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Gilbert Friedell Receives the 2010 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award

The NASW Foundation Award Honors Those Who Advance the Public Image of Social Work

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is pleased to name Gilbert Friedell, M.D., as the recipient of the 2010 International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award.

The International Rhoda G. Sarnat Award is given to an individual, group, or organization that has significantly advanced the public image of professional social work. This monetary prize, which includes but is not limited to social workers or social work agencies, is made possible from an endowment fund established by a generous contribution in 1996 from distinguished social worker Rhoda G. Sarnat, LCSW and Bernard Sarnat, MD.

Dr. Friedell is a physician who has devoted his professional career, of more than 60 years, to preventing and treating chronic illness and is renowned for his work in the field of cancer.  He recognizes that social workers are a critical component to the work he seeks to accomplish, and promotes the profession at every opportunity. 

Dr. Friedell has been an unwavering advocate for underserved populations in Kentucky. He developed the Community-Based Research in Eastern Kentucky (CREEK) program to attract talented young people who were interested in health services to study and work in eastern Kentucky. He played a major role in the creation and development of the University of Kentucky School of Social Work campus in Eastern Kentucky.

Dr. Friedell founded the Friedell Committee on Health System Transformation, a grassroots, citizen-based organization whose mission is to improve the health of Kentuckians by promoting an effective, values-based health system, advocating for community action, and measuring the system's performance. In his work with diabetes, Dr. Friedell has implemented the innovative idea of “community encouragers,” or social workers who engage individuals at risk for developing type-2 diabetes, and take steps to prevent or mitigate the disease. His vision is to strengthen the health of the Appalachian region of Kentucky by building the capacity of communities through individual education and research. In a culture that tends to be exceptionally private and wary of unfamiliar professionals, Dr. Friedell knew that recruiting, training, and employing social workers from Appalachia was vital to the success of the program.

Dr. Friedell is a consistent and outspoken advocate for the profession of social work and has opened doors and developed opportunities for social workers in health settings that did not previously exist. He won the NASW-KY Public Citizen of the Year Award in 2010, and the Dorothy I. Height Lifetime Achievement Award from the Intercultural Cancer Council for his significant achievements in addressing the unequal burden of cancer borne by under-represented individuals.

“No one would ever know from Dr. Friedell’s manner that he attended Harvard,” said Judy Jones, interim director of the University of Kentucky Center for Rural Health in Hazard. “He understands the academic mind, but his heart is with the children who aren’t getting a good education, working people who can’t afford insurance and communities who are making cutting-edge innovations, but are ignored because of their location.”

NASW Foundation congratulates Dr. Friedell on his lifetime of good works.

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The National Association of Social Workers Foundation (NASWF) is a charitable organization created to enhance the well-being of individuals, families, and communities through the advancement of social work practice.