Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award


Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award

The Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award is presented annually to recognize individuals, groups, or organizations who are unconventional public health heroes. The award honors Lou Wooster, a 19th century Birmingham madam who risked her life to care for the sick and dying during the 1873 cholera epidemic and who helped ensure the city's survival. 


2017 Public Health Hero

Joyce White Vance, JD

The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health honors United States Attorney Joyce White Vance as the 2017 recipient of the Lou Wooster Public Health Hero award for her leadership in creating a broad-based response to the heroin epidemic in northern Alabama.

The UAB School of Public Health announced today that its advisory board, the Broad Street Committee, has selected Vance for the award, which is presented annually to recognize an individual, group or organization that is an unconventional public health hero.

"Vance was selected for her leadership in comprehensively addressing the heroin epidemic in metropolitan Birmingham and elsewhere across the state," said Max Michael, III, M.D., dean of the UAB School of Public Health. "Vance joins uncommon public health heroes, selected because their work falls outside the traditional boundaries of public health, yet has a great impact on the public's health."

When few recognized the emerging epidemic of heroin- and opioid-related deaths, Vance, in her role as U.S. attorney, convened the first "Pills to Needles Summit" in June 2014 that overnight galvanized community leaders around this new public health threat. Through her leadership and determination, she established a new paradigm to address this threat to the public's health that linked law enforcement, government, academia, public health, victims and advocates. Together these institutions, organizations and individuals have worked a long-term strategy that recognizes the complexities of this epidemic, and is sufficiently flexible to adjust to anticipated but unknown changes in the substances, the populations and the distributors.

Vance was one of the first five U.S. attorneys nominated by President Barack Obama. The Senate confirmed her nomination Aug. 7, 2009. Vance served from 2009 to 2011 on the Attorney General's Advisory Committee, where she helped to craft Justice Department policy. She presently co-chairs the AGAC's Criminal Practice Subcommittee and serves on the Civil Rights Subcommittee.


Dr. Vance will be honored on Thursday, April 6, 2017 at 8:00 am, Hill Student Center Ballroom.

Previous Winners

  • State Representative Patricia Todd (2007)
  • Dr. Herman Taylor, Director of the Jackson Heart Study (2008)
  • Mr. John Archibald, columnist and social commentator with the Birmingham News (2009)
  • American Electric Power (2010)
  • Frank Stitt, executive chef of fine local dining establishments such as Highlands Bar & Grill, Chez Fonfon, and Bottega Restaurant (2011)
  • VF Corporation (2012)  
  • Birmingham City Council (2013)
  • Cooking Light Magazine (2014)
  • Angelou Ezeilo, CEO and Founder of the Greening Youth Foundation in Atlanta (2015)
  • Black People Run, Bike and Swim (2016)