Tracing the Origins of the AMCHP Annual Awards: Honoring Leaders Advancing MCH 
January 19, 2023

Each year, AMCHP recognizes individuals in the maternal and child health (MCH) community who have gone above and beyond to positively impact those around them. Leaders, innovators, professionals, youth, and legislators are nominated and selected based on their commitment and contributions to advancing MCH. In this post, you can learn more about the awards’ history, look back on previous winners, and learn how you can nominate someone for an award this year. 

History of the Awards 

Every award has a unique history and significant meaning behind why they were created. Each category aims to recognize the qualities and contributions of those advancing MCH and is dedicated to an individual in the field who has left a legacy for us to remember and honor. Presenting these awards at the AMCHP Annual Conference gives us a chance to celebrate exceptional members of our community at our largest gathering of MCH leaders and thinkers.

John MacQueen Lecture Award: In 1988, AMCHP established an annual lectureship to honor one of its most distinguished members, John C. MacQueen, the former director of the Iowa Child Health Specialty Clinics, the state’s program for Children with Special Health Care Needs (CSHCN). A pediatric neurologist, John C. MacQueen, has achieved success at state and national levels. As an administrator, clinician, advocate, innovator, and educator, Dr. MacQueen made his presence felt throughout the country through his tireless work on behalf of children with special health care needs. In honor of Dr. MacQueen, this award and lectureship continue to recognize innovation in the field by honoring an individual who has made an exemplary contribution to maternal and child health issues. [read more] 

Vince Hutchins Leadership Award: In 1998, AMCHP launched what was then called the “AMCHP Leadership Award” to recognize outstanding individuals, living or deceased, whose work has contributed to significant societal changes that have resulted in improvements in the health of American families and their various members. In 2001, AMCHP renamed the Leadership Award to Dr. Vince Hutchins, a beloved national leader who led the development of new initiatives for children and families, such as the Healthy Mothers and Healthy Babies Coalition. In honor of Vince Hutchins, this award continues to recognize leadership in promoting a society responsive to the needs of women, children, youth, and families. [read more] 

Merle McPherson Family Leadership Award: In 2008, this award was developed to honor Dr. Merle McPherson. Dr. McPherson retired from MCHB in January 2007. She left a legacy of leadership and vision for creating a new model of family‐centered health care delivery for children and youth with special health care needs. She also led the way to expand the family-centered care model for children with special health care needs internationally. In honor of Dr. McPherson, this award recognizes exemplary contributions to further family/professional collaboration within the state Title V Programs and AMCHP. [read more 

Ryan Colburn Scholarship Award: In 2011, AMCHP established the Ryan Colburn Scholarship Award. Ryan Colburn was an amazing young man with varied interests ranging from singing in a choir to sports (he was an avid Auburn and Atlanta Braves fan and played the outfield in Miracle League Baseball). He touched the hearts and lives of all that encountered his contagious personality and unforgettable smile. Ryan also carried a strong message to the disability community, imploring others with disabilities to live life to the fullest. In honor of his life and his affirming message to the disability community, family leader, advocate, and AMCHP member Susan Colburn, the Ryan Colburn Scholarship Award continues to keep alive the work that Ryan had started in the recent years before his passing, speaking at local and national conferences about growing up with a disability and the spreading the message of the importance of living life to the fullest. [read more] 

Excellence in State MCH Leadership Award: In 2012, this award was created to recognize an outstanding state MCH professional whose career in MCH has made significant contributions to their state’s MCH program, state maternal and child health outcomes, and made other significant contributions to promoting and protecting the health of women, children, and families in their state. The awardee is an effective MCH leader, exhibiting competency in many, if not all, MCH Leadership Competencies. The recipient of this award has demonstrated excellence in relevant MCH Leadership Competency areas. Refer to the Leadership Competencies website for more information. [read more] 

Emerging MCH Professional Award: In 2014, the Emerging (formerly titled Young) MCH Professional Award was developed to recognize current/future leaders for their significant contributions to their state MCH programs in promoting and protecting the health of women, children, and families in their state and/or region. This award aims to recognize an individual’s capacity to perform above and beyond expectations, using creativity and innovation to address pressing MCH challenges, and their emerging and future leadership potential. Up to ten awards, a maximum of one from each HHS Region will be conferred annually and recognized at AMCHP’s Annual Conference. [read more] 

A Look Back at Some of the 2022 Recipients  

Dr. Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha, PhD, MPH, CHES John C. MacQueen Lecture Award 

Rebecca (Becky) Burns, MSSWMerle McPherson Family Leadership Award 

 Kafi Dixon, MA – Region VII Emerging MCH Professional Award 

 Dr. Eugene R. Declercq, BS, MBA, MS, PhDVince Hutchins Leadership Award 

Click here to learn more about all of last year’s recipients.  

Nominate an Individual for an Award this Year 

The call for nominations for the 2023 AMCHP Annual Awards is open! The awards will be presented at the 2023 AMCHP Annual Conference, held in a hybrid format from May 6-9, 2023, in New Orleans, Louisiana. All award winners are invited to accept their awards at the conference. Limited travel support is available for some awards. If you are interested in nominating someone, please complete this nomination form and submit all nomination materials to Nikeisha Ogletree, Chief Operating Officer, at  by February 13, 2023.