Born to Heal

Working in a hospice isn’t for the faint-hearted, but for Bradley Firchow, the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award winner at Oglethorpe University, it was an opportunity not to ruminate on the vagaries of fate, but to celebrate the remarkable lives of the patients under his care.

Firchow, who graduated this spring with a degree in biopsychology, volunteered at the Crossroads Hospice in Atlanta for four years. The Russellville, Kentucky, native spent hours at a time with chronically ill and elderly people nearing the ends of their earthly tenure. And he found beauty and significance in every moment.

“This work has been particularly meaningful to me as I have been able to spend quality time with folks who may not have family nearby or, in some case, no family at all,” Firchow said. “It has allowed me to share my loves of visual art, music and literature with my patients, which can be very therapeutic for them as they grapple with mortality.”

It was also a chance to collect and record the stories they have to tell for future generations. “My favorite was working on the Life Journal Project, which documents significant events, places, stories and people in a person’s life and preserves them for their family in the form of a hardbound book,” Firchow said. “Spending hours with patients learning their life stories can be transformative for them as they reflect on a lifetime. I value my time with my patients as their stories often offer bits of wisdom for me that I can incorporate into my life and my approach to living.”

A History of Service
After his freshman year, Firchow and a group of fellow students spent nine days in the mountains of Nicaragua, serving 1,000-plus patients in rural communities in a clinical praxis for Global Brigades, a nonprofit focused on sustainable health and economic development.

“As volunteers, we filled prescriptions under the supervision of a pharmacist, assisted the medical professionals, took patient histories, did triage, provided childcare during doctor’s appointments, and worked with community organizers to strengthen public health infrastructure in the communities we served,” Firchow said. “We also constructed eco-latrines, concrete flooring in houses and a water pipeline in La Corneta so people have access to indoor plumbing, can prevent exposure to soil parasites in their homes, and have access to potable water.”

Firchow led two Alternative Spring Break excursions—one to St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge in Florida to perform invasive species maintenance, environmental cleanup and trail-blazing for the Florida National Scenic Trail system, and one to Charlotte, N.C., to work with LGBTQ+ youth organizations after the state passed HB2, a law many see as discriminatory against gay and transgender individuals.

And because he apparently still didn’t have enough to do, Firchow volunteered at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA) through the Phi Delta Epsilon International Medical Fraternity. “My fraternity facilitates art projects with the kids,” Firchow said. “We also annually host an Anatomy Fashion Show as a benefit for CHOA. We find models on campus who wear spandex and have an organ system painted on their bodies by art students. Then they walk down a runway, modeling their organ system, as a member of my fraternity reads a narrative about the system and, sometimes, a child at CHOA who has a disease relevant to that system.”

A Passion for Rural Health
Looking at his record of service, Firchow clearly has a career in medicine in mind.
“My passion is rural health,” he said. Growing up in the Appalachian region of Kentucky and West Virginia “exposed me to the difficulties of accessing quality healthcare in the U.S. Geographic and socioeconomic factors determine what level of healthcare a person will receive and, despite the incredible advances in modern medicine and public health, many people have poor access to care—and even when they have access, the care available in their community is limited.”

After graduation, Firchow went to work for Atlanta’s Childspring International, which provides life-saving surgeries for children from developing communities. He plans to attend medical school in Fall 2021 and practice medicine in a rural community. “After medical school, I’m interested in CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service program so I can gain boots-on-the-ground sensibilities and approach medicine from a public health perspective early on in my career,” he said. “I think it’s imperative that physicians incorporate public health philosophy into their practice of medicine, and I want to set the tone for my career in medicine early on. Later in life, I would be interested in running for political office or perhaps working for a public health agency or NGO.”

Firchow said he was floored to receive the Sullivan Award. “At Oglethorpe, it’s one of the highest awards a student can receive, so when our provost announced my name, my jaw must have been somewhere beneath my feet. I was honored to be recognized for doing work that I try not to make a big fuss about—and that, honestly, I didn’t even know other people knew that I do. Receiving the award reinforces my passion to tackle issues I care about that affect people I care about.”

Campbellsville University Honors Ashli Watts with 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award

By Ian McAninch

Ashli Watts, the senior vice president of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, wasn’t just the guest speaker for the commencement ceremony at Campbellsville University (CU) this May. She was also the recipient of the 2019 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.

CU president Dr. Michael V. Carter, along with Board of Trustees Chairman Henry Lee and Dr. Donna Hedgepath, provost and vice president for academic affairs, presented the award to Watts.

Watts joined the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce in November of 2012.  She had previously worked at the Kentucky Bar Association and the Legislative Research Commission.

Watts graduated from CU with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and History in 2004 and holds a master’s degree in Public Policy and Administration from the University of Louisville.

“During her time at Campbellsville University, Ashli was very active in campus life, served as Student Government Association president, was an academic honors graduate, and participated in a number of student activities and organizations,” Dr. Carter said.

“Ashli is very active in a number of organizations and serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Prevent Child Abuse Kentucky, a statewide nonprofit organization through which she works with others in raising awareness on issues related to preventing child abuse and neglect. Ashli and her family are active members of First United Methodist Church in Frankfort. She currently resides in Frankfort with her husband Ryan and their two children, Emma and Carter, who join us today for the ceremony, along with other family and friends.”

CU has presented the Sullivan Award since 2002, Carter noted. “Mr. Sullivan was a lawyer, devout Christian, mediator, powerful and appealing orator, a courageous citizen during perilous times, a noted philanthropist and a devoted family man. In the words of a friend, Sullivan ‘reached out both hands in constant helpfulness to others.’”

Campbellsville University is a widely-acclaimed Kentucky-based Christian university with more than 13,000 students offering over 90 programs of study including Ph.D., master, baccalaureate, associate, pre-professional and certification programs. The university has off-campus centers in Kentucky cities Louisville, Harrodsburg, Somerset, Hodgenville, and Liberty, with instructional sites in Elizabethtown, Owensboro and Summersville, all in Kentucky, and one in Costa Mesa, Calif., and a full complement of online programs. The website for complete information is


The Citadel Honors Student and Professor with the Sullivan Award for “High Thought and Noble Endeavor”

A student and a professor at The Citadel received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Awards during the military college’s recent commencement exercise.

Dr. Sarah Imam, a professor in Department of Health and Human performance, and Matthew Lanetti were this year’s recipient of the Sullivan Awards, which includes a bronze medallion and honors individuals of “high thought and noble endeavor.”

Dr. Imam (pictured above) “embodies the richest qualities that define the Sullivan Award,” according to a statement issued by The Citadel. Examples of her service and compassion can be noted in her work at the Lowcountry Food Bank, Random Acts of Kindness, the Special Olympics Buddy Dance, a free medical clinic, and MUSC volunteer programs.

Complementing her involvement with numerous outreach missions, Dr. Imam is also responsible for the establishment of The Citadel’s globally recognized healthcare study abroad program to Lithuania. “For the spirit of love and helpfulness that she has exhibited, we are pleased to present Dr. Sarah Imam with the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award,” The Citadel statement reads.

Matthew Lanetti (Photo by Louis Brems – The Citadel)

Lanetti is a student in the Honors Program, with double majors in Chemistry and French, a Star of the West Scholar, and the recipient of several academic awards. In support of all academic initiatives on campus, he served this year as the Regimental Academic Officer, where he was a liaison among the Provost’s office, faculty, and students. Through his leadership, 26 new cadet non-commissioned academic officer positions were established.

Lanetti has been involved in service to The Citadel and the Charleston community. As an Eagle Scout, he volunteered with local Boy Scott troops and served as a volunteer at The Charleston STEM Festival and in chemistry outreach activities. Upon graduation, Lanetti will enroll in the Ph.D. in Chemistry program at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. “In memory of Algernon Sydney Sullivan, whose kindness and love of his fellow man forever endures, The Citadel is proud to present the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award to Cadet Matthew Lanetti,” The Citadel stated.



Sidney Hall, Student With a “True Servant’s Heart,” Receives Sullivan Award at Huntingdon College

Sidney Carol Hall, a graduating senior with “a true servant’s heart,” received the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award at Sullivan Foundation partner school Huntingdon College earlier this month.

Hall, the daughter of Angel and Rick Hall (pictured above) of Dothan, Ala., earned her degree in communication studies with a minor in art. She was a Huntingdon Hawks cheerleader, a member of the homecoming court, treasurer for the Student Government Association, and a Huntingdon College Ambassador. As a member of Alpha Omicron Pi, she served as chaplain and earned membership in honor societies Lambda Pi Eta, Phi Theta Kappa and Sigma Kappa Delta. Active in campus ministries, she was the student ministry intern at Frazer Memorial United Methodist Church.

Related: Sullivan Award winner Joey Jennings of Winthrop University overcame racism and poverty to earn a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation

According to a statement from Huntingdon College, Hall “has a true servant’s heart that shines through in her work with Huntingdon’s campus ministries, the Huntingdon Leadership Academy, and in her relationships with her classmates, peers, faculty and administration.”

Classmates described Hall as “someone who is loyal and humble, places the needs of others before her own, and whose daily actions are guided by her faith.”

Nobility of character is key to winning the Sullivan Award, according to the Sullivan Foundation’s requirements for the award: “We reserve the word ‘noble’ carefully for those whose greatness is not spent in their own interests … for one who goes outside the narrow circle of self-interest and begins to spend themselves for the interest of mankind.”

The recipient also should possess “fine spiritual qualities, practically applied to daily living,” such that the “spiritual standard of the institution may be judged by the character of the person to whom the award is made.”

Related: Born to Heal: Bradley Firchow earns the prestigious Sullivan Award at Oglethorpe University