The President and Board of Trustees of Western University of Health Sciences honored Dr. Astrid Heppenstall Heger with their prestigious Ellie Wiesel Humanism in Healing Award at its annual fundraising gala, “A Tribute to Caring,” on Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014 at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California. Dr. Heger was presented with the award in recognition for her more than 30 years of experience fighting for child victims of physical and sexual abuse and neglect, as well as other at-risk and vulnerable populations, including victims of elder abuse.
“Dr. Heger has dedicated her life to protecting and empowering our most vulnerable and precious population – our children – and her tireless efforts continue to impact thousands of lives,” said Western University President Philip Pumerantz, Ph.D. “We are honored to bestow upon her WesternU’s highest honor, the Elie Wiesel Humanism in Healing Award, for expressing compassion and understanding for the human condition.”
In 1984, Dr. Heger established the Violence Intervention Program (VIP), the first comprehensive child advocacy center of its kind in the country, offering medical, mental health, protective, legal, and supportive services to victims of family violence and sexual assault throughout Los Angeles County. Since then, she has continued to make an immeasurable impact on the lives of countless victims and their families.
Because the gala raises funds for student scholarships, Dr. Heger directed her speech to the current and former scholarship recipients in the audience of over 500 guests. Discussing “Cheap Grace,” or as Elie Wiesel referred to it, “moral indifference”, she reminded the audience that silence can be deadly. She remarked at how each of the many programs within the VIP was born out of her witnessing a failing in the system and then deciding to correct it, quoting Elie Wiesel, “Sometimes words, in moments of grace, attain the quality of deeds.”
She closed with a challenge to the students and physicians in the audience with a quote from her father, saying, “Don’t ever live your life to be insignificant; live it to be memorable; live it to be remarkable.”