17:00 PM

Northwestern Medicine Honors Four Individuals With Humanitarian Awards

Northwestern Medicine celebrated the life of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his ongoing legacy of service during the 41st Annual Humanitarian Awards Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Four members of the Northwestern Medicine family were presented with awards for their extraordinary contributions to the community and for embodying Dr. King's legacy of humanitarianism.

The Humanitarian Awards launched in 1979 to honor individuals, both employees and physicians from across the Northwestern Medicine health system who have had a positive impact in the community. Since its creation, the Humanitarian Award has been awarded to 81 employees and 29 physicians.

Northwestern Medicine organ transplant surgeon Dinee C. Simpson, MD, gave the keynote address at this year’s Humanitarian Awards ceremony. She is the founding director of the Northwestern Medicine African American Transplant Access Program, an initiative of the Northwestern Medicine Comprehensive Transplant Center. Under Dr. Simpson’s leadership, the program has committed to a campaign to eliminate transplant disparities for underserved residents of the greater Chicagoland area in relation to transplant care for kidney and liver disease. Through the development of a deeper understanding of the historical barriers and cultural concerns of the African American community, the program aims to overcome these obstacles through community partnership and community based participatory research.

The 2020 Humanitarian Award winners are:

  • Rellina Brown, patient access specialist for Northwestern Medicine, was recognized with a Humanitarian Award for her work with We Are Light, a nonprofit founded in 2013 with the mission to tackle the issues of poverty in all forms, including material, community, and thinking. The organization works with individuals on Chicago’s west side to provide services including employment readiness training, access to public benefits and local food banks, workshops and classes for at-risk youth, youth mentoring, lifestyle redirection from recidivism and violence, rehabilitative programming for county jail detainees, financial literacy and credit restoration and other services that promote health, independence and self-sufficiency. Brown provides free graphic design services to the organization to create advertising and promotional tools. In addition to her work with We are light, she volunteers in the Helps and Prayer Ministry at Revelations of Christ Kingdom Ministries. Brown is a resident of Berwyn, Ill. VIDEO

  • Cory Cleggett, systems engineer at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, was honored with a Humanitarian Award in celebration of his extensive volunteerism that includes helping children develop computer skills, coaching youth baseball and basketball, providing meals to homeless individuals, mentorship to young men, as well as supporting many organizations including Toys for Tots and the Chicago Children’s Choir. For the past decade, Cleggett has volunteered with the Woodlawn Community Summit, which aims to bring together residents, business owners, and stakeholders to create a united vision to strengthen and develop Woodlawn and its surrounding communities. He also volunteers with Freedom Church in Homewood, where he is part of the men’s group and he led the church’s first men’s retreat. Cleggett lives in Country Club Hills, Ill. VIDEO

  • Cameron DeHaven, patient care technician and phlebotomist at Northwestern Medicine Delnor Hospital, was recognized with a Humanitarian Award for starting his own nonprofit that collects and donates shoes to people in need in Chicago and all around the world including the Philippines, Mexico and Honduras. DeHaven founded Sneaker Heartz with the mission to get shoes on the feet who need them the most. To date, DeHaven’s organization has collected over 6,000 pairs of shoes and donated more than 1,500 pairs of shoes. Originally collecting only sneakers, Sneaker Heartz has also provided dress shoes to organizations helping women and men trying to get back into the workforce, as well as providing dress shoes for high school students going to prom. The organization is currently working to send nearly 500 pairs of cleats to a soccer club in Kenya. DeHaven lives in Saint Charles, Ill. VIDEO

  • Joan Rembacz, MS, APN, CCNS, CEN, clinical nurse specialist at Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital, was recognized for her work supporting veterans. The daughter of a veteran, Rembacz volunteers with an organization called Operation Wild Horse that aims to improve the lives of veterans and their families through connection with horses. The organization is available to all veterans, but is particularly targeted to those with PTSD. Her work with the organization includes cleaning stalls, recruiting volunteers and participating in marches and parades. Her other volunteer work has included working with the VFW in Wauconda, providing photography support for events, participating in charity 5K races, providing CPR training to the community and supporting individuals with cancer. Rembacz lives in Cary, Ill. VIDEO