Feds’ achievements in cancer research, food safety among SAMMIES winners

The Oscars of government service are tonight and the winners have been revealed.

Steven Rosenberg, the chief of the surgery branch at the National Cancer Institute, has won Federal Employee of the Year award for his work on cancer treatments. Rosenberg was one of eight winners of the Partnership for Public Service’s 14th annual Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals (SAMMIES), according the organization’s Oct. 7 announcement.

Other winners include Hyun Soon Lillehoj, a senior research molecular biologist for the Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service, in the Career Achievement category for her work in food safety, and Call to Service winner, Adam Schildge, a senior program analyst for the Federal Transit Administration, for leading transit resilience efforts after Hurricane Sandy.

The SAMMIES highlight federal employees whose achievements improve the lives of Americans and others around the world. They are considered one of the most prestigious awards for civil servants.


“This year’s winners and finalists exemplify dedication and competence, and demonstrate how one individual can elevate and protect the lives of so many others,” said Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service in the official address for the award ceremony. “We are gratified to thank them and recognize their achievements, and hope you will help share their stories.”

Rosenberg, Lillehoj , Schildge and the other six category winners will be honored at the SAMMIES Gala tonight hosted at the Andrew W. Melon Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

Rosenberg won Federal Employee of the Year for developing immunotherapy: a treatment that uses a patient’s own white blood cells to stop and slow the growth of cancer.

Over his 40 years at the National Cancer Institute, Rosenberg started the treatment plan interleukin 2 (IL-2), which has reduced the size of tumors and improved the lives of millions of people.

“Half of all people who develop cancer can’t be cured by those standard treatments,” said Rosenberg while talking about chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery in an interview on In Depth with Francis Rose. “It seemed intuitive that cancer would be recognized by the body as foreign the same way it rejects viruses.”

Lillehoj was nominated as a finalist for the SAMMIES for her research preventing and treating diseases in the commercial poultry industry without the use of traditional antibiotics.

“Because of intensive production systems that we have to use for poultry, we’ve been using many antibiotics, especially growth promoting drugs,” Lillehoj said during an interview in July “For safety reasons, it is important that we reduce the amount of antibiotics to reduce the association we have with the increasing use of antibiotics in the animal industry and increasing drug resistance.”

Lillehoj has worked with the USDA for more than 30 years.

Schildge earned the Call to Service medal developed and managed a multi-billion dollar grant program to repair vital infrastructure and ensure its resilience in future catastrophes after Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012. He consulted with experts on what structures could withstand future natural disasters and what to invest in and created an evaluation process that took new technologies and regional issues in to consideration to factor costs.

“Public transportation riders will have much more security in knowing they can rely on their transit systems during and after a disaster once these projects are built,” Schildge said. “I’ve always known I wanted to work for the public good and I’ve found a good way now to give back to communities across the country.”

The grant program will fund $3.6 billion in restoration and resilience projects.

The ceremony will live stream for the first time from the Gala from 6:30 pm to 9:30 pm EDT. Watch live here

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