April 5, 2022, 9:14 a.m. Michael Devitt — Just over three decades ago, the Academy established the AAFP Public Health Award to recognize the contributions of members to improving public health.
Marking National Public Health Week, and as family physicians across the country continue to provide much-needed care during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Academy has opened the nomination process for the 2022 Public Health Award. Nominations are due by April 30, and are open to AAFP members.
Members may nominate themselves or another member for the award by submitting
The nomination packet should be emailed to Michael Monroe, clinical and health policy strategist in the Academy’s Division of Research, Science and Health of the Public. Members who have questions can email Monroe for more information.
Laura Chanchien Parajón, M.D., M.P.H., the deputy cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Health and a faculty member at the University of New Mexico Department of Family and Community Medicine, received the 2021 AAFP Public Health Award for her contributions in advancing public health at a variety of levels.
“My father told me, when I was younger, to basically stay invisible, because Asian people get discriminated against a lot,” Parajón said. “That’s how we grew up, and I think that affected my thinking to a degree — don’t make waves, don’t do anything out of the ordinary that would bring a lot of unwanted attention on yourself.
“But in medicine, you can’t always just stay quiet. You have to press on and advocate, sometimes for yourself, sometimes for other people, especially people who are disproportionately affected. I had to push back against that ‘invisible Asian’ moniker a lot. Sometimes, you can’t be invisible. You have to stand up for yourself and the people you serve.”
Parajón has spent much of her career providing care for underserved populations. After working with her father, Tsunie Chanchien, M.D., at his internal medicine practice in College Park, Md., for two years, she moved to Nicaragua with her husband, David Parajón, M.D., M.P.H., M.B.A., where they served as medical missionaries with American Baptist Churches International Ministries for 18 years. They later created a sustainable nonprofit organization, AMOS Health and Hope, that supplements Nicaragua’s existing health care system and provides care to nearly 75,000 people living in 25 rural communities across the country.
Parajón was also named one of three Rural Heroes by the World Organization of Family Doctors in 2015, and received awards from UNM in 2020 for her community service and teaching efforts.
“Most of my background in family medicine has been in community health,” said Parajón. “With the COVID-19 pandemic still ongoing, and with the recent increase in hate crimes toward Asian Americans, it’s more important now than ever that family physicians become visible and take action to best serve our communities. I’m honored to have received the AAFP Public Health Award last year, and I’m proud to belong to an organization that is continually working to improve the health of all people.”