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Public Citizen Honors Two for Long-time Dedication to Public Interest Movement with New Award

Dec. 17, 2003

Public Citizen Honors Two for Long-time Dedication to Public Interest Movement with New Award


Elizabeth Hitchcock of U.S. PIRG and Beverly Thomas of the National Women’s Health Network Receive First Annual Phyllis McCarthy Public Interest Award

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public Citizen will honor two members of the public interest community on Thursday for their long-time dedication by presenting them with the first annual Phyllis McCarthy Annual Public Interest Award. The recipients are Elizabeth Hitchcock, the development and communications director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG), and Beverly Thomas, membership coordinator of the National Women’s Health Network.

Public Citizen created the award after Phyllis McCarthy, a 24-year employee of its Health Research Group, died in November 2002. The award is intended to recognize people who have worked long and hard in a public interest group, performing critical functions, as did McCarthy, but who have not received public credit commensurate with their contributions.

The awards will be presented at a 4 p.m. reception on Thursday at Public Citizen’s office at 1600 20th St. NW.

Hitchcock, who graduated from Mount Holyoke College in 1982, has worked with the state and national PIRGs for more than 20 years. The PIRGs are public interest watchdogs that work to promote environmental protection, fair and sustainable economy, and responsive, democratic government at the state and national levels. She canvassed door-to-door for the Massachusetts state PIRG and was the administrative director of the New Jersey state PIRG for several years.

Joining U.S. PIRG in Washington in 1990, Hitchcock first managed the organization’s telephone outreach then spent five years as the administrative director. For the past seven years, she has coordinated the group’s foundation fundraising and media outreach.

“(She) has been consistently willing to stay out of the limelight and continue to be an extremely valuable team player without getting the much-deserved public credit and recognition,” Gene Karpinski, executive director of U.S. PIRG, wrote in his nomination for Hitchcock. “When I originally circulated the notice about this award to several senior program staff, the one name that was mentioned by many as an obvious nominee was Liz.”

Thomas, an 11-year employee of the National Women’s Health Network, oversees all membership services for the Network. The Network is an independent, member-supported non-profit organization that promotes national policies to protect and promote all women’s health and provides evidence-based, independent information to empower women to make fully informed health decisions. Thomas joined the organization’s staff in 1992 as its receptionist and has been promoted to the position she now holds. She has developed and maintains strong ties with the Network’s 10,000 active members and ensures that production of the organization’s publications and mailings goes smoothly.

“Beverly says often that she’s here because she cares about women, and the Network makes a difference in women’s lives. Those of us who know her know that Beverly Thomas has made a difference at the Network for over 11 years,” Cynthia Pearson, executive director of the Network, wrote in her nomination. “We would not be where we are now, or have accomplished all that we’ve done in the last decade without Beverly’s dedication, loyalty, competence and caring.”

Phyllis McCarthy began her career with Public Citizen’s Health Research Group in 1978 as a typist, intending to devote her career to public interest work. She became the group’s detail-oriented office manager and managing editor of all of the Health Research Group’s publications, ensuring that all publications – which included books, monthly newsletters and more than 1,000 reports, medical journal articles and petitions to governmental and health safety agencies – were error-free and published on time.

“These first two recipients of the award personify many of the qualities we valued in Phyllis: her devotion to her causes, her commitment to the task at hand and her unswerving dedication to quality,” said Sidney Wolfe, M.D., director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group.