The College of Health and Human Services is honored to celebrate 10 individuals for their contributions to the community during the ninth annual Health and Human Services Hero Awards Friday, Nov. 15 on the campus of Fresno State.

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

The 2019 Health and Human Services Heroes are:

  • Dan Barrows — As an alumnus of Fresno State, Barrows believes in giving back to the University. For nearly 30 years, he has done just that as a mentor to physical therapy students and most recently, as a lecturer in the department. He also provides clinical internships for students through his private practice, Barrows Physical Therapy.
  • Judith Berg — With a nursing career that spans nearly five decades, Berg is a true leader in the field, having served for various health care organizations across the U.S. She has led state-wide initiatives to advance the development of nursing in academia and clinical practice.
  • Randy Coffman — When he created the Central California Adaptive Sports Center, Coffman’s mission was to show those with cognitive and physical disabilities that outdoor adventure activities are possible for persons of all abilities and limitations.
  • Venise Curry — Advocating and fighting for disadvantaged communities is what drives Curry’s work each day in her role as the regional director of Communities for a New California Education Fund, where she has been instrumental in creating policy change in Fresno County.
  • Cyndi Dean — Laying a foundation for younger generations to develop healthy and active lifestyles is not only Dean’s work, but her passion. For 15 years, she has led work in this area, impacting nearly 200,000 students through the Fresno County Office of the Superintendent of Schools.
  • Kristine Gose — For more than three decades, Gose has transformed the field of early intervention for children with developmental delays; most recently as the director of Touchstone Family Development Center in Fresno, where her work focuses on children with autism.
  • Xavier Gutierrez — Each year, TeamSmile provides hundreds of Valley children with free dental services, and leading it all is Gutierrez. As the team dentist for Fresno State, he promotes healthy oral care not just for his student-athletes, but for the entire Fresno community.
  • Ron Kinnersley — Throughout his career managing nursing and assisted living facilities, Kinnersley has always believed that investing in students is the best way to build human services professionals in the field. As such, he has trained and mentored students from throughout Fresno State for many years.
  • Felipe Mercado — A multifaceted professional with ties to education, counseling and social work, Mercado believes each person has the ability and right to thrive, regardless of past injustices or traumatic experiences. He makes this a daily reality through his work as principal of West Fresno Elementary School.
  • Pamela Warkentin — Having grown up with Deaf parents, Warkentin knew firsthand the injustices within the Deaf community. As an interpreter at Fresno State, she makes it her mission to serve others with compassion and dignity.

“Our 10 heroes come from a multitude of backgrounds and encompass many professions, but what they all share is a common commitment of making a positive impact in their individual communities, which is one of many reasons we are proud to honor them,” – Dr. Jim Marshall, interim dean of the College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State.

For more information on the Health and Human Services Hero Awards, contact Beth Wilkinson at