The University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health is proud to announce the 2020 recipient of the Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award: Project Horseshoe Farm.  

This award is presented annually to recognize individuals, groups, or organizations who are unconventional public health heroes. The award honors Lou Wooster, a legendary figure who helped save Birmingham from a cholera epidemic in the 19th century. As a madam in Birmingham, Lou Wooster lived on the seamy side of “polite society”, but when a cholera epidemic struck in 1873, her concern for others came out into the full light of day. Most residents fled the city during the outbreak, but not Lou. She stood her ground against the disease and opened her brothel to the sick and poor, and helped nurse the city back to health.

The mission of Project Horseshoe Farm captures the reasons that the organization was chosen as the 2020 Lou Wooster Public Health Hero Award recipient: “to work with and build on the strengths of local communities, improve the health and quality of life of vulnerable neighbors, and prepare citizen service leaders for tomorrow’s communities.” The Farm offers “gap year” 13-month fellowships for recent college graduates, allowing them to become fully engaged in a community health setting.

“Having spent much of my own career in public health practice, this work resonates with me in profound ways,” said Paul Erwin, M.D., DrPH, dean of the UAB School of Public Health. “Project Horseshoe Farm’s work in the context of COVID-19, with the Black Belt being disproportionately impacted, is needed now more than ever. The team at Project Horseshoe Farm is a group of Public Health heroes indeed, and I am honored that they have accepted this award.”

“On behalf of our current and past fellows, our staff, board, and all who have contributed to Horseshoe Farm over the years, we are honored and grateful to receive this award,” said Founder and Executive Director John Dorsey, M.D. “The spirit of Lou Wooster shows that even as the imperfect beings we all are, we can use our talents and strengths to make a positive difference in the lives of others and the lives of our communities.”

Project Horseshoe Farm is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization with sites in Greensboro and Marion, Alabama and in Pomona, California. Their mission is to work with and build on the strengths of local communities, improve the health and quality of life of vulnerable neighbors, and prepare citizen service leaders for tomorrow’s communities. To help our nation’s teachers, healthcare providers and other local leaders in the fight on behalf of their communities, Horseshoe Farm partners with and brings a time-tested approach to helping support children and vulnerable adults in neighborhoods while strengthening education systems, health systems, and local communities. Their approach is built around a pioneering educational grant-supported “gap year” fellowship that is mobilizing a generation of top recent college graduates from across the nation to serve as they learn to become citizen service leaders and leaders in community health. More information can be found by visiting projecthsf.org.

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