Unsung Heroes' Award
2018 C. Everett Koop Unsung Heroes Award
Sandra "Sandy" Renor's personal experience has motivated her to make it her mission to fight Big Tobacco and reduce access and exposure to tobacco products. She saw firsthand the enormous toll smoking took on her father and her brother, and her understanding of how tobacco can impact families has shaped her perspective and approach when working on tobacco issues. Sandy once said, "No argument can reign above the emotional and physical devastation of tobacco use." Sandy's down-to-earth approach has allowed her to connect with people at the individual and community level to address tobacco.
Sandy started her career against Big Tobacco working on community education around tobacco cessation. She has written an instruction manual informing smokers and non-smokers of the health effects of smoking, believing that it is never too early or late to learn about the harmful effects of tobacco. When she transitioned into a community health educator role, she continued working tirelessly to develop educational materials on tobacco cessation.
Sandy has also advocated for tobacco-free policies to improve the health of communities. She has worked with the Mankato Area Smokefree Coalition to make Mankato bars and restaurants smokefree, which led the way for Minnesota to pass its statewide Freedom to Breathe Act in 2007. Her experience working on tobacco issues allowed her to serve as the "tobacco expert" for the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership in Minnesota, where she provided multi-unit housing managers and worksites the resources and education to go tobacco-free and implement tobacco-free policies. Sandy has contributed immensely to educating her community and its leaders on the importance of going tobacco-free and implementing policies to improve health.
Although Sandy is retired today, she has not given up the fight against tobacco. As a retirement gift to herself, she studied retail tobacco ordinances and reached out to leaders with ideas to bolster their ordinances. She has even gone undercover as an interested consumer to gain a better understanding of e-cigarettes and the flavors marketed towards youth. The public health motto of "prevent, promote and protect" truly applies to Sandy. She has taken on the various roles of supporter, educator, advocate and champion to help smokers quit and to prevent future smokers from starting to smoke.