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Oregon Public Health Institute Celebrates 2016 Genius Award Winners

August 25, 2016

14th Annual Billi Odegaard Public Health Genius Awards honor achievements and contributions to improving public health in Oregon. This year's celebration will also feature welcome remarks from OPHI's new senior leadership team, COO Cyreena Boston Ashby and CEO Dana Hargunani.

The Honorable Avel Gordly

Avel Gordly has been working for social justice since the 1970’s. In 1979, Gordly joined the Urban League of Portland as head of its Youth Service Center. In 1983, AFSC hired her to lead their Southern Africa Program, which was focused on anti-apartheid and refugee relief. Gordly was resident coordinator of a safe-haven program for youth at the House of Umoja in northeast Portland when she was tapped to fill a vacancy created by a retirement in the legislature in 1991. Gordly was subsequently elected state representative from north and northeast Portland in 1992, and she served until retiring in 2009. Her legislative record includes an array of initiatives that focus on cultural competency in education, mental health, and the administration of justice. In addition to committee assignments such as Joint Ways and Means, Education Policy, Trade and Economic Development, and Environmental Quality, Gordly advocated for and then co-chaired Governor John Kitzhaber’s Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Health in addition to serving on the Public Commission on the Oregon Legislature.

Gordly has received awards from the YWCA of Greater Portland, the NAACP, the Oregon Youth Authority, Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, the Girl Scouts, and the Oregon Commission for Women. In 2008, Oregon Health Sciences University opened the Avel Gordly Center for Healing, dedicated to culturally specific mental health and psychiatric services. In 2009, Albina Head Start recognized Gordly’s championing of funding for their programs state-wide by renaming its administrative headquarters in her honor. Recently, she received the Urban League of Portland’s Edwin C. Berry Lifetime Achievement Award, the Legislative Leadership Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Newspaper Publisher’s Association, the Skanner News, and the Portland Observer, and the J.C. Hawthorne League’s Oregon Mental Health Caucus Founder’s award.

(Credit Author Patricia Schechter)


Sarah Keefe is a Health Systems Coordinator at the Oregon Coalition Against Domestic & Sexual Violence, where she is leading the charge for primary prevention of domestic, sexual and gender-based violence. Sarah provides support to healthcare systems across the state on how to partner with community-based, non-clinical providers, and has produced materials to support payment of new innovative service models so that CCOs can more easily negotiate partnering with advocates whose work solely focuses on helping survivors of domestic and sexual violence to better navigate options, coordinate care, access resources, and increase safety and well-being.

Sarah has championed numerous bills to prevent domestic violence and protect survivors. In 2015, Sarah testified to the Oregon Senate to pass HB 2758, which improves safety for survivors and other vulnerable populations in regards to insurance communications. Sarah works on the intersection of health, housing

and domestic violence, and helped to pass HB 4143 and HB 1533 to better provide survivors of domestic violence with safe, stable and affordable housing options.

Sarah also works with TransActive Gender Center to support transgender and gender nonconforming children and youth, Planned Parenthood, and several tribal communities through the National Indian Child Welfare Association and ONABEN: a Native American Business Network. She is a graduate of the OHA Office of Equity and Inclusion 2015 DELTA Cohort and also serves on the National Center on Health and Domestic Violence Advisory Board, the FamilyCare Health Community Advisory Council, and volunteers with Bradley Angle.

OPHI will honor award recipients on September 16th, 2016 at the Multnomah Athletic Club

from 11:30-2:00. The luncheon is open to the public. Individual tickets are $75, and a table for eight is $750. Both can be purchased online at

For more information, contact Karli at [email protected], 503.227.5502 x223.

The Oregon Public Health Institute is a nonprofit leader in building vibrant and healthy communities throughout Oregon. We work with a wide range of private and public partners to create innovative community-led solutions, focused on systems and environment changes that go beyond traditional healthcare strategies to enhance health, improve equity, and reduce disparities.