UHF Annual Fall Gala Goes Virtual with Tributes to Health Care Leaders and Health Care Workforce

Food Activist Karen Washington, Designer Kenneth Cole, and New York’s Health Care Workforce All Honored During Virtual Event

NEW YORK, NY—October 4, 2021—United Hospital Fund’s annual fall Gala, one of New York's premier health care events, was held virtually today. The event honored two exceptional New York-area leaders, designer Kenneth Cole and food activist Karen Washington, along with the New York region’s extraordinary health care workforce.

UHF recognized health care workers with its 2021 Health Care Leadership Award in appreciation of their courage, compassion, and commitment during the pandemic.

Although the Health Care Leadership Award usually goes to an individual or organization, this year UHF chose to salute the more than 1 million health care heroes across metro New York who tackled the challenge of the pandemic head on, responding to unrelenting demands and providing a beacon of hope for all of us.

“Our health care workforce truly went above and beyond,” said UHF president Anthony Shih, MD. “They provided—and are still providing—the best of medical care, disease surveillance, and prevention. They’ve cared for literally millions of patients, conducted more than 63 million COVID tests statewide, and administered well over 11 million vaccine doses in New York City alone.”

Four of New York’s health care leaders—Ken Raske, president of Greater New York Hospital Association; Eileen Sullivan-Marx, dean of NYU Rory Meyers College of Nursing; LaRay Brown, CEO of One Brooklyn Health; and Dave Chokshi, commissioner of the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene—also paid tribute to health care workers during the event. 

UHF presented its Distinguished Community Service Award to Bronx-based food and social justice activist Karen Washington, co-founder of Black Urban Growers, Farm School New York City, City Farms Market, and Rise and Root Farm.  She is also a trustee of the New York Botanical Garden where she has played a key advisory role in the development of the Bronx Green-Up community gardening program, created to help residents transform empty lots, and the Edible Academy, a state-of-the-art facility that offers classes and workshops to teach children, families, teachers, and the general public about growing and preparing nutritious food. She was recognized for her exemplary work as a champion of food sustainability for over 30 years and a community organizer for food justice.  

The Distinguished Community Service Award was presented by Thasunda Brown Duckett, president and CEO of TIAA, the underwriter of the Distinguished Community Service Award for the past 16 years.  

Kenneth Cole, chairman of Kenneth Cole Productions, was honored with a Special Tribute for his role as founder and chairman of The Mental Health Coalition, which works to destigmatize mental health conditions and enable equitable access to behavioral health resources and support.

The Mental Health Coalition includes eight nonprofit partners: The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, Bring Change to Mind, Child Mind Institute, Crisis Text Line, JED Foundation, Mental Health America, National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), and The Trevor Project.  

“We are both grateful and proud to have the opportunity to pay tribute to such exceptional individuals whose work reflects the core values of UHF and of our mission to improve health and health care in New York,” Dr. Shih said. 

The one-hour program also featured musical tributes by the Northwell Health Nurse Choir and by Annalissa Vicencio, an arts and music therapist at The Children’s Hospital at Montefiore.

Proceeds from the Gala support UHF’s work to build an effective and equitable health care system for every New Yorker, one that is affordable and accessible, provides a better patient experience and the highest quality of care, and achieves optimal health outcomes, with a special focus on those who are underserved.  

United Hospital Fund 
United Hospital Fund works to build an effective and equitable health care system for every New Yorker. An independent, nonprofit organization, we are a force for improvement, analyzing public policy to inform decision-makers, finding common ground among diverse stakeholders, and developing and supporting innovative programs that improve health and health care. We work to dismantle barriers in health policy and health care delivery that prevent equitable opportunities for health. For more on our initiatives and programs, please visit our website at www.uhfnyc.org and follow us on Twitter


Oct. 4, 2021