Silberman honored with Lifetime Champion of Justice Award, NC’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine

March 10, 2019

Pam Silberman, JD, DrPH, already felt honored to accept the North Carolina Justice Center’s Lifetime Champion of Justice Award at a special ceremony on the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, N.C., on March 7.

Dr. Pam Silberman

Dr. Pam Silberman

Little did she know that before the night was out, she also would be presented with the North Carolina Governor’s Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, reserved for those who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.

“It was an overwhelming evening, to say the least,” Silberman said. “I was so honored to receive the Lifetime Champion of Justice Award from the N.C. Justice Center, one of the most effective anti-poverty advocacy organizations in our state. But I was shocked when they also gave me the Long Leaf Pine award.”

A professor of health policy and management at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, director of the School’s executive doctoral program in health leadership and co-director of the School’s Master of Public Health concentration in health policy, Silberman’s research centers on Medicaid, the health care safety net, uninsured populations, rural health and the Affordable Care Act.

Earlier in her career, she was a statewide advocate for consumers who earn low incomes and communities with limited resources. She served as the health and public benefits attorney at the N.C. Legal Services Resource Center, the predecessor organization to the N.C. Justice Center. In that role, she lobbied, co-counseled on health and public benefits impact litigation, trained other legal services attorneys, and worked with the Department of Health and Human Services on Medicaid and public assistance issues.

During the Clinton health reform debate in Congress, Silberman created the Justice Center’s Health Access Coalition (now the Health Advocacy Project), a coalition of more than 140 different community-based religious and advocacy organizations working on health reform from a consumer perspective.

Silberman was vice president (1999-2005) and president and chief executive officer (2005-2014) of the North Carolina Institute of Medicine. In these leadership roles, she helped shape many policies in the state related to health care.

She also has done extensive work on promoting population health, helping to lead task forces that developed the N.C. Prevention Action Plan, the Healthy N.C. 2020 objectives, and a plan to help local health departments select, implement and evaluate evidence-based strategies to improve population health.

She earned a Juris Doctor from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Law in 1981 and a Doctor of Public Health in health policy and administration from the UNC Gillings School in 1997. She joined the UNC Gillings School faculty in 1998.

Silberman has received a number of awards for her work, including the N.C. Community Health Center Association Contribution Award (2014), the N.C. Division of Public Health’s Ronald H. Levine Legacy Award (2013), N.C. Pediatric Society’s Tom Vitaglione Child Advocacy Award (2009), and the N.C. Justice and Community Development Center Defenders of Justice Award (2002).

“We are thrilled to honor Pam, the founder of our very project, for her tremendous career advocating for underserved populations with limited resources and affordable health care for all,” said Nicole Dozier, director of the N.C. Justice Center’s Health Advocacy Program. “Not only did she transform our health advocacy work, she has helped shape health care policies in many roles over the course of her stunning and inspiring career.”

At the March 7 event, Leslie Winner, chair of the N.C. Justice Center’s board of directors, introduced Silberman prior to presenting her with the Champion of Justice Award. Just before Silberman rose to accept, Winner introduced Rick Glazier, executive director of the N.C. Justice Center, to say a few words of congratulations. Instead, Glazier brought greetings on behalf of Gov. Roy Cooper and presented Silberman with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine award. As former N.C. legislators, Winner and Glazier were both able to be part of the surprise and could present the award on behalf of the governor.

“Over the years, I’ve had an opportunity to work with great public health leaders, policy makers, health care professionals and consumer groups,” Silberman said. “My accomplishments really have been a combined effort of many people who worked together to improve health care access and quality of care for all North Carolinians.”

The North Carolina Justice Center is one of the state’s preeminent voices for economic and social justice. As a leading progressive research and advocacy organization, its mission is to eliminate poverty in North Carolina by ensuring that every household in the state has access to the resources, services and fair treatment it needs to achieve economic security.

The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, first presented in 1963, is conferred by the North Carolina Governor as the state’s highest and most prestigious honor, reserved for those who have made significant contributions to North Carolina and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments.


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Contact the Gillings School of Global Public Health communications team at sphcomm@listserv.unc.edu.

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