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Federal employees honored for tech, humanitarian work

The Environmental Protection Agency's Philip Brooks and Byron Bunker and the Department of Justice's Joshua Van Eaton  

The EPA's Philip Brooks and Byron Bunker and the Department of Justice's Joshua Van Eaton

At a time of generally low public trust in government, the Partnership for Public Service honored the work of civil servants at its annual awards gala.

The seven Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals, known as the Sammies, are selected by a committee of representatives from government, business, academia and media. The awards were presented at a ceremony Sept. 27.

"The 2017 Service to America Medal recipients represent the best in government, the unsung heroes who quietly work behind-the-scenes to serve their country and the public good," said President of the Partnership for Public Service Max Stier, "It is important, especially in these uncertain times, to celebrate and recognize the Sammies honorees and their colleagues throughout the government who are making a positive difference in people's lives." 

The Environmental Protection Agency's Philip Brooks and Byron Bunker and the Department of Justice's Joshua Van Eaton were presented with the Federal Employees of the Year award for their role in discovering and intervening in Volkswagen's fuel emissions scandal.

The German automobile company was found to have rigged more than 500,000 vehicles in the United States to skirt consumer and pollution laws by installing software in their cars that could detect when they were being tested and intentionally fool regulators.

Brooks, Bunker and Van Eaton headed a team of scientists, engineers and lawyers to build a case against the car company that led to the largest sanction ever assessed against an automaker. In all, Volkswagen agreed to pay $17.4 billion in penalties.

Dr. Tedd Ellerbrock, chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's HIV Care and Treatment Branch, won the Career Achievement Medal for expanding the U.S. medical assistance program.

Rory Cooper, Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs' Human Engineering Research Laboratories, received the Science and Environment Medal for designing high-tech wheelchairs with robotic arms and hands and that can traverse terrain that ordinary wheelchairs can not.

Timothy Camus, a deputy inspector general for investigations at the Department of the Treasury, won the Homeland Security and Law Enforcement Medal for leading a team to dismantle a fraud scheme in which callers preyed on Americans by impersonating IRS debt collectors -- leading to the indictment of more than 60 people.

Alex Mahoney and the Middle East Crisis Humanitarian Response team at the U.S. Agency for International Development won the National Security and International Affairs Medal for leading a relief effort in Syria and Iraq to deliver food, medicine and clean water.

Flora Jordan, an engineer in the Marine Corps Systems Command, won the Promising Innovations Medal, a new award, for developing a body armor 45 percent lighter than the 150-pound armor Marines have previously worn.

Courtney Lisa and Stayce Beck of the Food and Drug Administration were awarded the Management Excellence Medal for their roles in getting the first artificial pancreatic device approved by FDA three years faster than anticipated. 

The Service to America Medals People's Choice, voted on by the public, was awarded to Surabhi Shah, director of the Urban Waters Program at EPA, for her interagency work in reducing pollution across the country.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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