The 2023 Special Olympics North Carolina (SONC) Golisano Health Leadership Award was presented to Dr. David Tillman of Campbell University.
The award is the highest honor for health partners and individuals that SONC presents, created to recognize champions and their efforts toward fulfilling the mission of Special Olympics’ global health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation. Tillman was presented with the award at the 2023 SONC Leadership Summit, which joined Special Olympics leaders from across the state, hosted August 18-20 in Durham.
Since 2015, Tillman has served as chair of the Department of Public Health at Campbell University College of Pharmacy & Health Sciences. In this role, he has facilitated Special Olympics MedFest® events, identifying providers to be trained in completing physicals and screenings required for an athlete’s participation in Special Olympics. As a direct result of these partnerships, Tillman has increased health professionals’ knowledge and awareness of the health disparities and needs of individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“It is such a privilege to work alongside Special Olympics to support the beautiful work being done in our communities,” said Tillman. “Special Olympics leads the way in creating a more inclusive world and our partnership helps bring that focus on inclusion to future health professionals. We hope that our work brings some value to the athletes and families we serve, but even more, this work emphasizes the need for all healthcare providers to be ready to provide care to people with intellectual disabilities.”
Continuing to expand access to health care through volunteer support, Tillman partnered with SONC to develop an internship program for Campbell University students in the public health sector. He has promoted learning opportunities for students in various health disciplines, encouraging their engagement with Special Olympics Harnett County athletes as volunteers. In collaboration with colleagues at Campbell University, he has endorsed interprofessional participation at MedFest events and has supported students in providing programming to Special Olympics athletes in a variety of disciplines, including physical therapy, nursing, pharmacy and public health.
Serving as an advisor and consultant for the state of North Carolina, Tillman is knowledgeable on rural health, community health and the ethics of public health. Through his membership in the American Public Health Association, he serves as an advocate for the promotion of inclusion and the improvement of access to health care for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
“As the father of a son who lives with Fragile X syndrome, I have experienced what many families experience: providers who are uncomfortable and not confident in caring for my child,” said Tillman. “Working alongside Special Olympics, we hope to train a generation of healthcare providers who are more competent and confident in caring for patients, regardless of disability-related needs. I am honored to receive this award on behalf of the work we are building together to make Campbell University’s health science programs part of the inclusion revolution.”