Jim and Ann Gianopulos were awarded the Elyse Bila Ouedraogo Award on Monday night at an event at the Beverly Wilshire for their philanthropic and volunteer work on behalf of women and families from Jhpiego, an international health care nonprofit and affiliate of John Hopkins University. The award was named after a nurse in Burkina Faso who died from cervical cancer for lack of access to a simple screening test.
The gathering brought stars from Vin Diesel to Mena Suvari, executives from Lionsgate (Michael Burns), Sony (Sanford Panitch), Paramount, Fox, Annapurna (Erik Lomis) as well as producers such as Lorenzo di Bonaventura.
The award was presented to the Gianopuloses after an introduction by family friend Melina Kanakaredes (CSI: New York) who said: “The most special part about Ann and Jim is their values, and their love of family and honesty and being honorable. It just doesn’t happen that often in people who are this successful, especially in the challenges of this industry and this town.” She said that their values are consistent with the founder of Jhpiego, Dr. Theodore M. King, who recognized 45 years ago the need to teach others about medical breakthroughs for women and families to help other countries.
“When you know something, you spread knowledge. When you accomplish certain goals, you go after new ones. And when you’ve done well in life, you give back — that’s Ann and Jim,” said Kanakaredes.
“I’m here tonight because of two people. Dr. Howie Mandel who delivered two of our daughters and that’s only because we didn’t know him when the first one was born,” said Jim Gianopulos who was just recently named chairman/CEO of Paramount Pictures. “The other reason is my wife Ann who is an honor to be with every day of my life … I aspire to her goodness.” Mandel is a Los Angeles Johns Hopkins University Trustee and international chair of Jhpiego.
Ann Gianopulos thanked several people including OB/GYN Mandel who had introduced them to Jhpiego in 2010: “Howie (Mandel) brought our daughters into this world so it’s not lost on us the importance of us supporting him in his tireless efforts to ensure that even in the poorest of countries around the world that women’s reproductive healthcare is a priority.”
Emceeing the evening was comedian, actor/writer Tom Papa and the evening’s co-hosts were Comedy Central president Kent Alterman and Dr. Michelle Brennan.
It was Brennan’s impassioned and heartfelt speech about the importance of “investing in people” in other countries to change the world that hit just the right note. Clearly pure-intentioned and affected by what she and Kent witnessed, she gave first-hand accounts of how the training of health professionals in emergency care have saved lives and delivered healthy babies. They had visited places that had no running water or electricity, no windows, no toilet in the home.
In such Third World countries, donations go a long way. From the $369K gathered last year at the dinner which honored Brennan, 9,000 women were able to be tested for cervical cancer, they were able to upgrade a healthcare facility in Kenya and affect about 190,000 lives for the better. The non-profit began 45 years ago by a group of OB/GYNs led by the aforementioned Dr. King who realized the need and decided to do the right thing. The organization is now in 44 countries.
Using the philosophy “if you give a man a fish, he can eat for one day, but if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime,” Jhpiego teaches others how to help their own communities. Jhpiego President and CEO Dr. Leslie Mancuso said the non-profit is committed to making a long-term change by “helping the countries essentially help themselves.” A nurse from Zambia, Lastina Lwatula said that she has seen women walking 35 to 75 miles 9 months pregnant to a healthcare facility to deliver their babies. The mortality rate was very high before Jhpiego stepped in, she said. She was an eye-witness as well as she has been a nurse in Zambia for 41 years.
Mancuso said that about 80% to 90% of the donations given to Jhpiego go to programs to help those in need. Simply put: Jhpiego works to make sure high-quality health care gets to the world most vulnerable people. She said she flies over 380,000 miles a year from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe to carry out the mission of the non-profit and said that a lot of their staff actually come from the 45 countries they serve.
Lastly, a big shout out to comedian Al Madrigal who delivered a hilarious routine. He even mentioned the possibility of a writer’s strike on the eve of what could be a make or break time for the AMPTP and the WGA as the midnight deadline looms large. He said the last time the writers went on strike, it ended up creating a stream of reality TV shows, like The Apprentice, “and look where that got us!”