Health Heroes: Where Are They Now?

Medically Reviewed by Michael W. Smith, MD on August 19, 2016
From the WebMD Archives

Ten years ago, we launched our WebMD Health Heroes awards. Now we look back at one winner from each year to see how they continue to improve Americans' health and wellness.



Clare Rosenfeld Evans earned her WebMD Health Hero award for her work as the American Diabetes Association's first youth advocate and as a proponent of the United Nations' Resolution on Diabetes, which she helped pass in 2006. She herself has type 1 diabetes. She recently received her PhD from the Harvard School of Public Health and now teaches at the University of Oregon. "I went into public health because of the experiences I had as a diabetes advocate," she says.



Carol Levine was named a WebMD Health Hero for her advocacy on behalf of family caregivers. As director of the United Hospital Fund's Families and Health Care Project, Levine oversaw development of more than 30 free caregiver guides in four languages for the UHF's website, "I have not abandoned my passion for advocacy," Levine says. "In fact, I push even harder for the 43 million Americans who provide unpaid care for family, partners, and friends."



Winter Vinecki was 9 when her father died of a rare, aggressive prostate cancer. Before his death, Vinecki created Team Winter, which brought runners and triathletes together to support prostate cancer research. Since then, Team Winter has raised $500,000. Vinecki is also the youngest person to run a marathon on each continent. "I wanted to do something big to honor my dad and other families affected by the disease," Vinecki says.



Sabrina Cohen's work as a stem cell research advocate is focused on spinal cord injuries, like the one that paralyzed her. The Sabrina Cohen Foundation now advocates for improved quality of life for the disabled. In her hometown of Miami Beach, she successfully lobbied for more accessible beaches. "This summer we launched the first Adaptive Beach Days, which offer more access and more activities for the entire disabled community," Cohen says.



Tiffany Denyer was voted a WebMD Health Hero for her work with Wilderwood Service Dogs, which she founded in 2005. Wilderwood, in Maryville, Tennessee, trains dogs to aid those with neurological conditions like autism and dementia. In recent years, it became the first Medicaid-reimbursed organization of its kind, Denyer says, and it now teaches neurologically disabled adults to help train service dogs. "We are so proud of this program," she says.



Thomas Moody, MD, continues his prostate cancer screening campaign across Alabama, particularly among African-Americans, who have a higher risk of the disease. Since he was named a WebMD Health Hero, prostate cancer deaths have dropped in the state. "When we started, the majority of white men were curable when diagnosed and the majority of black men were not," Moody says. "In the last 2 years, those statistics have been exactly equal."



Robina Suwol founded California Safe Schools, which helped get the nation's most stringent pesticide policy enacted in the Los Angeles public school system. In 2015 and 2016, the group worked with area officials to protect children against toxic substances. "As rates of childhood cancer, asthma, neurological disorders, endocrine and hormonal disorders, and birth defects increase, there is no better time than now to protect our children's health," Suwol says.



Emily Whitehead was just 5 when diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. In May, she celebrated her 11th birthday -- and four years cancer-free. Named a WebMD Health Hero for founding the Emily Whitehead Foundation, she shares the honor with Stephan A. Grupp, MD, PhD, whose pioneering work with genetically modified T cells saved Whitehead's life. Her foundation has raised $100,000 to support Grupp's efforts to treat other children with cancer.



In 2012, 16-year-old Zarin Ibnat Rahman asked: Does screen time interfere with teens' sleep, mood, and academic performance? The answer was yes, and her research earned her a WebMD Health Hero award. Now a junior at Harvard and a researcher at Boston Children's Hospital, Rahman studies neurobiology and psychology while preparing for medical school: "I am just as fascinated, if not more so, with these fields as I was in high school," she says.



In 2012, Army veteran Ronald "Jake" Clark created Save A Warrior (SAW), a Malibu, California-based program for vets with post-traumatic stress disorder. Clark has since brought his lifesaving "war detox" program to Kansas City, Missouri, and Lexington, Kentucky. Next, he plans a permanent location in the Pacific Northwest. He's also helped first responder and law enforcement groups build their own SAW-like programs. "They're powerfully transformed by this experience," Clark says.

Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of "WebMD Magazine."