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October 12, 2015

Meet the two doctors honored among CNN's 'Top Ten Heroes of 2015'

Daily Briefing

CNN on Thursday recognized 10 "remarkable individuals whose passion to help others has changed the world"—including one Chicago physician who describes himself as a "battering ram" for patients.

The 10 winners will all receive $10,000 and be recognized in a TV special that will air on December 6.

CNN is also holding a vote to help select which of the 10 individuals will be named the "CNN Hero of the Year."

Jim Withers

One of the winners is Pittsburgh physician Jim Withers, who has been providing no-cost medical care to the homeless for more than two decades.

Withers used to walk the streets with dirt in his hair and his clothes muddied in search of homeless individuals who needed medical attention. "I was actually really shocked how ill people were on the street," Withers says. "Young, old, people with mental illness, runaway kids, women (who) fled domestic violence, veterans. And they all have their own story."

Withers' efforts helped to inspire Operation Safety Net, part of the Pittsburgh Mercy Health System and Trinity Health. The group has provided services to more than 10,000 individuals and has assisted more than 1,200 of them with transitioning into housing.

Daniel Ivankovich

When Chicago-based physician Daniel Ivankovich saw the number of underinsured and uninsured patients struggling to receive medical treatment, he says he "thought to myself, this is happening in America?"

Five years ago, Ivankovich founded the not-for-profit OnePatient Global Health Initiative, which serves patients whether or not they are able to pay. Ivankovich helps run three clinics in Chicago, and performs upwards of 600 surgeries annually. 

Who really influences a population's health? (Hint: It's not just providers.)

Ivankovich says more than 100,000 patients have received treatment through the not-for-profit.

"I know I can't fix everybody," Ivankovich says. "My goal is to be the battering ram to help break down the barriers to get these patients the care and the resources they need."

Other winners

The 'Top 10 Heroes' also include several others working on health care or the social determinants of health, including

  • Jody Farley-Berens, founder of the not-for-profit Singleton Moms, which since 2006 has provided financial and emotional support and other resources to more than 300 parents of children diagnosed with cancer;
  • Richard Joyner, founder of the not-for-profit Conetoe Family Life Center, which harvests almost 50,000 pounds of fresh food annually, providing "food to what was a nutritional desert," according to CNN; and
  • Kim Carter, founder of the not-for-profit Time for Change, which helps provide counseling, job training, and housing to low-income individuals and families (Toner et al., CNN, 10/8; Operation Safety Net, accessed 10/9; Time for Change, accessed 10/9; Singleton Moms, accessed 10/9).

Learn about the BUILD Health Challenge


BUILD Health is creating and expanding meaningful partnerships among health systems, community-based organizations, local health departments, and other organizations.

The goal? To identify and address the complex, upstream problems that influence the overall health of local residents.

Watch our video to hear from several funded communities about their efforts to give everyone a chance to live a healthy life.


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  1. Current ArticleMeet the two doctors honored among CNN's 'Top Ten Heroes of 2015'

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