May 20, 2009
UI names two recipients of Brody Award for Faculty Excellence
The University of Iowa has named two faculty members as this year's recipients of the Michael J. Brody Award for Faculty Excellence in Service to the university and the state of Iowa.
The recipients, who will be formally honored during the faculty and staff awards banquet in October, are Laurence Fuortes, professor of occupational and environmental health, and Tom Walz, professor emeritus of social work.
The Brody Award is named in honor of the late Michael J. Brody, president of the UI Faculty Senate from 1986 to 1987. It recognizes outstanding faculty who have made exceptional contributions to the UI and the community.
Those who nominated the winners noted their many contributions to teaching, research and outreach.
Fuortes, professor of occupational and environmental health in the College of Public Health, has served since 2001 as director of two programs -- the Burlington Atomic Energy Commission Plant Former Worker Program and The Ames Laboratory Former Worker Program -- aimed at helping Iowans who were exposed to toxic substances while researching and manufacturing atomic weaponry for the U.S. government during World War II and beyond. The programs provide medical screenings for these former munitions workers and also help them file claims for assistance.
Fuortes has located, screened and assisted more than 1,700 former nuclear weapons workers in Iowa, many of whom have little or no insurance and limited access to health care professionals. Fuortes, an advocate for the rights of the former munitions workers, has testified before Congress regarding issues such as funding and improvements to the Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program (EEOICP) law and the health risks caused by exposure to radiation and toxic substances. In addition to his work with the Former Worker programs, Fuortes is volunteer medical director for the Proteus Migrant Health Project, which serves migrant workers in Iowa who have limited access to health care.
Walz, professor emeritus in the UI School of Social Work, founded or co-founded the UI's gerontology program and the geriatrics program within the Department of Family Practice; the Regional Child Abuse Center; and a program that developed into the National Resource Center for Family Centered Practice, which trains professionals to help families avoid the institutionalization of children. He established pilot programs that have since grown into the Neighborhood Centers of Johnson County, and helped to develop the statewide Iowa Caregivers Association, dedicated to improving the quality of elder care in Iowa's 400 nursing homes. He also organized a new School of Social Work satellite program in northwest Iowa that led to the development of formal exchanges with social workers in Mexico and Russia.
Walz's best-known project began with his hiring of a mentally challenged man, Bill Sackter, to operate a coffee shop in North Hall on the UI campus. Bill's Coffee Shop celebrated its 35th anniversary this year and continues to provide an employment opportunity for disabled adults in the community and a training opportunity for students interested in disability studies. The project has been the subject of three award-winning television or film productions, most recently the documentary "A Friend Indeed: the Bill Sackter Story," which premiered at UI in June 2008. Walz now serves as the unpaid executive director of the Extend the Dream Foundation, the umbrella organization for Uptown Bill's Small Mall, a business incubator that helps low-income persons with disabilities start up and operate their own micro-enterprises.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 371, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500.