TMAF Champion of Health Award Winners

Programs Receiving the TMAF John P. McGovern Champion of Health Award

2017 Award Winner: “Seed to Soul” Promise of Peace Gardens, Dallas

Promise of Peace Gardens’ Seed to Soul program aims to stem the growing trend of obesity by introducing children to fresh, healthy produce they help cultivate from gardens at their elementary school. Nearly 66 percent of Texas adults are overweight or obese, and their children are often overfed and undernourished. Since 2009, Seed to Soul planted seven gardens at elementary schools in North Texas, sowing the seeds of a healthy lifestyle for more than 5,000 families. One success story is Bayles Elementary in Dallas, where 98.9 percent of children live below the poverty line. In 2016, POP planted a Seed to Soul garden at Bayles that has grown to produce more than 7,000 pounds of fresh fruit and vegetables in each of the school’s three growing seasons. Students at Bayles learned how to plant, grow, and harvest their own food. Many were introduced to new plants and vegetables and discovered that healthy food can be delicious as well. By the end of each growing season, POP reports students had become better stewards of their environment and were adding nutrient-dense food to their family’s grocery lists and making healthier food choices.

2016 Award Winner: "iConquer Project" It’s Your Life Foundation

The winning program aims to stem the increasing incidence of obesity and diabetes by teaching young children to develop healthy food choice habits. The TMAF award recognizes exceptional projects that address urgent public health threats and further TMAF’s mission to help physicians create a healthier future for all Texans.
Approximately 10.6 percent of Texans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Started in 2013, the iConquer Project has reached 500 children annually, aged 3 to 7, with creative, fun educational curricula that teaches about portion control, how exercise can keep you healthy and the importance of good hygiene and proper hand washing to decrease the incidence of infectious disease. 

iConquer Project’s primary audiences are all children of the ages between 3- to 7-years-old in the Corpus Christi Independent School District as well as the Nueces head start centers. iConquer Project collaborates with a dozen community organizations including the Corpus Christi Independent School District, Christus Spohn Health System, the Junior League of Corpus Christi and more.

2015 Award Winner: "FitWorth - Healthy City Initiative" Foundation for Wellness, Texas

FitWorth was launched by Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price in September 2012 to address the fact that more than 50 percent of the children in Fort Worth ISD (FWISD) were overweight or obese. Designed as a grassroots strategic campaign, FitWorth focuses on positive behaviors and wide-spread informed awareness of healthy choices. It has three major components: Fuel (nutrition), Play (physical activity) and Work (workplace wellness). The result is that FitWorth is creating a citywide culture that values health by providing opportunities such as: community-wide challenges for tracking physical activity and nutrition in community centers, schools, and the workplace, an annual healthy Culinary Competition, and programs to support low-income children and schools participating in existing community-based physical activities. FitWorth also partners to promote and engage the community in the mayor's rolling town halls, Tour de Fort Worth, and Mayor's Triathlon. Each of FitWorth's partnerships and programs is focused on inclusivity, accessibility, sustainability, and measurable impact.

FitWorth incorporates behavior change theory into its activities, which recognizes that individuals have to understand the risk of poor health in a personal way and then believe in their ability to take effective action. The program educates about the dangers of poor nutrition and physical inactivity in a non-judgmental way and then provides opportunities to take immediate action with proven results, compelling the community to truly change. By engaging more than 20,000 children in educational and participation-based programs to improve nutrition and physical activity, this project will directly address the fact that children and adolescents who are obese are twice as likely to be obese as adults, and are therefore more at risk for significant adult health problems.

Quantitative data to measure this effort is collected through three community-based wellness tracking challenges. Between 2013 and 2014, 25,000 individuals participated in team-based health tracking challenges, which increased behavioral awareness through actively monitoring activity and nutrition, alongside weekly education and supported access to healthy choices. This includes 22,100 FWISD students (27% total student population) and 1,093 Camp Fort Worth participants.

2014 Award Winner: H.O.M.E.S. Clinic

HOMES Clinic was founded in 1999 by David Buck, MD, and medical students from The University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Baylor college of Medicine to alleviate disparities in health care access by providing quality medical and social services free-of-charge to Houston's homeless population, who are disproportionately affected by chronic health conditions, violence, poor mental health, and substance abuse. The clinic's mission is "to provide accessible and quality health care to all area homeless residents in a learning environment that promotes the dignity of all participants." Overseen by Healthcare for the Homeless - Houston, HOMES Clinic operates Sunday year-round by medical preceptors and students from Houston's two medical schools and the University of Houston's College of Pharmacy and College of Social Work.

2013 Award Winner: Hope Medical Clinic of Austin  


Founded by John Morrow, MD, Austin, and part of the Get Up Project, the clinic provides healthcare services, medications, and related services at no cost to the uninsured, with a focus on serving refugees. The goal is to help patients better manage their health through education, continuity of care and assistance in overcoming barriers, such as transportation. The clinic is operated solely through the volunteer efforts of health professionals and non-medical volunteers all recruited by Dr. Morrow.  In 2005, the original clinic served the homeless in East Austin. By 2010, a joint venture was developed to extend medical services to the thousands of refugees in the Austin area resulting from the United Nations Resettlement Program. In October 2012, the first dental clinic was offered where 16 patients were evaluated and treated by volunteer dentists. Future plans call for increasing availability of dental services, complete conversion to electronic medical records, improving patient education for multiple languages and more. 

2012 Award Winner: Mission of Mercy Texas Mobile Medical Program

 The Mission of Mercy Mobile Medical Program has treated 2,350 uninsured or underinsured South Texans since its inception in 2007. Each year it provides approximately 3,000 physician visits and an equal number of free prescription medications out of its five mobile clinics focusing on helping the population who work and make too much money for public assistance, but who are also unable to afford insurance, healthcare, and prescriptions on their own. According to Mission of Mercy, “more than 50 percent of Mission of Mercy patients suffer from chronic illnesses, including arthritis, high blood pressure, diabetes, asthma, and depression.”

 2011 Award Winner: Julie Rogers “Gift of Life” Program

The “Gift of Life” offers uninsured and underinsured patients across Southeast Texas free education, cancer detection, and access to treatment. The program was recognized for its holistic approach to fighting cancer “We have worked diligently and passionately to provide awareness, education, and free cancer screenings for thousands of patients,” said “Gift of Life” founder Regina Rogers. “The TMAF’s recognition of the ‘Gift of Life’ as an outstanding public health organization further empowers our efforts to improve the health of all Southeast Texans.” Local physicians volunteer their time and services to “Gift of Life,” and several medical partnerships support the program’s mission.

During the past 15 years, the “Gift of Life” has grown into one of Texas’ largest and most comprehensive cancer screening and awareness organizations for medically underserved patients. The program has given patients nearly 17,600 free mammograms and 6,000 free prostate screenings since its inception in 1994. “Gift of Life” also implemented several antismoking campaigns and provides educational outreach to more than 18,000 people annually — teaching about breast and testicular health.

2010 Winner: “Volunteer Physicians of New Braunfels” New Braunfels Volunteers in Medicine

The Volunteer Physicians of New Braunfels program by The New Braunfels Volunteers in Medicine provides basic medical and dental care to underserved, low-income, uninsured Comal County residents. Dependant on volunteer support, the program delivers quality medical care, support and education forty hours per week at no charge to approximately 18,000 residents. Since 2008, the program has administered more than 2,800 appointments with broader goals for the future.

The program goal is to prevent further serious illness by meeting the needs of those who fall in the gap between qualifying for government assistance and having the ability to independently pay for private insurance. Many of these patients have gone without medical care for extended periods of time, resulting in complex needs. By serving these individuals, the clinic ultimately reduces health risks for the community at large and protects the local economy by helping to maintain employment. Previously, the only source of care for countless patients had been in emergency rooms, causing many to view physicians poorly.

The program enhanced these relationships by providing personalized medical care, finding that most patients embrace the responsibilities to improve and maintain their personal health. This physician-run program is made possible through generous funding from the CHRISTUS Fund, Kronkosky Charitable Foundation, McKenna Legacy Foundation and the Baptist Health Foundation of San Antonio.


2009 Winner: “Care Van Program” The Caring for Children Foundation of Texas

One in four Texas children goes without the necessary immunizations to lead a healthy life. The children are too poor or lack access to medical care. Approximately 1.8 million uninsured children lived in Texas when the Caring for Children Foundation launched the program in 1997. Through the Care Van Program and its statewide sponsor, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Texas, more than 349,000 uninsured Texas children have been immunized.

The program coordinates with the Texas Department of State Health Services, local health departments, and local immunization coalitions to conduct outreach clinics. The program’s fleet of 10 Care Vans allows it to reach people in schools, restaurants, churches, and other community centers. The vans are specially equipped mobile immunization units that provide free or low-cost vaccinations. This allows the program to reach the most people with limited means, at convenient locations and times.

The program consists of community partnerships, including those with physician members of local TMA-affiliate county medical societies, and volunteers of local TMA Alliance chapters.


2007 Winner: “Project Access” Dallas County Medical Society

The heart of this program demonstrates the compassion of physicians who are working toward a solution to a nationwide problem in caring for the uninsured. Individuals with an income not exceeding 200 percent of the federal poverty level and not on Medicaid, Medicare or Parkland HealthPlus, are eligible for valuable healthcare services through the generosity of hundreds of volunteers.

Established in September 2001, the Dallas County Medical Society and several community partners created Project Access Dallas (PAD) to assist Dallas County residents who struggle with the challenges of poverty and can not afford medical insurance. The program consists of a network of volunteer physicians, partnering hospitals, local charity medical clinics and ancillary partners who all give their time to work with these patients. Because of these donated services, patients enrolled in PAD are assigned a primary care physician, receive up to $750 a year in pharmacy benefits and have access to free specialty care, labs, ancillary procedures, care coordination and inpatient hospital care. The program is steadily growing and has more than 700 physician volunteers. Patients cared for in 2006 totaled 1,274.

While the number of uninsured has increased in Dallas County, thanks to PAD, the number without access to care has decreased. PAD plays a direct role in decreasing the number of hospitalizations and emergency department visits for patients enrolled in the program. Since April 2002, program partners have donated more than $6.2 million in patient care enabling patients to receive the care they need with dignity.

2006 Winner: “Healthy High/Healthy Choices” Schulenburg Weimar in Focus Together

Healthy High/Healthy Choices, a program of SWIFT (Schulenburg Weimar in Focus Together, Inc.) received the award at the TMA Fall Conference luncheon on September 29 at the Hyatt Regency Austin.

Founded by Olga Duchicela, MD, Weimar, SWIFT is a community bred health and wellness program that can be replicated by any rural Texas community.

Healthy High/Healthy Choices, whose goal is to reduce youth obesity, is comprised of 10 stand alone day programs delivered on campuses for grades 1-12, plus year around elements that involve youth, their parents and other adults in Schulenburg and Weimer schools. Quarterly programs serve persons aged 50 and older. Currently there are more than 2,000 participants and 40 partners in this program.


2005 Winner: “Child Nutrition Program” Texas Department of Agriculture


Texas Commissioner of Agriculture Susan Combs has led the fight against childhood obesity since 2003. She aggressively sought government funding and made significant changes to Texas school meal plans. Commissioner Combs’ steadfast efforts earned her the TMA Foundation’s prestigious John P. McGovern Champion of Health Award for 2005. Commissioner Combs and the Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) were singled out among numerous other entries for the sweeping changes they made to Texas’ Child School Nutrition Program.

In 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture transferred the $1.8 billion Child Nutrition Programs to the Texas Department of Agriculture. Today, limited varieties of fried foods, carbonated drinks, and candy are available for school lunches, and there are restrictions on serving sizes as well. Limited access to snack and drink machines also is in effect, despite strong opposition from vending machine companies and school officials. This initiative serves as the model for other school nutrition programs across the country. In 2004, Time-ABC News recognized Commissioner Combs as one of six national heroes in the fight against obesity.


2004 Winner: “Caring Management for Chronic Healthy Living” Cancer & Chronic Disease Consortium of El Paso

The consortium won for its program, Caring Management for Chronic Healthy Living, which targets patients in greatest need of preventive care and teaches them how to self manage their health. The group works to increase access to health care for medically-underserved people in El Paso and West Texas.

The consortium describes itself as “a minority community-based organization,” whose vision is to “achieve a West Texas in which residents are free of needless suffering from chronic disease and are active partners in a prevention-oriented health care system that is integrated, comprehensive, and non-discriminatory.”

Numbers attest to their success. In 14 years, the group has collaborated with partners to screen more than 52,000 women for breast and cervical cancer, and in recent years, it screened nearly 11,000 adults for chronic disease. Services such as these are particularly valuable because many of the almost 1.8 million residents have difficulty accessing health care for a host of reason such as language and cultural barriers, poverty, and lack of health insurance and transportation.

One key element being addressed is health education. Many cases of premature death and disability in El Paso could have been prevented with proper, timely patient education. For example, patients often wait to seek care until the situation becomes an emergency, which is both more expensive and often more critical in nature.


2002 Winners: “Project W.A.T.C.H.” Fort Bend County Medical Alliance

“Our alliance was deeply honored to receive this award. The impact on our community continues to resonate into the future health of our children. The financial award provides inspiration not only to our hard-working members, but also to other county alliances who were contemplating adopting our program in their school systems. In my opinion, an award of this sort is the highest form of recognition because it affords opportunities to raise awareness within community programs in a personally gratifying manner.”

— Linda Berthelsen, Past President, Fort Bend County Medical Society Alliance

Alliance members blanketed Fort Bend schools with materials and taught the students about Weight, Activity, Tobacco, Cholesterol, and Hypertension through a variety of school activities and guests like Mr. Yuck Mouth.

2001 Winner: “Teen Videofest” Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance

“The winning of the 2001 Champion of Health Award from the Texas Medical Association Foundation gained statewide recognition for Teen Videofest. The Tarrant County Public Health Department continues using the project as a model for getting teens involved in peer group health issues. The award allowed the project to access funding and grow far beyond expectations.”

— Terri Andrews, Past President Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance

Teen Videofest is an annual contest for Tarrant County teens, which provides them an opportunity to learn about health issues through the creative and fun medium of video production. The project helps promote enthusiasm, self-esteem, and self-worth through a team approach that is facilitated by the Tarrant County Medical Society Alliance and Tarrant County Public Health Department, as well as numerous volunteers representing public and private organizations, corporations, and agencies.


Prior to 2001, the award was given to individuals.

Last Updated On

October 26, 2018