APHA Disability Section 2013 Lifetime Achievement Award Recipient: George S. Jesien, PhD

October 8, 2013

Each year the American Public Health Association Disability Section honors those who have made significant contributions to the field of disability within the context of public health. The Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to a person who, over the course of his or her career, has made a major contribution to the improvement of health and quality of life for people with disabilities through research, teaching, or advocacy. Past award winners have been nationally and/or internationally recognized as major contributors to the disability and public health fields. This year, the Disability Section recognizes Dr. George Jesien.

Dr. Jesien has devoted his career to the development, implementation and evaluation of programs and policies designed to improve health and educational outcomes and quality of life of persons with disabilities.  Beginning his career with training in educational psychology, Dr. Jesien worked in the field of early intervention at the local level. Over time he gained experience both internationally and at the state and national levels as a grant writer and manager for a variety of projects in the field of early childhood. This led him to seek doctoral level training, culminating in a PhD in human development from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1994. Dr. Jesien led the early intervention program at the Waisman Center, University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) at the University of Wisconsin from 1989-97, and in this capacity greatly strengthened to breadth and depth of programmatic activities there. In 1997, he became executive director of the Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. Foundation, and his experience there together with his background made him an ideal choice to become the executive director of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities (AUCD) in 1999.

Dr. Jesien has transformed AUCD into one of the vital voices for research, education and advocacy for persons and families with disabilities in the United States today. His leadership has resulted in greater integration of university-based programs for research, education and training in the field of disabilities, and especially developmental disabilities, as well as increased funding and greater awareness of the role of these activities among state and federal policy makers. He played a critical role in the enactment of the Combatting Autism Act and took a leadership role in the formation of the Friends of the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (formerly known as the External Partners Group), serving as its chair for two years and as an ex officio member of the executive committee for several years thereafter.

Dr. Jesien is an established expert in disabilities and a known leader in the field. Since 2002 he has collaborated with the Centers for Disease Prevention and Control/National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities on several cooperative agreements. He has also served as PI on grants and contracts from the Heath Resources and Services Administration/Maternal and Child Health Bureau, The Administration on Developmental Disabilities and the Social Security Agency to conduct research and evaluation initiatives and technical assistance projects. Dr. Jesien has traveled extensively, providing technical assistance on disability related issues to programs and universities in Europe, North and South America, Asia and the Mid-East.

The award will be presented at a ceremony during the 2013 APHA Conference.