Fresno State College of Health and Human Services

Empowering future leaders in health and human services!

Community Engagement

Celebrating our Community Heroes in health and human services


The College of Health and HumanServices will honor nine individuals for their contributions to the community during the sixth annual Community Heroes Awards at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at the North Gym, Room 118 (5305 N. Campus Dr.).

The awards recognize those making a difference in the fields of health and human services through their work, volunteerism and advocacy on behalf of children and families in Central California. Each honoree was nominated by an academic department, school, center or institute that represents the range of disciplines within the college.

The 2016 Community Heroes are:

  • David Barton — As athletic director at Fresno High School, Barton is making sure student-athletes are succeeding on and off the field. Since 2011, his work has resulted in increased participation in regards to academics and sports, better grades, increased retention rates and a record-breaking number of league championships for the school and its athletes.
  • Carolyn Drake — Over her 42-year nursing career, Drake has been a trailblazer in her profession. She is credited with becoming the first black nurse’s aide in her hometown of Orrville, Ohio, forming the Central Valley Black Nurses Association and turning the Fresno City College nursing program into one of the largest and most diverse in the western U.S. in her role as director of the program.
  • Jan Duttarer — After retiring from a teaching career at Fresno State that spanned 20 years, Duttarer returned and today serves as part-time faculty for doctoral students in the physical therapy program. She counts her extensive 20-year involvement with professional associations, along her work in clinical education, as the most rewarding of her professional career.
  • Michael Michner — Credited as the inspiration behind Fresno State’s deaf studies program, Michner has been living up to his legacy as one of the few certified public accountants in the U.S. who is deaf. He has more than 30 years of professional experience.
  • Emilia Reyes — Through her position as executive director of First 5 Fresno County, Reyes is making sure young children have the best start at life, including babies who are born premature. Her work with the Fresno County Preterm Birth Collective Impact Initiative addresses the early intervention work First 5 promotes.
  • Jennifer Ruiz — As chief executive officer of the Fresno American Indian Health Project, Ruiz has played an extensive role in securing mental health services for many Native Americans in the region, as well as creating a wider range of health services that help the most disadvantaged in the indigenous communities.
  • Rosanna Ruiz — In her role as education program manager at Sierra Foothill Conservancy, Ruiz has worked closely with Fresno State to teach young generations about the importance of nature preservation, with the desire to not only help them make connections with natural habitats, but discover more about themselves in the process.
  • Jim Santos — A recent induction into the Fresno Athletic Hall of Fame was just the latest recognition for Santos, who has led a decorated career in the area of college and professional athletics that spans five decades. He has coached collegiate athletes to NCAA titles and spent 18 years creating programs for children and adults with special needs thorough the Special Olympics.
  • Norma Verduzco — Growing up in a migrant, farm-working family, Verduzco grew up without access to health care. Using her experience as a catalyst, Verduzco now impacts families and inspires hope for a better future as the chief operations officer at Family Healthcare Network, which is the largest primary care provider in Tulare County.

“Through their inspirational work and dedicated service, our heroes continue to make a lasting impact on the communities that encompass the Central Valley,” said Dr. Jody Hironaka-Juteau, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “Their collective commitment makes it possible to address the health and human services needs of countless children, adults and families in the Valley and beyond. It is our privilege to recognize this wonderful group of individuals as our 2016 Community Heroes.”

The College of Health and Human Services provides a professionally oriented education at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels for more than 4,830 students enrolled in seven academic departments.

For more information on the Community Heroes Awards, contact Dana Lucka, development director for the College of Health and Human Services, at 559.278.5590 or

View original press release.

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