As employees laughed and then cried, the Board of Health presented the 2016 Public Health Hero Award to Dr. Rice Leach at Monday night’s meeting. The board also approved renaming the annual award the Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Hero Award.
Dr. Leach, who participated via Skype, expressed his genuine thanks for the honor. “When your peers recognize you, there’s nothing like it,” he told the overflowing crowd in Conference Room C. “And when your peers you love recognize you, it’s got to be the best.”
For more on the award and Dr. Leach, see today’s Herald-Leader.
Board member Kacy Allen-Bryant read the following when presenting the award to Dr. Leach:
The Public Health Hero Award is given each year to a person in Lexington who has worked to improve the community’s health. The award is designed to recognize a person who has shown exemplary leadership and diligence in promoting public health, has made remarkable contributions and support in fostering public health programs and whose work or actions have impacted the community’s health in a positive way.
For 50 years, Dr. Rice Cowan Leach has provided medical and public health services to the United States. His career includes time as an officer in the United States Public Health Service, running hospitals in New Orleans and working with Indian Health Services in the southwest. He served as Kentucky’s Commissioner of Public Health and as the chief of staff to the U.S. Surgeon General.
For the past five years, we have been fortunate to have him in Lexington as our commissioner of health, overseeing the daily operations of our health department. His contributions are too numerous to list – we would be here all night — but we can list two recent successes he was extremely proud of for Lexington: the launch of the city’s first needle-exchange program and the department’s national accreditation by the Public Health Accreditation Board.
In everything he has done, he has epitomized those words you’ve heard him say countless times: “Helping Lexington be well.”
It is very clear: Dr. Rice Leach has served Lexington well.
And now, as he battles his lymphoma and says his goodbyes to this department, this board and this staff he loves so dearly, it is my distinct honor and privilege to make the following motion:
I move that the 2016 Public Health Hero Award be given to Dr. Rice C. Leach in honor of his lifetime of service to medicine and public health, for making the community healthier, for making the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department stronger and for helping Lexington be well.
Further, I move that the name of the Public Health Hero Award be changed henceforth to the Dr. Rice C. Leach Public Health Hero Award so future generations will know what a true public health super hero is.
The following pictures are used with permission from the Lexington Herald-Leader and were taken by photographer Matt Goins. Remember to click on an image to see a larger version.