Walla Walla doctor wins national award for community leadership

Dr. Alison Kirby received the award for her work to establish the first school-based health clinic in Eastern Washington.

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WALLA WALLA - Dr. Alison Kirby has been chosen as a recipient of the President's Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition 2011 Community Leadership Award.

The national award is given annually to no more than 50 individuals in the United States who improve the lives of individuals within his/her community by providing or enhancing opportunities to engage in sports, physical activities, fitness or nutrition-related programs, according to a news release.

Kirby, a Walla Walla Clinic pediatrician, received the award for her work to establish the first school-based health clinic in Eastern Washington, the Lincoln Health Center in Walla Walla.

The center opened in 2009 in a small building near Lincoln Alternative High School. The health center provides basic medical and mental health care for the 200 students attending Lincoln.

It operates under Student Health Options, a nonprofit agency created for that purpose. Funding comes from community partnerships, grants, donations and volunteer time.

Kirby was nominated by Steve Burdick, CEO of Providence St. Mary Medical Center. Providence St. Mary is a primary supporter of Student Health Options/Lincoln Health Center.

"The work that she is doing to promote wellness in the most at-risk youth in our community is worthy of recognition," Burdick said in the release. "Student Health Options is promoting the single greatest antidote to the cycle of poverty - the ability to graduate from high school. Her work is an inspiration to all of us."

Jim Sporleder, the principal at Lincoln Alternative High School, said that students' use of the clinic speaks for itself. This school year, the 200 students have visited the center around 2,000 times.

"That demonstrates how important the clinic has been to us," Sporleder said in the release. "When kids go over there, they are treated with such dignity, respect and love that they want to go back. The staff is incredible. Some of our kids did their senior presentations on how much the Lincoln Health Center has helped them. It has touched so many lives. In my book, Dr. Kirby is a hero."

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