WASHINGTON — The American Medical Association (AMA) presented former Oklahoma State Sen. Ervin Yen, M.D., with the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. Dr. Yen was selected for the AMA’s top government service award for his dedication to improving public health, including efforts to prevent dangerous texting and driving and encourage vaccination.

In 2014, Dr. Yen became the first physician elected to the Oklahoma Senate in more than 40 years. In his first year in office, he introduced legislation to prohibit texting while driving. When his legislation was not voted out of committee, he defied party leadership and sought to attach it to other legislation. The amendment passed, and today is saving lives. 

“In his short time in office, Dr. Yen stood up for what was right and would make Oklahomans healthier—even when the political costs were extreme for him,” said AMA Board Chair Jack Resneck, Jr., M.D. “When public health was on the line, he was there. He fought to educate on vaccines, prevent avoidable deaths on our roads, and preserve the physician-led team model of health care that is central to medicine.”

During his time in office, Dr. Yen stood up for vulnerable populations, filing legislation to repeal the state’s personal exemption to vaccines law. Though his position on vaccines eventually contributed to his own election defeat, Dr. Yen remained steadfast in his dedication to public health policy. Although Dr. Yen only served one term in the Oklahoma Senate he was responsible for a myriad of initiatives that raised awareness and improved public health. He stood up for increased health funding, pushed for opioids reform, championed an increase in the tobacco tax, and authored a law to prevent minors in tanning booths.

Dr. Yen is one of eight honorees chosen this year to receive the Dr. Nathan Davis Award for Outstanding Government Service. The award, named after the founding father of the AMA, recognizes elected and career officials in federal, state or municipal service whose outstanding contributions have promoted the art and science of medicine and the betterment of public health.

Dr. Yen is a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. The AMA presented Dr. Yen with the Dr. Nathan Davis Award last night at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., as part of the AMA’s National Advocacy Conference.

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