Environmental health is one of many important contributions to the IHS mission of raising the physical, mental, social, and spiritual health of American Indians and Alaska Natives to the highest level. The Division of Environmental Health Services, part of the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering, provides direct environmental health services and consultation to American Indian and Alaska Native tribal governments and IHS programs.
DEHS recently recognized outstanding employees and teams who were recipients of annual environmental health awards for going above and beyond to serve American Indian and Alaska Native communities.
Environmental Health Specialist of 2022
Lt. Joseph Sarisky
Lt. Joseph Sarisky, environmental health officer at the Minnesota District Office, Bemidji Area IHS, was selected as the IHS Environmental Health Specialist of 2022. DEHS has recognized this award since 1993, which is given to the environmental health specialist representing the division with distinction and positively impacting the health outcomes of American Indians and Alaska Natives. Lt. Sarisky exemplified leadership, innovative practice, dedication, professionalism and commitment to the IHS mission. He partnered with the Great Lakes Inter-Tribal Epidemiology Center to test head start centers and schools for lead in drinking water and compiled data, including healthy homes survey results, activities and remediation strategies that resulted in no further indoor air or moisture complaints. Lt. Sarisky also developed a low-cost solution for mobile food vendors who lacked handwashing stations, which increased handwashing station compliance from 75 to 98 percent. He has developed strong relationships with tribal partners that allow him to substantially elevate the environmental health services to the communities he serves.
Rick Smith Injury Prevention Award
Monte Yazzie, injury prevention coordinator for the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, received the 2022 IHS Rick Smith Injury Prevention Award. This award from our Injury Prevention Program is given to recognize the performance of special efforts and contributions in the field of injury prevention that have resulted in a significant impact and led to improved public health for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Yazzie is recognized for his work in 2022. He provided 350 car seats to children, facilitated the installation of 50 medication lock boxes for opioid use prevention, and institutionalized “Yoga for Falls,” a fall prevention program impacting more than 120 tribal elders.
Gary J. Gefroh Safety and Health Award
Cmdr. David Bales
Cmdr. David Bales, area institutional environmental health officer and area injury prevention specialist at the Oklahoma City Area Office, is the recipient of the Gary J. Gefroh Safety and Health Award of 2022. This award recognizes significant contributions by an individual or group resulting in improved health care safety and/or infection control conditions at an IHS or tribal health care program. Cmdr. Bales achieved significant contributions and impact within multiple roles, resulting in improved health care safety and infection control conditions throughout the IHS Oklahoma City Area. He has led significant initiatives and advancements with area-wide workplace violence prevention policies, emergency management radio communication systems, ventilation system electronic tools, dental sterilization checklists/trainings, the distribution of 2.7 million personal protective equipment items, area mock surveys and the Claremore Indian Hospital's Locking Medication Bottle Project.
Congratulations to all the award winners!