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Public Health Hero October 2014
September 29, 2014
The people living in her community commonly call Martha E. Valiant, MD, MPH the “Baby Doctor”, but colleagues know her as the “Voice of Rural Counties.” Over the past 40 years, Dr. Valiant has been a tireless advocate for the rural health challenges of communities in not only Hendry and Glades Counties, but throughout the entire Southwest Florida region. Since graduating from Duke University School of Medicine in 1972 with a specialty in pediatrics, Dr. Valiant has spent most of her medical career in the public sector. Her public health roots began in Palm Beach County, working alongside Dr. Carl Brumback.
“He helped to feed my passion for rural health, Dr. Valiant said.
In 1991, she became director of the health departments in Hendry and Glades Counties. By the late 1990s, Dr. Valiant had laid the groundwork for building the additional health departments in Clewiston and LaBelle, which were dedicated in her honor. Now retired, she continues to follow her passion for rural health by serving on several boards such as Children’s Advocacy, The Children’s Hospital, Health Planning Council, and Hendry-Glades Behavioral Health.
Dr. Valiant said, “I absolutely loved the years I’ve spent at the Hendry and Glades Health Departments. They enabled me to fulfill my goals of tackling rural health issues.” When asked how she would like to be remembered, she humbly stated, “I hope that I am remembered as a doctor who made a difference in the lives of children and their families in rural communities.”
Over the years, for her public health imprint on the world, Dr. Valiant has received many honors. Beginning in 1997, she received the Outstanding Woman in Public Health Award from the College of Public Health, University of South Florida. From 1997 to 2014, she received the FRHA Wendell Rollason Award, the Sidney S. Chipman Award, the Healthy Start Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Greater LaBelle Chamber of Commerce Woman of the Year Award. Most recently, she was named by WGCU to its list of “21 Southwest Florida Women Who Have Made a Difference.” (WGCU is a PBS-member television station in Fort Myers, owned and operated by Florida Gulf Coast University.)
Pat Dobbins, administrator for the Florida Department of Health in Hendry and Glades Counties shares, “Dr. Valiant continues to be an inspiration to me; she is one of my personal heroes. This is a person who definitely encompasses every aspect of a public health hero.”
Dr. Valiant can be found in our Florida Public Health Heroes publication, http://issuu.com/floridahealth/docs/public_health_heroes_4-14 on page 77 of 81. She represents Hendry & Glades Counties for the Southwest region of Florida.