Harry McDermott Surprised to be Named the 2022 Billy Joe Varney Winner!

March 21, 2022
BJV winner Harry McDermott

Harry McDermott and his supervisor David Salafsky came down the stairs to find their team and the ERC members gathered to let him know he had been chosen the 2022 Billy Joe Varney winner. Dr McDermott was gratified to have his friends around him and made a lovely speech about how much the team meant to him and how much he loved his job. 

Harry has always been committed to improving the university environment for faculty, staff, students, and the public. He has demonstrated this commitment with tremendous competence, wisdom, humility, and an unwavering desire to enhance the health and safety of the UArizona community. Dr. McDermott was a key participant in the development and implementation of the UArizona’s first comprehensive occupational health program and clinic. Medical surveillance of employees working with animals, in laboratories, farm settings, and performing facilities work is a key component of successful occupational health programs.

UArizona’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic has presented challenges none of us ever imagined. Harry chaired the Pandemic Preparedness Committee at a time when many didn’t expect to see a pandemic happen in our lifetimes. Fortunately, Harry was steadfast in working with multiple stakeholders to assemble a comprehensive matrix of campus responsibilities and kept that awareness current with regular updates. A key part of that planning effort was preparing for a mass immunization clinic. That plan became a key resource in the implementation of the UA’s Point of Distribution (POD) Vaccination Clinic, which distributed almost a quarter million COVID-19 vaccine doses in 2021.

These contributions from Dr. McDermott were in many cases over and above his primary role as Executive Director of the Campus Health Service (CHS). At more than 100 years old, CHS is a model organization in higher education, demonstrating a tremendous commitment to the health and safety of the student population. In addition to providing traditional clinic and pharmacy services, CHS administers Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to assist students with mental health issues. College students have a tremendous need for these services to be successful, and Dr. McDermott has always been a strong advocate for providing high quality counseling services to assist students with anxiety, eating disorders, substance abuse, suicidal ideations, and more. I have no doubt that many student lives have been saved, along with personal and academic success stories, due in no small part to the services provided by CHS and CAPS.

I have the pleasure to work alongside Dr. McDermott on the International Travel Safety Oversight Committee (ITSOC) and the University of Arizona Emergency Vledical Services (UAEMS) program:

Since the inception of ITSOC in 2006 Dr. McDermott has provided support for University members (students, faculty, and staff) on official travel. This ranges from providing recommendations to support travel to locations that are high risk (Ebola, COVID-19, H1N1) to providing emergency support to travelers impacted by volcanic eruptions, tsunamis, earthquakes, medical emergencies, and radioactive disasters such as the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility in Japan. Dr. McDermott became the co-chair of ITSOC to help guide the core members and subject matter experts as the committee provides support for the institution's travelers. What really stands out is his delivery of exceptional service to this University committee. He is always one step ahead thinking of what comes next. In his review of travel, he could make a recommendation of not supporting official travel when he sees a risk, but he goes that extra step of not only identifying the risk but providing recommendations to mitigate the risk to support the travel. 

When UAEMS first started they were under the umbrella of ASUA as a student service club. Dr. McDermott saw the importance of the program coming under the support umbrella of Campus Health Services. A health care department who could provide the best support for this student run EMS program. Dr McDermott's involvement and support has resulted in this program evolving from a group of students who provided emergency medical support for students, faculty, staff, and visitors on bicycles to a  24/7/365 operation who now have motor vehicle response capability and a dedicated building to provide support from. Dr. McDermott not only saw the importance of the students interested in obtaining an education in the medical field, but also receiving hands-on experience in the medical field. His support and mentorship have directly helped students to become paramedics, nurses and doctors upon graduation and go on to provide lifesaving skills around the world.

Beyond all the experience and technical knowledge that Harry brings to our team, we greatly value his compassionate, people-centered approach. Those who have had the opportunity to interact with Harry come away feeling listened to and valued – rare qualities in our world today that are no doubt more important than ever during the pandemic. Harry is someone who sees the big picture and is always looking ahead to what is around the corner. At the same time, he is also someone who takes the time for the little things (which of course are not little) in support of his colleagues. Harry has been an incredible mentor to me during my time at the University, and I have greatly benefited from his advice and friendship over the years in more ways than I can count. Similarly, The University of Arizona and our larger  community is a much better place as a result of Dr. McDermott’s leadership and service.

Congratulations Harry McDermott, most deserving of this honor!