2020 Community Champion Award

Amal E. Awad, School of Education, 2011, 2012


Amal Awad has led a successful 27-year career in law enforcement, culminating in her appointment as the first African American, first female and first LGBTQ police chief in the 134-year history of the City of Hyattsville Police Department. Amal began her career in law enforcement in 1990 as a Prince George’s County police officer, retiring at the rank of major in 2013. She served as chief of staff to the chief of police for the Anne Arundel County Police Department from 2013 through 2014. She joined the City of Hyattsville Police Department in 2017 and was appointed chief of police in December of 2018.  Under Amal’s leadership, this force of 46 officers patrol a rapidly growing and changing city outside of Washington, D.C. She has initiated a check-in program for senior citizens, wherein a police officer regularly stops by the homes of seniors; her recruitment team has increased diversity within the ranks more reflective of the community; she is working to strengthen relations with the immigrant community in Hyattsville, a sanctuary city; and most recently, her team partnered with a local research and development nonprofit to develop and implement decontamination processes, establishing a police equipment decontamination station to help mitigate the transmission of COVID-19, thereby safeguarding her officers, their families and the community.


Renee Blanding, School of Medicine Faculty


As a young child, Renee Blanding cherished her visits to the one-room library in Camden, South Carolina. The VP of medical affairs for Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Blanding is taking her "lifelong love" of reading into the classrooms of neighborhood elementary schools in East Baltimore as part of the Readership to Leadership literacy program she launched in 2013. She works closely with the schools’ teachers and community liaisons as well as colleagues from Bayview. The program also involves "reading bees." The students initially would take home books from the community book bank, but now Blanding purchases the books for the children in grades two to six to read during the winter and spring breaks. She and her colleagues follow up with the children to discuss the books, and they celebrate their success with an awards ceremony, trophy presentations, and pizza parties. "It's a magical time," she says.  Blanding and her colleagues also organized a spelling bee at the Henderson-Hopkins School, and she hopes to expand the program to Highlandtown and John Ruhrah elementary schools. Blanding says she would like to enrich the program with group mentoring and more staff volunteerism, but for now she is focused on increasing the involvement at the existing schools, which she calls "chapters." Her goal is to add an additional chapter each year.


Lucia Diaz, School of Nursing, 2006, 2009


Lucia Diaz, MSN, ANP-BC, CUNP embraced her role in 2009 as the only female urology Nurse Practitioner at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. She brought a holistic view of healthcare that changed patient care at one of the most diversely underserved areas in the nation. Her outstanding skills as a clinician embody Johns Hopkins School of Nursing mission of improving the health of individuals and diverse communities through excellence in education, practice, and service.  In a place where health illiteracy is prevalent, Lucia has empowered many patients to take control of their health. She advocates and develops culturally sensitive patient education material in both English and Spanish that help improve outcomes and adherence. It is not uncommon for her to see patients, who have never before seen any practice, with very advanced disease. Lucia finds it imperative to properly educate patients on both their urological and primary care issues at their first encounter so they can understand how all presenting issues are directly correlated to their diabetes.



Phyllis Sharps, School of Nursing Faculty


Dr. Phyllis Sharps and her work with the Center for Community Innovations and Scholarship (CCIAS) is unprecedented in the city of Baltimore. Under her leadership, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing has partnered with community organizations throughout Baltimore to provide clinical support for health promotion and capacity building for community health, while engaging students in clinical activities that deepen their appreciation for the specialty of community health nursing. The CCAIS has provided significant and sustained health promotion activities across the lifespan to Baltimore residents, and has engaged both the Johns Hopkins Schools of Public Health and Medicine in inter-professional initiatives in the community.  Programs such as Birth Companions, Community Outreach Program, and East Baltimore Community Nursing Centers have become an essential component of the health of Baltimore residents. The most recent addition – Henderson Hopkins School and Weinberg Early Childhood Center – involves a unique partnership between Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the Baltimore City Public School System to promote health in the children of families from underserved populations in Baltimore. Under Dr. Sharps’ leadership, students who have engaged in service-learning projects have learned first-hand about social determinants of health and the value of advocacy in assisting families to access much needed health care services.



Lorrel Toft, School of Medicine 2007


Dr. Toft graduated from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 2007 and completed her Internal Medicine residency(‘10), Chief Residency (’11-’12), and Cardiology fellowship (’14) at Johns Hopkins before joining the University of Louisville faculty. As Director of the Cardiac ICU, she treated countless patients who suffered cardiac arrest, but because they did NOT receive bystander CPR, were alive but neurologically devastated. Motivated to improve this reality, she began teaching CPR to the public. Partnering with the Start The Heart Foundation™, Dr. Toft designed an easy to understand 5-minute CPR training method, which she deployed first at the Kentucky State Fair, and then at local sporting events. This “Alive in 5” campaign taught thousands of people CPR, increased awareness to learn for over 3 million, and her scholarly research on this method was awarded the 2016 American College of Cardiology Young Investigator Award. Further motivated by state laws requiring CPR training in high schools, Dr. Toft developed another novel method of CPR training designed specifically for the high school classroom, called “HEART CLASS” (www.Heart-Class.com). Rigorous study showed that this interactive, realistic, film-based training method teaches CPR far better than standard training. HEART CLASS targets resource-poor schools where CPR trainers are not readily available and will soon be implemented in schools across! The U.S., in Appalachia (Western KY), Alaska, and Florida. Dr. Toft’s efforts have changed the outcomes and hopes of her entire community.