Dr. Marion Kainer
Dr. Marion Kainer (Courtesy/The White House)

WASHINGTON — The White House recognized eight "Champions of Change" on Tuesday, honoring public-health professionals who have promoted the Obama administration's emphasis on wellness and prevention rather than the mere treatment of sickness and disease.

Among the honorees was Marion Kainer, an epidemiologist who helped identify a 2012 meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated drugs from a compounding pharmacy. The specialized dispensaries offer custom-made medicines for individual patients, generally using formulations not available through conventional pharmaceutical manufacturers.

"Lives were saved not only by quickly determining the cause of the outbreak and halting the contaminated injections, but also by tracking down every affected patient and getting effective treatment to the sick without delay," the White House said in a statement.

A Senate committee approved legislation in May to tighten oversight of the compounding pharmacies, but the bill has remained in limbo since the panel updated the language and renewed calls for its passage in July.

The Affordable Care Act, often referred to as Obamacare, established a fund to support strategies for preventing chronic diseases. Some of that money went toward Kainer's work as head of the Tennessee Health Department's program to studyhealth-care-related infections and antimicrobial resistance.

"She and her team work to make healthcare safer by reducing infections and preventing the emergence and spread of resistant bacteria," the White House said.

Among the other honorees was Elmer Huerta, director of the Cancer Preventoriumat MedStar Washington Hospital Center's Washington Cancer Institute. The clinic only accepts patients without symptoms of chronic illness and educates them about reducing cancer risks while also trying to detect the disease early.

American Cancer Society chief executive John Seffrin said in a statement that Huerta is "without peer as a champion of disease prevention and a catalyst for improved public health among Latino and other minority populations."

The other honorees were:

Janine Janosky, vice president and senior fellow for the Center for Community Health Improvement at the Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, Ohio.

Erica Washington, health-care-associated infections coordinator for Louisiana.

Andrea Hays, director of the Movement Initiative and the Upgrade Campaign at the Welborn Baptist Foundation in Evansville, Ind.

Natalie Pawlenko, director of the Office of Local Public Health for the New Jersey Department of Health.

Myriam Escobar, a community outreach worker at Tampa's Moffitt Cancer Center.

Ira Combs, community liaison nurse coordinator at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, working with the Center for Reducing Health Disparities.