The Georgia Medical Society (GMS) recently named the 2018 Health Care Heroes and two Coastal Health District team members were among those recognized. Debbie Hagins, M.D., was presented the Health Care Innovation Award, and Cristina Gibson – along with her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn – was presented the Community Outreach Award. A total of six awards are given annually in recognition of contributions made by individuals and organizations that “have helped enrich the length, the joy, and the comfort of the lives of the citizens.”
Health Care Innovation Award
The GMS Health Care Innovation Award was given to Debbie Hagins, M.D., medical director and principal investigator for the Coastal Health District CARE Centers which provide comprehensive outpatient primary care (including nutritional services and oral health) and case management to persons with HIV/AIDS. The Coastal Health District Ryan White HIV program serves an eight-county geographic region and has the highest HIV incidence outside of the metro Atlanta area.
Twelve years ago, Dr. Hagins helped spearhead the effort to bring HIV clinical trials to the Coastal Health District. The trials provide medication for individuals who otherwise may have never had access to research and that research will help determine what drugs will work best in treating HIV. Since 2006, she has served as Principal Investigator for 46 trials related to HIV care with a special focus on enrolling and maintaining two groups that have been historically overlooked or excluded: minority and female patients.
Dr. Hagins’ hard work in the area of clinical trials has garnered local, state, and national attention bringing to light the important efforts being put forward in public health regarding HIV medication research and treatment. Her exceptional performance in providing comprehensive primary care to HIV patients and as Principal Investigator for numerous clinical trials has resulted in her participation as a key note speaker at several national meetings and she recently shared her expertise for an article in MD Magazine. She has co-authored many publications, abstracts and posters (several on the international stage).
Dr. Hagins is highly respected in her field and is an excellent representative for public health and a strong advocate for providing comprehensive health care to underserved populations, especially those living with HIV. She achieved and has maintained certification as an HIV Specialist from the American Academy of HIV Medicine and was named a Fellow of the Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research (FAPCR). The FAPCR designation is reserved for Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research members who have shown significant commitment to, and achievement in, clinical research.
Community Outreach Award
The GMS Community Outreach Award was given to Coastal Health District Chronic Disease Prevention Director, Cristina Gibson, her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn. As a dedicated public health employee and head of the Chronic Disease Prevention program for our eight-county health district, Cristina is very attuned to the public health-related issues facing our citizens – particularly when it comes to health disparities – and has always looked for ways to help narrow the gap. A couple of years ago when Cristina’s son Jonathan and his classmate Ilya were trying to come up with a community outreach event as a class assignment, the three brainstormed and created Everybody Eats Fresh FREE Fridays (E2F3).
E2F3 is a produce- and bread-only distribution program that provides access to healthy foods to residents in need, primarily on Savannah’s southside. The distribution takes place in a local church parking lot which gives it somewhat of a farmers market feel. To make this happen, Cristina, Jonathan, and Ilya partnered with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank to relieve the Food Bank of healthy foods that might otherwise be thrown out. Through its partnership with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank, E2F3 has been able to distribute an average of 12 tons of produce each year – tons of produce that would have otherwise been thrown away because of spoilage. During each event E2F3 is serving an average of 70 families and about 283 individuals (a majority of these being children and seniors).
E2F3 serves those who are in the middle – they don’t quite qualify for government assistance but their income may not be enough to cover all necessities and often, food is an easier sacrifice than rent. E2F3 has been so successful that three additional sites are now running in the Savannah area. With the addition of the partner sites, E2F3 is able to provide even more Savannahians with healthy food that may give them a reprieve from worrying about where their next meals are coming from and allow them to redirect their dollars towards paying an electricity bill or paying down a medical bill.