Dr. R. Jerome Williams Jr. said one of the most rewarding parts of his career was when he had family members of patients also become patients. “Meeting family members motivated me to continue waking up and going back to the practice,” he said during the virtual St. Louis Foundation’s 21st Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards on July 29. Williams was the recipient of the Lifetime Achiever in Health Care Award. 


Photo by James LaBine | The St. Louis American

The St. Louis American Foundation’s 21st Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards aired as a free virtual event on Thursday, July 29.

The program started with condolences to the families of the late state Rep. Betty Thompson, Dr. Henry Givens, Jr., and St. Louis County Councilwoman Hazel Erby. The program was dedicated to their legacy of service. 

Dr. Denise Hooks-Anderson, medical accuracy editor of The St. Louis American, introduced the program host, KMOX News Anchor Carol Daniel. Daniel welcomed online viewers and spoke about health care workers on the front lines of the pandemic.

“Our doctors, nurses, transporters, technicians, EMTs, pharmacists, and others who support patient care, have risen to the challenge of caring for our most vulnerable populations across the metro region and in communities where racial disparities in health care have never been more glaring; they deserve our deepest respect and gratitude for their dedicated service,” Daniel said.

Dr. R. Jerome Williams, Jr. received the Lifetime Achiever in Health Care Award for his work over the span of four decades making sure St. Louis and St. Louis County residents have access to quality healthcare. He also paved the way for others to become medical professionals. Williams retired from private practice in July after successfully carrying on the family legacy as physicians started by his grandfather and continued by his father. 

“It was very, very rewarding when I had family members of patients then also become patients,” Williams said.

“I would look forward to waking up, initiating those relationships and continuing those relationships. Meeting family members motivated me to continue waking up and going back to the practice.” 

Williams noticed how women were not getting mammograms, so he and his practice partnered with Siteman to bring mammograms to his patients through a van that comes three times a year. 

Kendra Holmes, Pharm. D., was recipient of the Stellar Performer in Health Care Award. She serves as vice president and chief operating officer at Affinia Healthcare, which established five COVID testing sites in St. Louis and St. Louis County to test more than 29,000 residents. Holmes has now turned to administering the COVID vaccine and addressing vaccine hesitancy in the community.

“There was limited testing available at the beginning of the pandemic, so Affinia Healthcare stepped up to provide those services and I served as the lead for the testing efforts,” Holmes said. 

Dr. Daniel Mamah received the Dr. John M. Anderson Excellence in Mental Health Award. 

“In the past, I have been involved in mental health advocacy which for me has been very rewarding,” Mamah said.

“I have sat on the American Psychiatric Association and Mental Health America; these things provide the opportunity for me to try to implement policy.”

The St. Louis County Children’s Service Fund sponsored the Excellence in Mental Health Award, which is named in honor of the late psychiatrist Dr. John M. Anderson. 

Mamah is an associate professor at Washington University, founder and president of the Missouri Psychiatric Association, Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and director of the Washington Early Recognition Center, which provides free mental health care services. 

This year, community-based gastroenterologist and hepatologist Dr. Damon Clines, Blottie Ussery, RN, Carlita Vasser, director of nursing and CEO of At Home Care, and Dara Webb, executive director of quality and care management at Mercy Clinic received 2021 Excellence in Health care awards.

These awards recognize individuals for outstanding and transformative work in their respective healthcare fields. 

The Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis received the Health Advocacy Organization of the Year award. During the ongoing pandemic, the Urban League became a source that thousands of St. Louisans turned to for medical necessities as well as personal protective equipment (PPE) and housing needs. 

“When COVID first happened and society shut down across this region, nation and the world, we had to make a decision as an agency what we were going to do and how we were going to respond to this crisis,” Michael McMillan, president of the Urban League, said.

“And literally because we were born out of a crisis, in the form of the East St. Louis Race Massacre that really founded the Urban League, we found that we needed to go in and do as much as we could, for as many people as we could, for as long as we could, in a way that we never have before, while keeping our staff and clients safe.”

The Urban League held PPE drives for 20 weeks in addition to holding 30 large-scale events for months to hand out supplies to serve 125,000 families in the region. 

Notable sponsors included lead sponsor Centene Charitable Foundation, Affinia Healthcare, A.T. Still University, Mercy, Vincent’s Jewelers and the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis. 

“We share the St. Louis American Foundation’s belief in the importance of recognizing dedicated Black health care professionals for their exemplary performance and invaluable work,” Keith Williamson, president of Centene Charitable Foundation, said.

“The challenges these professionals have faced in light of the pandemic make their achievements even more inspirational as they worked to provide testing, vaccinations, and other life-saving care in our hardest-hit communities.”

Proceeds of the Foundation’s Salute to Excellence events benefit education programs and scholarships for high-potential, local students of color. In 2020, the Foundation and its partners awarded more than $2.5 million in scholarships to African-American students, with a total of more than $9 million donated in the St. Louis area since its inception in 1994.

21st Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards:

The St. Louis American Foundation’s 21st Annual Salute to Excellence in Health Care Awards was celebrated as a free virtual event on Thursday, July 29 at 7 pm.