D-Calif.), Rep. Al Green (D-Tx.), Capstone Development Founder Norman Jenkins, E-Commerce leader Arsha Jones, TV Host Kellee Edwards, Teacher of the Year and Congressional Candidate Jahana Hayes, and legendary poll worker Laura Wooten.
Officials from Pfizer, who have formed a strong partnership with the NNPA to help bring more awareness to SCD, were well-represented at the sold-out awards reception at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. on Friday, Sept. 14.
Pfizer’s representation included Freda C. Lewis-Hall, who serves as Pfizer’s chief medical officer and leads Pfizer Medical, the division responsible for the safe, effective and appropriate use of Pfizer medicines and vaccines around the world.
Before joining Pfizer in 2009, Lewis-Hall held senior leadership positions in medical affairs and product development with Vertex, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Pharmacia and Eli Lilly and Company.
Prior to joining the biopharmaceutical industry, she served as vice chairperson and associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry at Howard University College of Medicine and was an advisor to the National Institute of Mental Health.
A Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Lewis-Hall is a frequent speaker on issues such as improving patient safety and outcomes and reducing stigma and healthcare disparities. She appears regularly on health-related television programs in major global markets, including CBS-syndicated shows such as “The Doctors” and “Dr. Phil.”
Karen Boykin-Towns also attended the reception.
Recently elected as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors of the NAACP, Boykin-Towns has had a career that spans more than two decades with Pfizer, holding several leadership roles in government relations, public affairs, and global policy, and most notably serving as the Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Pfizer Innovative Health.
In this role, Boykin-Towns leads all of Pfizer’s public affairs, government relations, policy, and communication efforts around the globe. She also has the distinction of having served as the company’s first Chief Diversity Officer.
A life member of the NAACP, she serves as a member of the National Board of Directors, Chairman of its National Health Committee, and President Emeritus of the Brooklyn, N.Y., Branch.
“Karen Boykin-Towns is an amazing talent that the NAACP is honored to have as its Board Vice Chair,” NAACP Board Chairman Leon W. Russell said in a release.
“She brings a level of accomplishment in the public and private sector, breaking glass ceilings and serving as a model for women of color everywhere.”