2021 Sammies Finalists Announced

The finalists for the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America medals (Sammies) have been announced to kick off Public Service Recognition Week.

The Partnership for Public Service has announced the finalists for the 2021 Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (Sammies) to kick off Public Service Recognition Week.

A total of 29 federal employees are among the Sammies finalists. The Sammies are the premier awards program recognizing America’s best in government.

This year, the Partnership for Public Service added a COVID-19 Response medal to recognize the federal workers who played a leading role in responding to the pandemic and saving lives.

On Wednesday, May 5, at 12:30 p.m. EDT, the Partnership and Axios will air a virtual event to recognize the 2021 Service to America Medal finalists.

All Sammies finalists are also eligible for the Service to America Medals People’s Choice Award. Beginning Sunday, May 2, at 6 a.m. EDT, members of the public can vote online for the federal employee they believe has made the most significant contributions in public service. The People’s Choice winner will be announced in the summer.

2021 Sammies Finalists

Paul A. Volcker Career Achievement Category

C. Mark Eakin, Ph.D.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
College Park, MD

Led development of a satellite-based monitoring system that provides accurate forecasts and early warnings to environmental officials worldwide at a time when rising ocean temperatures threaten the health of coral reefs.

Paul Friday
Census Bureau Suitland, MD

During six decades of federal service, invented, engineered and implemented systems that enabled the Census Bureau to more accurately tabulate and analyze data on paper census forms, speeding the process and saving millions of dollars.

Evan R. Kwerel, Ph.D.
Federal Communications Commission Washington, D.C.

Pioneered the use of competitive spectrum auctions to allocate the public airwaves for sound, data and video transmissions, helping fuel the digital revolution while adding more than $200 billion to the government’s coffers.

Gregory M. Ruiz, Ph.D.
Smithsonian Institution Edgewater, MD

Played a major role over three decades highlighting the environmental harm caused by the marine transport of invasive species, resulting in a federal reporting system, enforcement policies and improved shipboard management practices.

Anne Schuchat, M.D.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Atlanta, GA

As one of the nation’s leading infectious disease experts, has led numerous high-profile and consequential disease outbreak investigations to protect public health and save countless lives.

COVID-19 Response Category

Ian Brownlee and the Interagency COVID Repatriation team 
Department of State Washington, D.C.

Created and managed a State Department-led task force that repatriated more than 100,000 Americans who were stranded in countries all over the world when borders were closed and airports shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Virginia K. Busby, Dianne Garibotto, Camille Privett and the Economic Income Payment team
Internal Revenue Service Atlanta, GA (Busby); Andover, MA (Garibotto); Kansas City, MO (Privett)

Expertly orchestrated the disbursement of hundreds of billions of dollars to tens of millions of people adversely affected by the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic.

Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D. and Barney S. Graham, M.D., Ph.D.
National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD

Conducted groundbreaking research that led to the development of highly effective vaccines in record time that are protecting hundreds of millions of people from contracting the deadly coronavirus that swept across the globe in 2020 and 2021.

Gary H. Gibbons, M.D. and Eliseo J. Pérez-Stable, M.D. 
National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD

Developed and implemented federal programs to increase testing as well as participation in COVID-19 treatment and vaccine trials in underserved communities across the country.

Peter Marks, M.D., Ph.D.
Food and Drug Administration Silver Spring, MD

Laid the groundwork for strict scientific regulatory standards used for the rapid development, testing and approval of lifesaving COVID- 19 vaccines amid a deadly, once-in-a-century pandemic.

Emerging Leaders Category

William Hart-Cooper, Ph.D.
Department of Agriculture Albany, CA

Created novel formulations for disinfectants and packaging that break down into harmless substances after use, protecting human health and reducing environmental pollution.

Callie I. Higgins, Ph.D.
National Institute of Standards and Technology Boulder, CO

Invented a groundbreaking technology to detect and remedy microscopic flaws that threaten the safety and reliability of 3D- printed products, potentially revolutionizing the medical, plastics, coatings, optics and additive manufacturing fields.

Edward Sisco, Ph.D.
National Institute of Standards and Technology Gaithersburg, MD

Devised a new method for crime laboratories to identify opioids and other drugs more quickly and safely, providing critical information to law enforcement while protecting lab employees from dangerous substances.

Lori Vislocky
Department of Homeland Security
Washington, D.C.

Developed and implemented a new system that enables authorities to quickly identify foreigners who pose a threat to national security or public safety before they travel to the United States.

Management Excellence Category

Michelle Daniels, Charles D. Eldridge, Ryan E. Jones and the Foster Youth to Independence team
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Washington, D.C. (Daniels, Jones) and Fort Worth, TX (Eldridge)

Created an innovative program offering housing assistance and social services to young people aging out of foster care to prevent them from becoming homeless and to provide an opportunity for self-sufficiency.

Mary Frances Matthews
Department of Veterans Affairs Washington, D.C.

Reduced the lengthy backlog of disability appeals for veterans by 87% in two years, providing long-awaited decisions on benefits to thousands of individuals.

Mary D. Gibert
General Services Administration Washington, D.C.

Successfully coordinated the federal assistance effort for the 2020-21 presidential transition in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and a disputed election.

Stephen G. Jurczyk
National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Washington, D.C.

Oversaw the landing of a rover on Mars, two successful U.S. astronaut flights to the International Space Station and the planning to put the first woman and first person of color on the moon while leading NASA through the pandemic.

Gary Washington
Department of Agriculture Washington, D.C.

Led a technology transformation at the Department of Agriculture, dramatically increasing efficiency, productivity and security, and improving service to the public.

Safety, Security and International Affairs Category

Ana B. Hinojosa, Eric Choy and team
Customs and Border Protection Washington, D.C.

Directed enforcement actions against companies seeking to import goods produced by forced labor in China and other countries, as part of a broader human rights effort to curb modern-day slavery.

Kenneth Graham
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Miami, FL

Coordinated the national response to the most active hurricane season on record during the coronavirus pandemic, leading to a 100% evacuation rate in the hardest-hit area during Hurricane Laura, the strongest U.S. landfall in 2020 season.

Adam Jacoff and the Emergency Response Robotics team
National Institute of Standards and Technology
Gaithersburg, MD

Developed sophisticated testing standards to ensure ground, underwater and aerial robots have the capability to help emergency responders and the military handle disasters and other dangerous situations.

Chong Le
Department of the Air Force El Segundo, CA

Oversaw the development of a $1 billion Air Force satellite system that will enable prediction of major weather events and natural disasters, providing military leaders and civilian authorities with information needed to make crucial, life-saving decisions.

Zack Schwartz and the Census Bureau Trust & Safety team
Census Bureau
Suitland, MD

Led the first-of-its-kind government team that worked with technology companies to combat misinformation and disinformation that threatened the integrity of the 2020 census.

Science and Environment Category

Jay Barlow, Ph.D.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
La Jolla, CA

Played an influential national role in monitoring and managing marine mammals by creating new survey methods and technology to protect and save the lives of whales, dolphins and other species.

David LBoucher, Ph.D., John Lee, Ph.D., Daniel Wolfe, Ph.D. and the Ebola Medical Countermeasures Task Force
Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
Washington, D.C.

Oversaw the research and development of vaccines, therapeutics and diagnostic tests that have been used to halt the spread of the deadly Ebola virus in Africa and avert the possibility of a pandemic.

Reem M. Ghandour, DrPH
Health Resources and Services Administration
Rockville, MD

Transformed and revitalized a national survey on children’s physical, emotional and developmental health, providing timely and insightful data to state and federal policymakers.

Sherry Hunt, Ph.D.
Department of Agriculture Stillwater, OK

Pioneered critically needed design techniques to rehabilitate and strengthen thousands of aging dams across the United States, limiting potential failures that could lead to the loss of life and property.

Brigitte C. Widemann, M.D. and team
National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD

Developed a breakthrough medical treatment for children with inoperable tumors that cause disabling pain, disfigurement, blindness and motor dysfunction.

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.