Dr. Jill Sells of Education Development Center (EDC) and the University of Washington School of Medicine has been awarded the 2023 Dr. Susan S. Aronson Early Education and Child Care Advocacy Award by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Council on Early Childhood. Each year, the prestigious award recognizes one individual who has made a significant contribution to improving the health, safety, and development of young children in early education and child-care settings.
For over 25 years, Dr. Sells has been active in early education and child-care advocacy work. Nationally, she has partnered across disciplines to advocate for and advance systems, policy, and program efforts to promote early childhood health and development through the medical home philosophy of primary care and community-based early childhood systems. She is passionate about partnerships that center children and families, build on community strengths, and eliminate inequities, especially those related to poverty, race, ethnicity, language, and culture.
At EDC, Dr. Sells is a distinguished scholar and medical advisor for the National Center on Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety (NCHBHS). Since 2020, she has chaired the NCHBHS COVID-19 Expert Work Group, which supports Head Start, Early Head Start, and other early childhood programs nationwide in addressing COVID-19 and keeping children, families, and staff healthy. She also serves on the NCHBHS Leadership Team and the NCHBHS Equity Work Group. As a member of the Equity Work Group, she supports the incorporation of health equity principles throughout the work of NCHBHS.
Dr. Sells’ commitment to equity and improving outcomes for all children began early in her career and is grounded in her practice of pediatric primary care and her understanding of the critical importance of early childhood. During her residency, she provided pediatric care on the Navajo reservation and in rural Idaho. As a pediatrician, she provided newborn, outpatient, and inpatient primary care services in Seattle, Washington.
A deep passion for the well-being of young children and families inspired Dr. Sells to expand her focus beyond clinical medicine to seek comprehensive systems changes to address social determinants of health and leverage the strengths of marginalized communities. She led efforts to bring Reach Out and Read to over 125,000 young children and their families across Washington State, while helping to build systems to enhance pediatric care and connect families with community-based resources supporting child health and development.
When accepting the award, during a ceremony held at the 2023 AAP National Conference and Exhibition in Washington, D.C., Dr. Sells said, “I am truly honored and humbled by this award. It’s going to take us all, and so many partners outside of pediatrics, to continue to move our early care and education system, our health systems, and the wider early childhood system to where they need to be so that children and families can thrive.”