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Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, talks about the new COVID-19 unit was designed and built within two weeks at Cox South Medical Center. The ward-style wing is capable of handling 51 patients. (Photo: Andrew Jansen/News-Leader)

Steve Edwards, president and CEO of CoxHealth, has been a vocal advocate for the health of patients and families in southwest Missouri during the COVID-19 pandemic.

For that work, he was honored Monday with the 2020 Humanitarian Award.

Edwards, who grew up in Springfield, was the 35th person honored with the award in a 31-year period.

He was nominated by Morey Mechlin, an active civic volunteer and retired executive director of Care to Learn.

“During the most uncertain time in our lives, Steve Edwards has exhibited all of the qualities that make him the Humanitarian of the Year,” Mechlin said, in a news release.

“While Steve has always been recognized as a leader in the health community, he used his position, education, business acumen and personal contacts — at great personal and professional risk — to lead our community through the COVID-19 crisis.”

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According to the release, Edwards has advocated for “best practices” to protect the region  — including masking — and donated to a philanthropic fund to support employees who are affected by the virus.

Under his leadership, CoxHealth has repurposed facilities and secured equipment and supplies to respond to the pandemic.

The Community Partnership of the Ozarks partnered with the Association of Fundraising Professionals-Ozarks Region Chapter to present the Humanitarian Award as part of the National Philanthropy Day celebration on Nov. 10, which will recognize deserving individuals and organizations in many facets of philanthropy.

The event will take place virtually but the public can watch online at

Edwards began working at CoxHealth in high school as an orderly and grounds crew attendant. He served in numerous roles before being named president and CEO in 2012.

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He is a graduate of Drury University with a master’s degree from Washington University School of Medicine. He is involved with the Community Blood Center of the Ozarks, Voluntary Hospitals of America, Missouri Hospital Association, Springfield-Greene County Health Commission, Drury University and Burrell Center.

The Humanitarian Award was founded in 1990 by the late Springfield donor Jewell Thompson Schweitzer.

Edwards will receive a $5,000 cash award, which he plans to donate to the Springfield Center for Dyslexia and Learning.

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