Dr. Sonjia honored as Freedom Sister for South Florida

March 18, 2011: In recognition of Women’s History Month, Ford Motor Company conducted a regional search to identify 20 Freedom Sisters, exceptional women who exemplify dedication to social causes and humanitarian efforts. Dr. Sonjia Kenya was the youngest woman selected for this prestigious honor.

“We were amazed by the inspirational stories of the extraordinary women who touched the lives of people in the South Florida community,” said Pamela Alexander, director, Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services. “It was a challenge to select just 20 South Florida Freedom’s Sisters as all of the nominees truly embodied the spirit of the nationally recognized Freedom’s Sisters.”

The Freedom’s Sisters national exhibit features 20 African-American women who fought for justice and freedom during the civil rights movement. Currently in the midst of a four-year, 12-city tour, the exhibition features African America women ranging from key 19th century historical figures like Ida B. Wells to contemporary leaders such as poet and activist Sonia Sanchez, whose stories of courage, commitment and struggle in the name of freedom helped shape the spirit and substance of civil rights in America.  Watch the video:

Dr. Kenya honored as Miami’s 20 under 40

A Miller School faculty member was among 20 emerging South Florida leaders under 40 years of age spotlighted in today’s Miami Herald as “worth watching in the years ahead.”

Sonjia Kenya, Ph.D., assistant professor of family medicine and community health and director of health disparities programs at the Jay Weiss Center for Social Medicine and Health Equity, and was among hundreds of young leaders under 40 who were nominated by Herald readers and whittled by the paper to just “20 Under 40” professionals destined to become South Florida’s next generation of community problem-solvers.

While most of the “20 Under 40” hailed from the business world – they included a number of company founders, CEOs and presidents – Kenya, 36, was singled out for making significant differences in often under-served and hard-to-reach communities.

As the Herald noted, Kenya, one of just four women honored, is tackling HIV, diabetes and heart disease in some of Miami-Dade County’s poorest neighborhoods by training community members to provide home-based education and support. The Jay Weiss Center’s health promoters help clients qualify for Medicaid, take their medications and make and keep doctor’s appointments. In January, Kenya also was invited to Washington for a discussion on the Obama administration’s global AIDs efforts.

“I am honored by the recognition,” Kenya said. “As Jay Weiss said, ‘It takes an instigator to help a village make it happen because 95 percent of people don’t give a damn, so you have to convince them.’ Hopefully, this will help raise some visibility about the health needs of under-served communities.”

Kenya, who joined the faculty in September 2008, grew up in San Francisco and earned three graduate degrees, a master’s in health and human behavior and a master’s in nutrition and a doctorate in education, at Columbia University.

To read more about the Herald’s “20 Under 40,” see the Herald story.

Dr. Sonjia talks HIV Prevention with Obama’s AIDS czar

On January 20, 2010, Dr. Kenya was invited to Washington D.C. to speak with Ambassador Goosby about the tough challenges in HIV Prevention. Dr. Kenya urged Dr. Goosby to reconsider policies that exclude the U.S. from receiving PEPFAR support to combat HIV. She also pointed out that HIV prevalence in Washington D.C. mirrors rates in Africa, yet most of our HIV funding supports programs outside of the U.S.