By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer

Dr. Olivia Kasirye, Sacramento’s Public Health Officer, received the Mort Friedman Civic Leadership Award at Mayor Darrell Steinberg’s State of the City address delivered outside the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center on June 30. 

The prestigious Friedman award honors outstanding individuals who demonstrate a passionate commitment to public service through their work and community leadership.

“Dr. K. and her team steadfastly led Sacramento County’s response to COVID-19 in the most difficult time, ever,” Mayor Steinberg said. “She never flinched during the toughest time of the pandemic. Thank you Dr. Kasirye because every decision you made mattered.”

Dr. Kasirye and her staff have been on the frontlines of providing the Sacramento community with an abundance of medical information concerning the coronavirus as well as communicating with the local media to relay the office’s efforts in keeping the public safe.

More than 108,000 people in Sacramento County tested positive for COVID-19 since March 2020 and nearly 1,800 people succumbed to the coronavirus. 

Lab testing, vaccinations, locations for testing, hospitalization cases, healthcare providers, and tracking of COVID-19 related deaths were some of the many activities Dr. Kasirye was tasked with over the last 18 months. 

Between the city and county governments, Dr. Kasirye said the process has been a team effort. Steinberg said the public health officer has presided over a process where 684,000 people in the county have been vaccinated, thus far.

“It’s indeed a great honor to receive this award. But we all worked side by side through this. I am also grateful at this time where we are able to meet,” she said. “I want to thank the city for support, the (Sacramento County Board of) Supervisors for support. It’s a testament to the hard work we’ve put in and how far we’ve come to be able to deal with a pandemic, the worst we’ve seen since the flu pandemic of 1918.” 

Dr. Kasirye also emphasized the essential work by first responders, healthcare professionals, volunteers, staff of the city of Sacramento and community-based programs.

“I want to honor the public health staff that worked alongside me and essential service workers who through this period continue to show up to work seven days per week putting in long hours,” Dr. Kasiyre said. “(They also) answered questions, provided testing and provided vaccinations, and we’re there to answer all the questions from people impacted by COVID-19.”

After working as the El Dorado County public health officer, Dr. Kasirye was hired by Sacramento County on Feb. 8, 2012.

She has almost 30 years of experience including her work as the medical director of the Sacramento County Child Health and Disability Prevention program and the Maternal, Child and Adolescent Health program and as the Communicable Disease Controller.

Dr. Kasirye received a medical degree from the Makerere University Medical School in Kampala, Uganda, and she has a master of science degree in Epidemiology from the University of California, Davis. She is board certified in public health and general preventive medicine.