Nominations for the 2024 Leadership in Advocacy Award are now closed. 

The purpose of the ACAP Leadership in Advocacy Award is to enable our plans to show appreciation for their local safety net health care advocates. The Leadership in Advocacy Award will be given to an individual who has partnered or collaborated with an ACAP plan  and whose efforts on behalf of enrollees in Medicaid, Medicare Duals programs, CHIP, Marketplaces, and other safety net programs clearly exceed the norm. Nominees can include, but are not limited to individuals (e.g., leader of a community coalition) who have clearly benefited the safety net by engaging in advocacy, leaders in local health departments, or clinicians who advocate for individual patients, or advocate for the programs as a whole. There is no specific requirement that the advocacy relate to managed care. Previous nominees may be re-nominated, provided they have not won the award in a prior year. More information here.

The winner of the Leadership in Advocacy Award will receive a plaque, a donation to a charity in their name, and will be asked to join us for an in-person award ceremony during our Fly-In in Washington, D.C on February 7, 2024. The winner will also be highlighted in a future ACAP newsletter. All nominees, at the plan’s discretion, are invited to attend ACAP’s CEO Summit, held here in Washington, D.C. in October.

For more information about the award, please contact Madalyn News.

2024 Honoree: Dr. Judy Mohr Peterson, of Hawaiʻi Medicaid (Med-QUEST)

ACAP named Dr. Judy Mohr Peterson, PhD, Med-QUEST Division Administrator of the Hawaii Department of Human Services, the winner of our twelfth annual Leadership in Advocacy award.

Dr. Mohr Peterson has been recognized as an outstanding leader in advocating for Medicaid beneficiaries, both within Hawaiʻi and on a national scale. As the leader of Hawaiʻi’s Medicaid program, Dr. Mohr Peterson’s efforts are notable locally and nationally, with her advocacy leading to policy initiatives that positively affect the lives of more than 450,000 Hawaiʻi residents. Here are some key highlights of her accomplishments:

  • Dr. Mohr Peterson played a pivotal role in restoring dental benefits for adult Medicaid recipients in Hawaii which has significantly enhanced the quality of healthcare. Her collaborative work with Hawaiʻi’s Oral Health Coalition, of which AlohaCare is a member, led to the Hawaiʻi legislature approving $8.8 million in state funding with a $17.12 million federal match to support the expansion of preventative and restorative dental coverage beyond emergency use.
  • In partnership with community stakeholders, Dr. Mohr Peterson has been an ardent supporter of establishing community-based palliative care as a Medicaid-covered benefit. For more than two years, Dr. Mohr Peterson has worked with CMS to include these services to improve health equity, access to care, and quality of life for people with serious illnesses across Hawaiʻi.


2023 Honoree: Dr. Mohammad Dar, of Massachusetts Medicaid (MassHealth)

ACAP named Dr. Mohammad Dar, Senior Medical Director of Massachusetts Medicaid (MassHealth) and chair of the National Medicaid Medical Directors Network, the winner of our eleventh annual Leadership in Advocacy award.  

Dr. Dar helped to establish the country’s first statewide in-home vaccination program for Massachusetts residents. He advocated to ensure that the state’s COVID-19 vaccination program expressly accounted for the needs of an often overlooked and hidden population: people who are largely homebound. 

Under Dr. Dar’s leadership, Massachusetts:  

  • Formed a partnership with Commonwealth Care Alliance, who worked with the state to run logistics and administer in-home vaccinations for all homebound individuals as a part of The Massachusetts In-Home Vaccination Program. 
  • Vaccinated more than 10,000 individuals in their homes who otherwise would have been unable to visit a site to get the vaccine. Many of these individuals faced a disproportionate risk of adverse outcomes from COVID-19 owing to not just their underlying health status, but also their need for regular care from caregivers entering the home. 


2022 Honoree: Mary Anne Foo of the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) 

Ms. Foo founded the Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance (OCAPICA) in 1997 to focus research, advocacy and education around issues of health within Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. Under Ms. Foo’s leadership, the organization has grown to respond to a wider spectrum of needs of AAPI and other underserved communities, including taking an active role in legislative education and advocacy.  

As a childhood victim of racial hate, Ms. Foo knows firsthand the work that needs to be done to address systemic disparities in health care and social services. OCAPICA addresses health disparities among individual ethnic groups, such as high rates of cervical cancer and low rates of breast cancer screenings among Vietnamese women. The organization helps to break down social stigmas associated with screening and eases access to care by offering transportation, childcare, medical interpretation and waiting room education. 

Under Ms. Foo’s leadership, OCAPICA:  

  • Received a state grant of $100 million over 10 years to respond to mental health needs in the API community. Through its new Project Hope, OCAPICA is working closely with school districts, CalOptima, and other local organizations on outreach and advocacy efforts to address youth mental health in educational settings. 
  • Received funds from the All of Us Research Program, sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, to increase the use of precision medicine and encourage more diverse communities to participate in medical studies and trials. 
  • Led a groundbreaking effort with CalOptima and the Children’s Hospital of Orange County to conduct studies in school districts with high numbers of Vietnamese youth, which revealed high rates of asthma among Vietnamese youth compared to their peers.   

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2021 Honoree: Cecilia Gentili, Trans Equity Consulting

Ms. Gentili founded Trans Equity Consulting in 2019 to improve education and advocacy for the transgender, gender non-conforming and non-binary community, focusing especially on trans women of color, sex workers, and people with substance use disorders. She previously served as the Director of Policy at GMHC, the world’s leading provider of HIV/AIDS care, and with New York City’s LGBT Center.

Ms. Gentili’s extensive list of public policy achievements and advocacy for the LGBT community includes:

  • Founded Decrim NY and successfully lobbied for statewide legislation to provide survivors of trafficking with record relief, and to end the criminalization of ‘loitering’ – a charge overwhelmingly leveled against transgender women, regardless of their involvement in sex work.
  • Fought for passage of the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA), which prohibits discrimination based on gender identity or expression in employment, housing, places of public accommodation, and non-religious schools. As the Board Co-Chair of the NEW Pride Agenda, her efforts led Governor Andrew Cuomo to mandate GENDA training for all 340,000 New York State employees—the first state in the nation to do so.
  • Brought a lawsuit against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services after the Trump administration erased provisions in the Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act prohibiting sex discrimination against gay and transgender patients.
  • Expanded access to community health services for transgender people, including helping a local community health center grow from 27 patients in 2012 to 500 in 2016.


2020 Honoree: C. Virginia Fields, National Black Leadership Commission on Health 

Ms. Fields has demonstrated a fierce commitment to improving the lives of New Yorkers—especially New Yorkers with low incomes. She began her service to the city as a Social Service Administrator for the city’s Work Release Program before becoming the Director of Foster Care and Adoption at the Children’s Aid Society and a Consultant to the National Board of the YWCA. She has also served the public as a member of the New York City Council and as Manhattan Borough President.

Ms. Fields has fought to improve access to health care for people living in marginalized communities, especially for people who live with HIV/AIDS. Since 2008, she has served as the CEO of the National Black Leadership Commission on Health, connecting thousands of organizations and institutions through community development, training, public policy, and advocacy.

Under Ms. Field’s leadership, NBLCH has:

  • Raised billions in federal funding for HIV/AIDS and public health-related direct service organizations serving Black communities.
  • Created the National Black Men and HIV/AIDS Initiative, which focuses on prevention, treatment and care-related policy needs of Black men affected by HIV/AIDS.
  • Launched the National & New York Statewide Community Mobilization Initiative, which addresses health disparities in Black communities and works to implement related public health policies.
  • Started the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Initiative, a partnership with Bennett College, to combat the rise of HIV/AIDS on Black college campuses.

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2019 Honoree: Robert Restuccia, Community Catalyst, nominated by Commonwealth Care Alliance

Under Mr. Restuccia’s leadership, Community Catalyst built a track record of working with national, state and local partners to achieve health care reforms at the national level and in more than 40 states. Community Catalyst led successful national campaigns to expand children’s health coverage, curb conflicts of interests created by pharmaceutical marketing, protect consumer interests in hospital and insurer conversions, strengthen hospital community benefits and protect Medicaid from federal and state budget cuts.

Mr. Restuccia is a renowned advocate for access to effective, equitable, affordable care. Throughout his career, Mr. Restuccia has fought for the right to high-quality, affordable health care for marginalized and vulnerable populations, including low-income individuals, people of color, immigrants, women, LGBTQ individuals, and individuals with disabilities and substance use disorders. He was one of the founders of Health Care For All in Massachusetts and became its Executive Director in 1989, leading numerous effective campaigns to expand Massachusetts residents’ health coverage.

Mr. Restuccia successfully:

  • Generated $40 million in philanthropic funding to support the state and local consumer organizations working to achieve health reforms at the state and federal level.
  • Expanded the health advocacy movement to more than 40 states across the country plus incubated consumer health advocacy organizations in Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah.
  • Advised on the development of Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA), a healthcare organization in Massachusetts that serves over 30,000 low-income adults with complicated health care needs.
  • Worked with six states in 2012 to launch Dual Eligible Demonstration Programs, which seek to create seamless service delivery experiences for dual eligible beneficiaries.

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2018 Honoree: Julius Kolawole, African Alliance of Rhode Island, nominated by NHPRI

Julius Kolawole, President and co-founder of African Alliance of Rhode Island (AARI), as well as co-founder and board member of Oasis International, won ACAP’s 2018 Leadership in Advocacy Award.

As a Nigeran immigrant, Mr. Kolawole saw the obstacles that African refugees faced in the U.S. with health and well-being, which is why he founded AARI in 2004. The organization aims to aid vulnerable refugees using outreach, education, economic opportunities and healthcare access, while building a community within the African population. They offer social activities such as hosting community soccer games, encourage preventive care, educate members on healthy diet habits and partner with local community organizations.

Through AARI, Mr. Kolawole also built six community gardens. African immigrants run these gardens that produce fresh crops unique to Africa. These gardens, besides providing rich nourishment and economic opportunities, also serve as a haven for immigrants to come together and interact with one another.

Kolawole also puts on AARI’s Annual African Health Summit, which connects low-income and immigrant communities with health care providers, advocates and community leaders. During this free summit, oftentimes immigrants find out their qualification for benefits and services such as Medicaid.

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2017 Honoree: Deborah Frank, Grow Clinic for Children, nominated by BMC HealthNet Plan

Deborah Frank, a physician at Boston Medical Center (BMC) and director of the hospital’s Grow Clinic for Children, received the 2017 Leadership in Advocacy Award for her work at the Grow Clinic.

The Grow Clinic is an outpatient clinic that provides medical, nutritional, developmental, and dietary assistance, in addition to social services to children diagnosed with Failure to Thrive (FTT). These young patients do not meet healthy height and weight standards, making them vulnerable to learning and emotional disorders, delayed or impaired language and motor skills, serious illnesses and long-lasting growth failure.

Frank established the Grow Clinic in 1984, while she worked as a pediatrician at the Boston City Hospital (now BMC), caring for a disproportionate number of children suffering from malnourishment and food insecurity. The Grow Clinic’s patients are the most vulnerable in the state but they see vast improvements during their time at the clinic. In fact, 80 percent show substantial weight improvement.  Since the clinic’s founding in 1984, 1,650 children who with FTT thrived because of the clinic’s efforts.

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2016 Honoree: Charles King, Housing Works, nominated by Amida Care

ACAP presented Charles King, President and Chief Executive Officer of Housing Works, Inc., with its 2016 Leadership in Advocacy Award. Housing Works is an organization dedicated to ending the dual crises of homelessness and AIDS through relentless advocacy, the provision of lifesaving services, and entrepreneurial businesses that sustain its efforts.

Mr. King co-founded Housing Works in 1990 to serve the thousands of homeless people in New York City who were living with HIV/AIDS at the time. Since then, Housing Works has become the largest community-based and minority-controlled HIV/AIDS service organization in the United States. HousingWorks has served more than 20,000 homeless and low-income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS and currently serves over 5,000 people each year.

Mr. King is a pioneering HIV/AIDS activist of national stature: Since 2004, he has chaired the Visioning Task Force of the National AIDS Housing Coalition, which has hosted seven national and international research and policy summits on housing and HIV/AIDS. He was also a founding convener of the Campaign to End AIDS, a platform for grassroots AIDS activism across the U.S. King is on the governing body of UNAIDS as a member of the NGO Delegation to the Programme Coordinating Board, and he recently served as Community Co-chair of the New York State Ending the Epidemic Task Force to End the AIDS Epidemic in New York State by 2020, which developed the Blueprint for reducing the number of new HIV infections in the state from 3,000 to under 750 per year by 2020.

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2015 Honoree: Laval Miller-Wilson, Pennsylvania Health Law Project, nominated by UPMC for You

ACAP named Laval Miller-Wilson, Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Health Law Project, the winner of its 2015 Leadership in Advocacy Award. A non-profit law firm with offices in Philadelphia, Harrisburg and Pittsburgh, PHLP provides free legal services and advocacy to Pennsylvanians that have trouble accessing publicly administered health coverage or services.

Mr. Miller-Wilson, who has served as PHLP’s Executive Director since 2009, was recognized for his work with health care stakeholders—including providers, insurers, government officials, and consumers—to make Pennsylvania’s Medicaid program and services more accessible.


2014 Honoree: Dennis Heaphy, Disability Policy Consortium, nominated by Commonwealth Care Alliance

ACAP honored Dennis Heaphy, a health care analyst for the Disability Policy Consortium in Massachusetts and co-chair of Disability Advocates Advancing our Healthcare Rights with 2014 Leadership in Advocacy Award. Mr. Heaphy was recognized for his efforts to assure key consumer protections for persons with disabilities as aspects of the Affordable Care Act were implemented, including demonstration projects designed to serve persons dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid.

Mr. Heaphy was cited for his leadership role in advocating for improvements to care for individuals living with disabilities through the design of the One Care “duals demonstration” program in Massachusetts. Among the consumer protections arising from Mr. Heaphy’s advocacy are the establishment of a coordinator for independent living long-term supports and services to help medical providers understand the role of non-medical care in overall health and an implementation council comprising a wide range of stakeholders—including persons with disabilities—to monitor the implementation of the OneCare program.

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2013 Honoree: Tricia Berke Vinson, Health Consumer Center, nominated by Health Plan of San Mateo

ACAP honored Tricia Berke Vinson, Directing Attorney of the Health Consumer Center for the Legal Aid Society of San Mateo (Calif.) County, with the organization’s first Leadership in Advocacy Award. Ms. Vinson was recognized for her efforts to help low-income residents of San Mateo County overcome barriers to health care and for her staunch advocacy at the state and local level for policies that improve access to health care for vulnerable populations. The award was presented today at a Washington gathering of ACAP-member plan public policy staff. The award recognizes an individual whose work goes beyond the norm and makes a significant difference in the safety net environment.

In addition to serving hundreds of San Mateo County residents in 2012 to help resolve issues related to eligibility, billing, Medicare savings programs and related issues, Ms. Vinson was recognized for her efforts to alleviate the the burden of Medi-Cal cost sharing. She created a monthly Share of Cost Clinic staffed by a team of pro bono volunteer attorneys from Facebook and Fenwick & West, a nearby law firm. These private attorneys work with Legal Aid attorneys to advise seniors and disabled adults about reducing or eliminating their Medi-Cal share of cost in order to access health services. These clinics have resulted in hundreds of beneficiaries gaining full access to Medicaid services.

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