The Joe Leonard Award is given annually to an exceptional leader in community health for the impacts they’ve made in their career to advance health equity and system transformation that reduces barriers to health and wellbeing. Here’s a bit about the man who was the inspiration behind the award.

From an early age, Joseph Patrick Leonard developed a passionate sense of social justice and a lifelong concern for the poor and marginalized in our society. In 1975, he became the first director of a pilot project for multi-service health care in South Etobicoke that would become LAMP Community Health Centre, and which provided the model from which Community Health Centres were developed throughout Ontario. On his retirement, after 24 years as Executive Director at LAMP, he became a consultant to the more than 50 Community Health Centres operating in the province at the time.

In 1992, he received a Governor General’s Commemorative Medal in recognition for his contribution to his community and Canada, and in 2005, a lifetime achievement award from the Association of Ontario Health Centres for his commitment and dedication to the community health movement. Joe touched many lives through his support to others, his leadership, his vision, and his commitment to community and social justice. He believed passionately in a non-profit, public health care system in which everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, would receive the highest quality of care available. His work significantly contributed to ensuring the public health system was strong and accessible to all.

To support his drive to build a healthy community, he worked part-time on a Master’s Degree in Environmental Studies at York University, granted in 1989. For recreation, Joe belonged to Friday Night Baseball, Seniors For Nature Canoe Club, High Park Ski Club, Academy For Lifelong Learning and a pickerel fishing group. He also volunteered with student mentoring programs. Joe added friends wherever he went. He was a gentle, caring, generous and sensitive person who loved people and always put them before himself.

The purpose of Joe Leonard award is to recognize individuals like him who have demonstrated extraordinary leadership, commitment and support for creative solutions for accessible, high quality and affordable health care.