USF names Osceola County administrator 2014 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health

Tampa, FL (April 9, 2014) —  The University of South Florida College of Public Health named Belinda Johnson-Cornett, MBA, MS, the 2014 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health. Johnson-Cornett is administrator of the Florida Department of Health in Osceola County.

 The College bestows the award each year to a woman whose career accomplishments and leadership contribute significantly to the field of public health in Florida. Johnson-Cornett received the award in a ceremony on Wednesday, April 9, at the USF College of Public Health Samuel P. Bell Auditorium.

The awards ceremony was part of a full week of activities at USF celebrating National Public Health Week. 

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Donna Petersen, ScD, (left) interim senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the College of Public Health, with Belinda Johnson-Cornett, winner of the 2014 Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award.

A leader in community and professional efforts to address health disparities, Johnson-Cornett contributes significantly to improving the public’s health in Florida. As interim director of Duval County’s health department, she led the effort to obtain The Joint Commission’s Ambulatory Care Accreditation in 2007—a first for Florida’s health departments that provide primary care.

“Dedication, commitment, passion, and a force of will to make a difference in their community and the State of Florida.  These are the qualities we seek for Florida’s Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award and they are all exhibited by Ms. Belinda Johnson-Cornett,” said Donna Petersen, ScD, interim senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the College of Public Health.

Florida Surgeon General John Armstrong, MD, was among those who welcomed faculty, staff, students and friends of the college to the awards ceremony, which honors the college’s outstanding professor, student research excellence, Delta Omega inductees, and student academic scholarships, as well as recognizing the statewide Outstanding Woman in Public Health.

“I have visited all 67 county health departments in Florida. Once when I visited Osceola County I saw public health as it should be—members of the county health department and local community sitting around a table focused on elevating health through public and private partnerships,” Dr. Armstrong said. “Belinda’s attitude in the community is ‘We are here to serve you.’”

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Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong

In 2008, Johnson-Cornett was appointed health administrator for Osceola County where she manages more than 230 employees and oversees an annual budget of $14.9M.

In a county with many health challenges—Osceola ranks 41 out of Florida’s 67 counties for access to health care; 23rd in overall health outcomes; and, is a federally designated area for health shortages in medical and dental—Johnson-Cornett led many initiatives to increase access to healthcare, particularly for the uninsured and underserved. She:

  • Obtained The Joint Commission’s Ambulatory Care Accreditation for Osceola County in 2009;
  • Led an effort that resulted in the county’s environmental health quality rising to 98.4%;
  • Successfully campaigned for three existing health centers to be designated as federally qualified health centers;
  • Secured more than $15.9M in funding to improve and expand health care services in Osceola, including funds to open a new health center focused on medical and dental services for underserved; and,
  • Spearheaded a drive to improve the department’s financial stability—resulting in an operating reserve of 8.5%.

“She (Johnson-Cornett) is passionate about delivering quality public health programs and is one who takes an active role in needs assessment, strategic planning, advisory boards, and service expansion,” said Donald S. Fisher, Osceola county manager.

Under her leadership, the OCHD implemented a process that is now a nationally recognized model for community health needs assessment.

Twice since 2009, the National Association of County and City Health Officers presented Johnson-Cornett with the “Best Practice Model Award” for her efforts to ensure a competent public health workforce and foster partnerships with community stakeholders.

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Former USF President Betty Castor and Sam Bell, a founder and longstanding supporter of the USF College of Public Health, were among the community leaders attending the ceremony.

In 2012, the National Leadership Academy for the Public’s Health selected Johnson-Cornett to join an inaugural cohort of 20 leadership teams.

“We were the only team selected from Florida and Belinda headed up our unique project requirement involving a partnership with the county’s EMS to incorporate a health navigator at the 911 communications center,” said Donna Sines, executive director of Community Vision.

Johnson-Cornett completed her higher education in Boston. She earned a bachelor of science degree in nursing from the University of Massachusetts, a master of nursing degree from Boston College, and a MBA degree from Suffolk University. In 2010, she graduated from the UNC National Public Health Leadership Institute.

The Florida Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award was initiated by USF in 1988 and nominations are solicited from public health practitioners across the state.  Past honorees include Lillian Stark, PhD, MPH, retired director of virology at the Florida Department of Health Tampa Branch Laboratory; Lora E. Fleming, MD, epidemiologist at the University of Miami; and Lisa Ann Conti, DVM, MPH, director of Florida’s Division of Environmental Health.

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Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Communications

-USF Health-

USF Health’s mission is to envision and implement the future of health. It is the partnership of the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, the College of Nursing, the College of Public Health, the College of Pharmacy, the School of Biomedical Sciences and the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences; and the Doctors of USF Health. USF Health is an integral part of the University of South Florida, a high-impact, global research university dedicated to student success.  For more information, visit www.health.usf.edu