Dr. Martha E. Valiant and Joanne Vorhees Honored
By Brenda Barnes, Planning Consultant and Public Information Officer for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties
As part of the celebration and recognition of 125 Years of Public Health, each county in the state of Florida selected “Local Public Health Heroes”. Votes were collected from leaders in Hendry and Glades Counties and two women were selected as our Local Public Health Heroes. These ladies will also be honored in LaBelle's 2014 Swamp Cabbage Parade and the Moore Haven Chalo Nitka Parade.
Martha E. Valiant, MD, MPH has been commonly referred to as the “Baby Doctor” by people in the community, but her colleagues know her as the “Voice of Rural Counties”. Over the past 40 years, she has been a tireless advocate for the healthcare needs and challenges of rural communities not only in Hendry and Glades Counties, but the entire Southwest Florida area!
Since graduating from Duke University School of Medicine in 1972 with a specialty in pediatrics, Dr. Valiant has spent most of her medical career in the public sector. Her Public Health roots began in Palm Beach County where she worked along side of Dr. Carl Brumback. Dr. Valiant said that Dr. Brumback helped to “feed her passion” for rural health.
In 1991, she became Director of the Health Departments in Hendry and Glades Counties. She was instrumental in getting the health department buildings constructed in Clewiston and LaBelle in the late 1990’s. Both Health Department buildings were dedicated in her honor. Even though she is now retired, she still follows her passion of rural health by serving on several boards such as Children’s Advocacy, The Children’s Hospital, Health Planning Council, and Hendry-Glades Behavioral Health.
Dr. Valiant said “I absolutely loved my years at the Hendry and Glades Health Departments. It enabled me to fulfill my goals of tackling rural health issues.” When asked how she would like to be remembered, she humbly stated, “I hope that I am remembered as a doctor who made a difference in the lives of children and their families in rural communities.”
Over the years, Dr. Valiant has been recognized for her Public Health imprint on the world. In 1997 she received the “Outstanding Woman in Public Health” award from the College of Public Health, University of South Florida. Over a span of years from 1997 to present day she has received the “FRHA Wendell Rollason Award”, the “Sidney S. Chipman Award”, the “Healthy Start Lifetime Achievement Award”, and the Greater LaBelle Chamber of Commerce “Woman of the Year Award”. Most recently, she was named by WGCU to its list of “21 Southwest Florida Women Who Have Made a Difference”. (WGCU is a PBS-member television station in Fort Myers, Florida, owned and operated by Florida Gulf Coast University).
Pat Dobbins, Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties said, “Dr. Valiant continues to be an inspiration to me; she is one of my personal heroes. This is a person who definitely encompasses every aspect of a Public Health Hero”.
Joanne Vorhees, ARNP began her career in Public Health in 1968. For the last 45 years, Ms. Vorhees has been involved in all aspects of Public Health as an Advance Registered Nurse Practitioner for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties. Her specialty has always been women’s health which also includes adolescents. She is known for her efforts in promoting clinic schedules to encourage adolescents to enter family planning services, and for providing much needed family planning education to the rural areas of Hendry and Glades Counties.
Early in her nursing career, she worked at Baylor University Hospital in Dallas Texas which had over 800 hospital beds and 17 operating rooms. Her family decided to move to Florida in the 1960’s and settled in Clewiston. Ms. Vorhees became an Operating Room and Emergency Room Supervisor at Hendry General Hospital in Clewiston where she assisted with labor and delivery.
After making the move to Public Health, she promoted the use of videos to educate women about their health and family planning choices, taught parenting classes at the local high schools, and has assisted with prenatal and primary care in the clinical setting. She continues to be a patient advocate and believes in preventative services and education. Ms. Vorhees is a former Board Member of the Harlem Academy Daycare and is an active member of the local chapters of the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society.
Over the years Ms. Vorhees stated that she has seen lots of changes in Public Health, but was most happy to see changes in immunization requirements for school entry. Ms Vorhees stated, “I love being part of a rural community. I now see the grandchildren of people that I remember giving school immunizations to. It’s nice getting to know the whole family.” Retirement is something that she does not want to consider. She loves the work she does and the communities that she serves. She hopes to continue her service in Public Health for several more years.
“It’s amazing that Joanne has dedicated 45 years of her life to Public Health, and we are so happy that she chose to spend those years of service with us at the Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties. It truly is a remarkable accomplishment.” said Pat Dobbins, the Administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties.