Ohio State is honoring Dr. Amy Acton as their 2020 Alumni Medalist Award winner at a virtual ceremony tonight. The Ohio State University Alumni Association describes it as the single highest honor they can bestow.
“It is presented to alumni who have gained national or international distinction as outstanding representatives of their chosen fields or professions, bringing extraordinary credit to the university and significant benefit to humankind,” says their website.
Acton was the director of the Ohio Department of Health and contributed significantly in the early stages of the COVID-19 epidemic. Gov. Mike DeWine has credited her advice with saving lives.
“Her knowledge of and her passion for public health helped position us as well as we could be as we faced the early stages of COVID-19,” DeWine said at a press conference announcing her departure from the job. “Her wealth of knowledge as well as her calming bedside manner helped many Ohioans.”
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When Acton stepped down as Ohio’s top health official, she accepted a position at The Columbus Foundation as the Director of Kind Columbus, an initiative to spread acts and words of kindness throughout central Ohio.
The Ohio State Alumni Association notes that Acton developed her sense of empathy early on and used her personal experience to drive a passion to help others.
“Raised in Youngstown, Ohio, she was 3 when her parents divorced and her mother took custody of her and her brother. She lived in 18 different places in a 12-year period, including in a tent one winter, before eventually going to stay with her dad and his relatives,” the organization said in a release.
Acton went on to graduate with a Master of Public Health degree from Ohio State in 1996, but she also taught sporadically at the school over a period of 17 years.
In a response to the news of the award, Acton told the alumni association, “I am beyond grateful and humbled by this tremendous honor, and I feel it only right to share that my work serving on behalf of this honorable governor and our citizens would never have been possible without the support of my outstanding colleagues at Ohio State and the inspiration of the many global health students I had the great fortune of knowing over the years.”