Dr. Debra Matityahu and Megan Williams are recognized with David Lawrence Community Service Awards. Pictured above, Dr. Matityahu poses with some of her patients in Kenya.
The David Lawrence Community Service Awards annually recognize individuals and groups throughout Kaiser Permanente who demonstrate extraordinary efforts to improve the health of communities in the United States and abroad. This year, 2 Kaiser Permanente Northern California employees, Debra Matityahu, MD, and Megan Williams, pharmacy technician, were among the 12 award winners Programwide.
The organization will make a $10,000 charitable contribution on behalf of each honoree to the nonprofit organization of his or her choice.
“Our award recipients are furthering KP’s mission — right here in our community and abroad,” said Curshanda Cusseaux Woods, Kaiser Permanente Northern California Community Relations manager and co-lead of the David Lawrence Community Service Awards Review Committee. “There were so many wonderful nominees this year, but Dr. Matityahu and Megan Williams shone with their tireless dedication to helping those in need and putting the steps in place so that their critical work can continue to impact hundreds of lives.”
Meet the recipients of the 2017 David Lawrence Community Service Awards in the Northern California Region:
Supporting and Inspiring Women in Recovery
In 2012, Dr. Matityahu, an ob-gyn at the Kaiser Permanente Redwood City Medical Center, and her daughter started a nonprofit in Kenya called Beyond Fistula. The organization funds educational scholarships and vocational training for survivors of obstetric fistula, an injury caused by prolonged obstructed labor that leaves a woman incontinent of urine or feces or both.
While on a family trip to Kenya, Dr. Matityahu had the opportunity to observe fistula repairs alongside a family friend, a Kenyan doctor. She started to interview survivors to hear about the immense socio-emotional impact of recovering from a fistula and saw how much more help the women needed after their physical recovery.
“I knew I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t do something. I had to share their stories,” recalled Dr. Matityahu.
Obstetric fistula occurs in regions of the world where there is limited or no access to health care. The babies often do not survive the ordeal, and after delivery the women are often ostracized and isolated from society. Dr. Matityahu’s organization has helped more than 170 women to heal and rebuild their lives after surgery through vocational training, business loans, emotional support, and educational scholarships.
“We’re a small organization, and winning this award is extremely validating,” said Dr. Matityahu. “This whole experience has taught me that one person can truly make a difference. We all have the power to help those in need.”
A Passionate Advocate
Megan Williams, pharmacy technician from the Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek Medical Center, lost her daughter, Michelle, to leukemia in 2009. After this devastating event, Williams has dedicated her life to fighting the disease.
Williams worked with State Senator Mark DeSaunier to pass a bill which requires employers to provide sick days for employees recovering from a bone marrow donation. Her efforts in creating and successfully passing the bill have made a significant impact on bone marrow donors by providing them with the time off needed to properly recover from their procedures.
William’s leukemia work has also garnered more than 18,000 registered bone marrow donors through her local, state, and national recruitment efforts. Many of the donors, like Williams, are Vietnamese, a population with one of the lowest matching rates in the United States.
“I want to thank Kaiser Permanente for providing me with the support, flexibility, and means to go out and help people,” said Williams. “It’s an organization that promotes and encourages a culture of giving back.”