Advocacy. Awareness. Access.

[BLOG POST] Honoring Some CalHEP Heroes!

The California Hepatitis Alliance, also known as CalHEP, is a coalition of nearly 100 organizations dedicated to reducing the scope and consequences of hepatitis B and hepatitis C in California.

Every year CalHEP recognizes individuals who have contributed to its mission. This year we were pleased to honor four outstanding individuals on November 11, 2017.

(from L to R: Brandie Wilson, Katie Burk, Emalie Huriaux, Annie Luetkemeyer, Christian Ramers)

First, the Sherri Ziegler Community Service Award. Sherry R. Ziegler worked tirelessly to advocate in Sacramento and Washington, DC for those with hepatitis B and C in need of support and services, especially in rural northern California, and she was a co-founder of CalHEP. The award in her name is presented to an individual who has exhibited outstanding leadership in addressing viral hepatitis in California through advocacy, education, and/or direct services.

This year’s awardee, Brandie Wilson, is the founder and director of the Humboldt Area Center for Harm Reduction, which provides syringe access and disposal services, as well as other services to meet the needs of people who use drugs. Through engagement with program volunteers and peers, and identifying leadership qualities among these networks, Ms. Wilson promotes leadership as part of a strategy to interrupt the spread of hepatitis C. She has managed to develop a thriving organization serving some of Humboldt County’s most marginalized and stigmatized residents, despite threats from neighbors and local politicians.

Next, the Clinical Champion Award. This award is presented to a healthcare provider who has exhibited outstanding leadership in addressing viral hepatitis in California through the provision of clinical services and advocacy on behalf of their patients/clients.

This year we had two nominees that rose to the top and they are both so outstanding that the awards selection committee could not choose between them and decided to have co-awardees, Drs. Annie Luetkemeyer and Christian Ramers. Both are passionate physicians, researchers, and educators working to improve the response to viral hepatitis in California and beyond.

Dr. Luetkemeyer is an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of California San Francisco and clinician at the Positive Health Program at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, where she has treated and cured hepatitis C in hundreds of patients living with HIV because she knew they would not get access to treatment if she did not treat them herself. Dr. Luetkemeyer was a driving force in the creation of End Hep C SF, the first citywide initiative to eliminate hepatitis C in the United States.

In his role as Assistant Medical Director for Research & Special Populations, Dr. Ramers is the primary provider of hepatitis and HIV services at Family Health Centers of San Diego. Dr. Ramers championed development of a robust hepatitis C treatment program. He implemented rapid hepatitis C point-of-care testing and linkages to care in several of Family Health Centers’ 23 clinic sites and at 70 substance use treatment programs. Through his direct leadership, hundreds of Family Health Centers’ patients have successfully completed hepatitis C treatment and been cured.

Lastly, the Government Champion Award. This award is presented to someone working in federal, state, or local government who has exhibited outstanding leadership in addressing viral hepatitis in California.

This year’s recipient, Katie Burk, is the Viral Hepatitis Coordinator at the San Francisco Department of Public Health. Katie has taken a leadership role to help expand the Department’s response to hepatitis C. She is a co-founder of End Hep C SF, the first hepatitis C elimination initiative in any U.S. city. She created the first robust hepatitis C testing and linkage to care programs in San Francisco; worked with community partner Glide to launch the “New Treatments Have Changed the Game” hepatitis C social marketing campaign; supported primary care provider leaders to launch the Department’s initiative to treat hepatitis C in primary care; sits on the Governing Council of SF Hep B Free, and more. Her efforts within local government are a model for other jurisdictions working to address viral hepatitis.