Former USF president is honored for her work in women’s health with 2019 Remark-a-Bull Award

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National Women’s Health Week is May 12-18

As National Women’s Health Week begins, the USF Women’s Health Collective will present former USF President Betty Castor with the 2019 Remark-a-Bull Award. The award, which will be presented at the sixth annual Leading the Way Awards Luncheon at the Bryan Glazer Family JCC on May 15, recognizes Castor for her work advancing women’s health issues in Tampa Bay.

Castor has been a steady advocate for women’s health even before she became a familiar face at the USF College of Public Health (COPH).

During her time in the Florida State Senate, Castor continuously passed laws and fought for programs that would create a more equitable atmosphere for women. “I recognized the importance of physical education and health for young women and girls and the inequities that often prevent them from advancing [in society],” said Castor.

From left to right: Kevin Sneed, dean of  the USF College of Pharmacy, Laura Swisher, director of the USF School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences (SPTRS), Betty Castor,  Donna Petersen, dean of the COPH, and Charles Lockwood, dean of the USF Morsani College of Medicine, gather at the 20th anniversary celebration for SPTRS. (Photo courtesy of USF Health)

This work continued as Castor moved into the position of Florida Commissioner of Education, where much of her focus centered on the affordability of health care for children across the state. 

In this role, she helped develop Healthy Kids—a program that provides children age 5-18 with insurance if their families cannot afford health coverage.

“That effort grew from a pilot into a statewide program,” said Castor. “The results were so impressive that the Clinton administration adopted children’s health as a priority, and today [the program] has become part of the [federally-authorized] Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), in which hundreds of thousands of children are enrolled.”

Castor became the first female president of USF in 1994 and served in that position until 1999. (Photo by Tom Burton/TFW Orlando Sentinel)

When Castor became the first female president of USF in 1994, she made sure to keep women and the health barriers they often encounter at the forefront of the university’s agenda.

She made USF a mecca for maternal and child health in Florida by founding the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center for Healthy Mothers and Babies in the COPH. She also founded the School of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Sciences.

A groundbreaking ceremony is held at the site of the Lawton and Rhea Chiles Center, a center for maternal and child health that Castor founded during her term as USF president. (Photo by John Lofreddo/HSC Media Center)

While pioneering women’s health issues has clearly taken Castor to many places and positions throughout her career, she feels most at home here in Tampa, as a part of the USF community.

“On a personal level, I am a long-time patient of many of our medical school clinical faculty, and I’m grateful for the care I’ve received there,” said Castor. “I’m proud of the USF colleges and graduates who continue to make our communities healthier and prosperous.”

As for the award, Castor appreciates the recognition and sees the important role that USF and the COPH play in creating a healthy community.

“I am very pleased to be recognized for my efforts, especially considering those who have been recognized in the past,” said Castor. “There is a vital intersection between education and health, and I’ve been fortunate to have been involved in both.”

Story by Cody Brown, USF College of Public Health