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Press Releases

2021 MLK Humanitarian Award Winners Announced by UC Health, UC College of Medicine

Jan. 18, 2021

CINCINNATI - UC Health and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine are proud to announce the first in a series of videos celebrating the 2021 Humanitarian Award winners as part of their virtual 48th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Celebration.


Each year, the organizations recognize individuals who demonstrate Dr. King’s spirit and legacy through their dedication and contributions to our community.

This year’s theme – Activism in Healthcare – celebrates those who embody the Dr. King quote:

“An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.”

“While we are disappointed that we cannot gather in person with our community friends and neighbors to celebrate Dr. King’s legacy, we still felt it was important to honor those who have served our community, especially during this challenging time,” said Christie Kuhns, vice president of Community Relations for UC Health.

The 2021 MLK Humanitarian Award recipients are:

  • Dr. Amy Acton, Vice President of Human: Kind, The Columbus Foundation; Former State of Ohio Health Director
  • Jiahao Guo, Founder & Executive Director of the Coronavirus Relief Project
  • Renee Mahaffey Harris, President & CEO, The Health Gap

Special Recognition Award recipients include Jarelle Marshall, the first participant in UC and UC Health’s Moderna phase 3 vaccine trial; and Alandes Powell, the visionary community leader who led the creation of Cincinnati’s Black Lives Matter mural.

One video will be shared each week highlighting the award winners through mid-February. 

Dr. Amy Acton

Our first honoree is Dr. Amy Acton, vice president of Human: Kind, The Columbus Foundation; and former State of Ohio health director.

Dr. Acton was chosen as a 2021 Humanitarian Award winner due to her courageous leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. Her calm and compassionate nature helped reassure Ohioans, while her bold and fearless leadership helped save lives.

Jiahao Guo

Our second 2021 Humanitarian Award winner is Jiahao Guo, founder and executive director of the Coronavirus Relief Project. 

When COVID-19 entered our community, Jiahao Guo, a senior at Mason High School, founded a non-profit organization to help provide masks and other personal protective equipment for some of our most vulnerable friends and neighbors, including community organizations, non-profits and homeless individuals.

Renee Mahaffey Harris

Our third 2021 MLK Humanitarian Award winner is Renee Mahaffey Harris, president & CEO of The Health Gap. 

As president & CEO of The Health Gap, Renee Mahaffey Harris helped quickly bring together community organizations to provide aid and services to minority communities disproportionately affected by COVID-19 in Greater Cincinnati. Renee has also assisted with the Governor’s Minority Health Strike Force to address racial disparities across the state.

Jarelle Marshall

Jarelle Marshall stepped up to help bring hope of a brighter future when he volunteered to be the first participant in UC and UC Health’s Moderna phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Alandes Powell

Alandes Powell is a visionary community leader who helped bring Cincinnati’s Black Lives Matter mural to life in front of City Hall – “It’s a statement of hope. It’s not an ugly statement of fact.”