Established in 1993 to honor Sen. John Heinz (R-PA), who was killed in a plane crash in 1991, the awards recognize significant accomplishment in five areas that were important to Heinz: the arts and humanities; the environment; the human condition; public policy; and technology, the economy, and employment. Each honoree will receive an unrestricted cash prize of $250,000.
This year's award recipients are Abraham Verghese, a physician, Stanford University professor, and writer whose fiction and nonfiction books highlight the need for medical practitioners to address the sense of profound vulnerability that patients feel when they are facing a major health crisis; Jonathan Foley, director of the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, whose research on global environmental systems includes the environmental impact of agriculture as the world seeks to feed an ever-growing population; Salman Khan, whose nonprofit educational organization, Khan Academy, has revolutionized how millions of students across the globe learn; Sanjeev Arora, a liver disease specialist at the University of New Mexico, who created Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes), a model that exponentially increases access to high-quality care by expanding workforce capacity and the use of evidence-based medicine; and Leila Janah, a social entrepreneur who founded Samasource, which trains women, youth, and refugees in the world's poorest regions to access "microwork" opportunities — computer-based tasks such as data entry, photo tagging, content management translation, and transcription.
"This year's Heinz Awards recipients show that the antidote for the uncertainties and fears of our times lies where it always has — in the imagination, determination, brilliance, and creativity of the people among us who see possibility where others see only barriers," said Heinz Family Foundation chair Teresa Heinz. "The recipients are an extraordinary group of individuals who are changing our world for the better, but that is not what makes them so inspiring for the rest of us. The secret to their special alchemy is available to any of us if we, too, are willing to challenge the status quo, to be passionate in the pursuit of bettering the world we live in, and to apply whatever strengths we have to the hard work of transformation. I am proud to name these exceptional individuals as the recipients of the nineteenth annual Heinz Awards because of the hope that their work and their example bring."