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Today, Mary Lou Hennrich, who recently retired from her position as Executive Director of the Oregon Public Health Institute, received the 2013 Billi Odegaard Public Health Genius Award for Lifetime Excellence. While I wasn’t able to attend the awards ceremony, I wanted to share the news here.
Mary Lou’s lifetime of service for health has made her a hero for Portland, and her work has put Portland and Oregon at the cutting edge of policies that make a difference for health. She work at the Multnomah County Health Division for thirty years, including directing the County’s public health clinics.
After “retiring” from the County, Mary Lou served as the founding CEO of CareOregon. When she joined the Oregon Public Health Institute (then Community Health Partnership) as Executive Director in 2003, the organization chose to focus on preventing childhood obesity. Two years later, Mary Lou led the effort to remove soda vending machines from all public schools in Oregon.
Ricky Nelson (among others) sang, “Hello, Mary Lou, goodbye heart.” In the case of this Mary Lou, she’s been working to have our hearts (and the rest of us) last longer, so the song is totally inapt, but we do love her so it is apt after all.