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MLK Unsung Heroes: Westminster recognizes state epidemiologist Dr. Dunn as community leader

State Epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn virtually addresses Utah during the COVID-19 pandemic with data updates and protocol changes while taking questions from the press Oct. 8, 2020. Dunn took part in daily press briefings through the height of the pandemic in the summer of 2020, earning some local fame as Utah’s state epidemiologist. Westminster College awarded her a Community Leader Award Wednesday. (Screenshot from virtual COVID-19 briefing)

Among Westminster College’s 2021 MLK Unsung Hero Award recipients announced Thursday is Utah’s lead epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn, who quickly became the face of Utah’s pandemic response since March 2020. Lucas Horns was also awarded for his work with Project Rainbow, an organization he started in 2018 that promotes LGBTQ+ visibility throughout Utah.

The annual Unsung Hero Awards, “are given to individuals, groups and organizations who are committed to promoting a diverse and inclusive campus and community,” according to a press release from Westminster. 

The awards honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work are typically given at the annual MLK Luncheon in February. However, this year’s events have gone virtual — including the MLK March and Rally — because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“This is an ideal time and opportunity to recognize this year’s cohort of Unsung Hero Award recipients as we celebrate and reflect on the life, work and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. as a scholar, activist and advocate for civil rights and social justice,” said Dr. Tamara Stevenson, chief diversity officer at Westminster, in a statement.

Dr. Dunn, a recipient of the Community Leader Award, came into local celebrity throughout the past year because of her near-daily briefings of Utah’s COVID-19 data and protocols. 

The epidemiologist’s “dedication and tireless effort to provide sound scientific content in a complex sociopolitical context to inform Utah state leaders and its citizenry about COVID-19, its effects and proper personal and public protocols needed to protect the state and minimize community spread” contributed heavily to her selection as an award recipient. 

Prior to her work on the state’s COVID-19 data, she was involved in several infectious disease outbreak response and control efforts both in Utah and abroad. She began working with the Utah Department of Health over five years ago with a particular focus on serving under-resourced communities.

Westminster also recognized Lucas Horns with the Community Leader Award for his work with Project Rainbow toward making Utah a more welcoming, accepting place for the LGBT+ community. 

YWCA Utah was awarded the Community Organization Award for its work throughout the pandemic, particularly the 21-Day Racial Equity & Social Justice Challenge it hosted last summer. 

“In spite of the challenges arising from the unpredictability of both a global pandemic and intensified social and civil unrest in the past year, [each recipient] persevered to support and encourage those in their care without hesitation, to the benefit of their students, clients, classmates, peers and the communities where they serve,” the school said.

*A previous version of this story incorrectly when the pandemic response began. It began in March 2020.

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Marisa Cooper is a senior communication major with a psychology minor. She hopes to find a career path within public relations or journalism with time for a mindful work/life balance. As of late, she’s been exploring passions for embroidery, hiking, house plants and podcasts. Marisa is thrilled to take on the role of managing editor this year.

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