The College of Health and Human Services at Fresno State will celebrate 10 individuals — all Fresno State alumni — for their contributions to the community during the 12th annual Health and Human Services Hero Awards, which will be held virtually at 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 17, via Zoom. 

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

“Our esteemed 2022 heroes come from all backgrounds and professions, but one thing that unites them is their incredible dedication to the children, individuals and families they serve,” said Dr. Denise Seabert, dean of the College of Health and Human Services. “As alumni of Fresno State and the College of Health and Human Services, they represent the best of the best.”

The 2022 Health and Human Services Heroes are:

  • Steve Aoki  As the director of event services at the Save Mart Center, Aoki works with some of the biggest stars in the entertainment industry, but it’s his longtime work and commitment to Fresno State’s Department of Recreation Administration that truly makes him shine. 
  • Thomas Broach — A retired nurse and decorated U.S. Army veteran, Broach has worn many hats, but it’s his time serving in a medical capacity for international medical and surgical missions (in some of the poorest regions) that stays close to his heart. His inspiration — to go where help was needed most — inspires his volunteer role today as a patrol chaplain for the Fresno Police Department. 
  • Nikki Chance — With nearly 20 years of experience as an interpreter, Chance said the ability to connect beyond words is what motivates her love of the profession. So much, in fact, that she played a substantial role in helping to spearhead Fresno State’s own interpreting degree program.
  • Carol Johnson As a former licensed clinical social worker for Mariposa County and Chowchilla Women’s Prison, Johnson has dedicated much of her career to helping individuals work through their mental health struggles. It is a topic deeply personal to her, and one that has guided her nearly 50-year career. 
  • Connie Negrete   Educating the next generation of physical education teachers is what motivates Negrete’s work as both a physical education teacher and athletic director at Sanger Unified School District. She is also committed to making sure her elementary school students succeed while finding joy in physical fitness. 
  • Wendy Osikafo — Through her work in child welfare, Osikafo has worked to address the disproportionate number of African American and Native American children in the child welfare system and helped develop the model that now guides child welfare practice for California. This is just one feat in her lifetime of service to the field. 
  • Joe Prado Early in his public health career, Prado showed great dedication to advancing and promoting health equity in the Central Valley. That same passion is still evident nearly two decades later, where he now serves as assistant director of the Fresno County Department of Public Health, helping to lead the charge of over 1 million individuals in Fresno County.
  • Kris Ramirez As a pediatric physical therapist at Exceptional Parents Unlimited, Ramirez gets to experience the joy of children making movements for the first time. It is her goal to share that same joy with physical therapy students from Fresno State, providing them with hands-on clinical internships that not only change their lives but their perspectives, as well. 
  • Russ Richardson An athletic trainer for over four decades, Richardson has worked with collegiate and professional athletes all over the world from the university setting to the Olympics. Now retired, he is committed to mentoring up-and-coming athletic trainers to lead with service and wellbeing above all else. 
  • Robin Wood Wood’s passion for the public health profession is what drives her nearly 15-year career in the field, including her most recent role as the health program manager for California’s Valued Trust, where she helps build cultures of wellness across California school campuses. 

Since the very first Hero Awards were held in 2011, over 115 individuals have been honored for their leadership and commitment to their respective profession. 

The Health and Human Services Hero Awards is a free, online event and is open to the public. To register for the virtual event, contact Beth Wilkinson at

View press release in Fresno State News.