2019 Sammies Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2019 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals (Sammies) have been announced to kick off Public Service Recognition Week.

The finalists were announced today for thee 2019 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal (Sammies) by the Partnership for Public Service to kick off Public Service Recognition week which runs from May 5 – 11 this year.

There are 26 federal employees nominated this year whose achievements include pioneering and perfecting a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found, implementing facial recognition systems that simplify and fortify airport security, and developing a way to quickly locate and assist chronic healthcare patients who are at risk of losing life-sustaining equipment due to widespread power outages.

The finalists are contenders for seven Service to America Medals, including the newly renamed Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal, which honors Paul Volcker, a public servant who served two terms as Federal Reserve chairman, headed two non-partisan Commissions on the Public Service and spearheaded sweeping overhauls of the federal government.

Beginning on May 10, members of the public can vote online for the People’s Choice Award, an honor for which all 26 finalists are eligible. The winner of this award will be announced at a Partnership for Public Service event on July 18.

Medal recipients will be announced and honored on October 16, 2019, during an awards gala at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The Partnership for Public Service will also present its second annual private-sector Spirit of Service Award to New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies for the positive impact he has made through his leadership in business, government and philanthropy, and for the countless lives he has improved through his national and international support of programs benefitting the arts, education, the environment, government innovation and public health.

The Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals program has honored more than 500 outstanding federal employees since its inception in 2002.

A list of the 2019 finalists follows below. More details about each of the finalists and his/her work are available at servicetoamericamedals.org.

2019 Sammies Finalists

Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Medal Finalists

This medal recognizes a federal employee for leading significant and sustained accomplishments throughout a federal career of 20 or more years.

Arthur A. Allen

U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Search and Rescue
New London, Connecticut

Pioneered and perfected a modeling program that predicts where people lost at sea will be found, cutting search and rescue times and saving thousands of lives during a 35-year career

William K. Boyes, Ph.D.

Environmental Health Scientist
Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Research and Development
Research Triangle Park, North Carolina

Conducted important research on the harm that commonly used chemicals have on eyesight and the central nervous system, leading to new standards to protect the public from overexposure to these toxic substances

Michael G. Kozak

Senior Bureau Official
Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor
Washington, D.C.

For nearly five decades, helped shape foreign policy to protect U.S. interests abroad and advance democracy and human rights around the world

Ann McKee, M.D.

Chief of Neuropathology
Department of Veterans Affairs, VA Boston Healthcare System
Boston, Massachusetts

Revolutionized scientific research and our understanding of the long-term effects of concussions, including chronic traumatic encephalopathy, in veterans and athletes

Venkatachalam “Ram” Ramaswamy, Ph.D.

Director, Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Princeton, New Jersey

Developed a state-of-the-art prediction modeling system to enhance understanding of global climate change and provide earlier and more accurate forecasts of severe weather events, helping save lives and property

Management Excellence Medal Finalists

This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment that exemplifies efficient, effective and results-oriented government.

Victoria Brahm

Medical Center Director
Department of Veterans Affairs, Tomah VA Medical Center
Tomah, Wisconsin

Restored the quality and safety of a broken health care center for veterans that had become notorious for unsafe medical practices, excessive opioid use and a toxic work environment

Robert Cabana and the Kennedy Space Center Senior Management Team

Director, John F. Kennedy Space Center
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Kennedy Space Center, Florida

Transformed the historic Kennedy Space Center into a globally distinguished, multiuser launch site for government and commercial space exploration, helping preserve our country’s leadership in this important field

Krista L. Caudle, Ph.D. and the Laboratory Assay for Traumatic Brain Injury Integrated Product Team

Product Manager, Traumatic Brain Injury
Department of the Army, U.S. Army Medical Materiel Development Activity
Fort Detrick, Maryland

Developed, tested and acquired FDA approval for the first-ever blood test that detects mild traumatic brain injury in military service members and civilians

Osama El-Lissy

Deputy Administrator, Plant Protection and Quarantine
Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service
Washington, D.C.

Created a highly effective plan that led the United States to become the first and only country to eradicate the pink bollworm, saving cotton growers tens of millions of dollars annually

Shannon Sartin and Team

Executive Director, Digital Service at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services
Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. Digital Service
Washington, D.C.

Led the development of digital tools to make it easier for Medicare patients to access their electronic health records and for doctors to receive payment for the quality, not the quantity, of the care they provide

Paul Shute, Christopher Aragao and David Enright

Chief of Operational Innovation (Shute); Supervisory Veterans Service Representative (Aragao); Management Analyst (Enright)
Department of Veterans Affairs
Washington, D.C. (Shute); Providence, Rhode Island (Aragao); Milwaukee, Wisconsin (Enright)

Dramatically cut the time and manpower needed to make decisions on service-related mental health claims for veterans, helping tens of thousands of individuals each year receive their benefits faster

National Security And International Affairs Medal Finalists

This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as border security, counterterrorism, defense and military affairs, intelligence, nuclear nonproliferation, diplomacy, foreign assistance and trade.

Kara L. De Castro

Management Analyst
National Nuclear Security Administration
Washington, D.C.

Led pivotal international programs to convert weapons-grade nuclear materials for civilian use and enhanced security cultures to guard against their mishandling and misuse

Leticia Pibida, Ph.D.

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, Maryland

Strengthened our nation’s defenses against nuclear and radioactive threats by developing performance standards and tests for detection systems that screen nearly 7 million cargo containers entering U.S. seaports each year

Ryan Shelby, Ph.D.

Diplomatic Attaché and Foreign Service Engineering Officer
U.S. Agency for International Development
Port-au-Prince, Haiti

Provided vital training and resources to help people in Haiti rebuild thousands of homes and roofs ripped apart by a Category 4 hurricane, making the structures safer and stronger to withstand future disasters

John P. Wagner

Deputy Executive Assistant Commissioner
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Office of Field Operations
Washington, D.C.

Implemented facial recognition systems that simplify and fortify airport security, helping travelers reach their destinations faster while stopping suspected terrorists and others attempting to enter and leave the U.S. using false documents

Kurt Yankaskas

Program Officer, Noise Induced Hearing Loss Research Program
Department of the Navy, Office of Naval Research
Arlington, Virginia

Identified and implemented solutions to combat noise-induced hearing loss, which affects hundreds of thousands of sailors and Marines, and costs taxpayers billions of dollars each year in treatments for veterans

Safety And Law Enforcement Medal Finalists

This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as civil rights, consumer protection, cybersecurity, transportation safety, worker safety, and emergency preparedness and response.

Emily Banuelos and the Taxiway Tango Tiger Team

Team Manager, Western Service Area
Federal Aviation Administration, Runway Safety Group
Des Moines, Washington

Designed and implemented enhanced surveillance technology that warns when commercial aircraft are lined up to land on a taxiway instead of the intended runway, averting the potential for catastrophic accidents

Kristen P. Finne

Senior Program Analyst and Manager, HHS emPOWER Program
Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Washington, D.C.

Developed a system for first responders to quickly locate and assist 4.3 million Medicare beneficiaries who rely on life-sustaining, electricity-dependent medical equipment and are at risk during prolonged power outages

Emily Joy Haas, Ph.D.

Senior Research Behavioral Scientist, Pittsburgh Mining Research Division
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Improved the health and safety of our nations’ mine workers by using behavioral science to influence the adoptionof new technologies and practices that reduce their exposure to known hazards

Jamie Rhome

Storm Surge Specialist and Team Lead, National Hurricane Center
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Weather Service
Miami, Florida

Created a new forecasting model and warning system that more accurately predicts the deadly storm surge caused by hurricanes, saving lives by alerting residents sooner of the approaching danger

James McWhirter, Mark W. Pletcher and the Navy Bribery Scandal Team

Assistant Special Agent in Charge (McWhirter); Assistant U.S. Attorney (Pletcher)
Department of Defense Office of Inspector General, Defense Criminal Investigative Service (McWhirter);Department of Justice, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California (Pletcher)
Mission Viejo, California (McWhirter); San Diego, California (Pletcher)

Uncovered and prosecuted the largest bribery and corruption scandal in the history of the U.S. Navy, resulting in dozens of federal criminal convictions and sanctions against numerous Navy officers

Science And Environment Medal Finalists

This medal recognizes a federal employee or team for a significant accomplishment in fields such as medicine, economics, energy, information technology, space, meteorology and resource conservation.

Othmane Benafan, Ph.D.

Materials Research Engineer
National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Glenn Research Center
Cleveland, Ohio

Advanced the science and use of a special alloy that returns to its original shape after being heated, leading to groundbreaking technologies that enable safer, more efficient aviation and space exploration

McMahan “Mac” Louis Gray

Physical Scientist, Separations Materials Team
Department of Energy, National Energy Technology Laboratory
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Created a game-changing technology that removes carbon dioxide from power plant emissions and absorbs heavy metals, such as lead, from municipal water supplies

Daniel B. Jernigan, M.D.

Director, Influenza Division
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases
Atlanta, Georgia

Led response efforts for dozens of disease crises, including Ebola, the Zika virus, SARS and West Nile virus, whilegreatly improving our country’s ability to identify, prepare for and respond to inevitable flu pandemics

W. Marston Linehan, M.D.

Chief, Urologic Oncology Branch
National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute
Bethesda, Maryland

Discovered six different genetic origins of kidney cancer and provided the foundation for the development of targeted therapies that have saved thousands of lives

Christina A. Neal and the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Team

Scientist in Charge of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory
U.S. Geological Survey
Hilo, Hawaii

Carefully monitored a large and sustained eruption of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii and provided vital updates toprotect residents, tourists and property from ash, lava and toxic fumes

About the Author

Ian Smith is one of the co-founders of FedSmith.com. He has over 20 years of combined experience in media and government services, having worked at two government contracting firms and an online news and web development company prior to his current role at FedSmith.