OSWEGO — The Zonta Club of Oswego will present its 2021 Amelia Earhart Woman of Achievement Award to Dr. Christina Liepke in a virtual ceremony at 7 p.m. on June 15. The award is presented annually to a woman who has dedicated herself to the community and who serves as a role model for young women.
Noting the change in circumstances from years past, Zonta Club President Sonia Robinson said, “Last year was the only time in 37 years we weren’t able to continue this important tradition.”
“Although we won’t be gathering in person this year, we are thrilled to honor a woman in our community once again,” said Robinson. “And considering the events of the past year, it’s fitting that we are recognizing Liepke for her role in Oswego County’s response to COVID-19.”
Liepke has been the medical director of the Oswego County Health Department since 2014. In that position, she provides guidance on all medical aspects of the department’s operations and serves as a liaison between the Health Department and the medical community. She also serves as the medical director for the Oswego County Hospice program where she is part of the team that supports patients and their families at the end of life and throughout the grieving process.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Liepke’s work at the Health Department rose to a new level. She was responsible for keeping local healthcare providers up to date on COVID-19 trends and served as the County’s point person for local school district officials, responding to their many questions and concerns.
Liepke said the beginning of the pandemic was uniquely challenging because her husband, Dr. Matthew Liepke, who is a Colonel in the Army National Guard, was deployed overseas. She also continued to care for her patients at Port City Family Medicine, where she has practiced since 2005.
Senior Public Health Educator, Diane Oldenburg, who works closely with Liepke at the Health Department said, “When the pandemic began, guidance from state and federal agencies was rapidly changing. Dr. Liepke’s calm demeanor helped everyone stay focused.”
Liepke was also quick to recognize the stress that Health Department staff were under as they operated the COVID-19 hotline and performed contact tracing. Oldenburg said, “Dr. Liepke is a fierce advocate for us when it comes to self-care to prevent mental and physical exhaustion during these challenging times. We are lucky to have her as part of our team.”
Given Liepke’s humble and generous nature, it’s apt that, in accepting this award, she gives credit to those around her. “The Woman of Achievement award is more about recognition of all women who have stood with me to serve the community during the pandemic. I am happy to accept this honor on behalf of those women,” Liepke said.
Growing up in the Syracuse area, Liepke originally wanted to be a counselor but realized she could help more people as a doctor, so she went to medical school. After graduating, she married, moved out-of-state and had two children. Liepke said, “When my husband deployed, I realized I wanted to be closer to family.” In 2005, the Liepkes moved to Oswego.
Amelia Earhart was an aviator and prominent member in Zonta International in the late 1920s and early 1930s. She was also a strong advocate for gender equality. Earhart once said, “I, for one, hope for the day when women will know no restrictions because of sex but will be individuals free to live their lives as men are free.”
Liepke recognizes the struggles that women before her have gone through. “The challenges that women in medicine face now are nothing compared to the challenges they faced in the past,” Liepke said. “I am grateful to all those women for breaking down the barriers of sex discrimination.”
The Woman of Achievement award was started in 1985 by the Zonta Club of Oswego to honor a woman annually whose hard work and dedication makes a difference in the lives of families in the Oswego community. The event also features an award presentation for Zonta’s scholarship winners.
The ceremony will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, June 15. In typical years, a dinner is held which raises funds for Zonta’s scholarship program. This year, the event is free, and donations are being accepted for the scholarship fund. For more information, click on the events tab on the Zonta Club of Oswego Facebook page. To register or donate, visit www.zontadistrict2.org/oswego/donate.html.