DETROIT, Mich., Jan. 19, 2022 — Pope Francis Center will honor two people who have dedicated themselves to serving others and creating a better world at its 2022 Building Bridges Gala on April 29.
The 2022 honorees are Dr. Asha Shajahan, director of Community Health, Beaumont Hospital Grosse Pointe and associate professor, Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine, and Vinnie Johnson, Founder, Chairman & CEO of Piston Group.
“We are immensely proud to call attention to the selfless work that Dr. Shajahan and Vinnie Johnson have done for our community,” said Fr. Tim McCabe, SJ, executive director of the Pope Francis Center. “These two individuals exemplify our values that every person deserves to be treated with love, dignity and respect.”
The honorees will receive the Zito-Brender Legacy Award, established in honor of Mark Zito and Kristin Brender to recognize people who share Pope Francis Center’s values of serving and empowering others, especially the poor and marginalized.
About Dr. Shajahan
Known as “Dr. Asha,” Shajahan has distinguished herself with a passion for helping homeless and vulnerable populations. She started a Street Medicine curriculum for the Beaumont family medicine residents and designed the first elective in social equity, focusing on unconscious bias, environmental health, minority health, drug addiction, refugee health and human trafficking available for all Beaumont Health residents.
In early 2020, as COVID-19 infected more people in Detroit, Dr. Shajahan expanded her Street Medicine curriculum to the Pope Francis Center and volunteered several hours a week treating guests. A native of Northville, Mich., she has pioneered efforts to combat medical misinformation in the U.S., particularly during the pandemic, and is a leader in Project Samvedna, a coalition of doctors working to provide COVID-19 education in India.
Dr. Shajahan’s numerous awards include the 2021 Gold Foundation Champion of Humanistic Care award, 2021 Eleanor Josaitis Unsung Hero Award, the 2019 Joyce Ivy Woman of Impact Award and is a 2017 Crain’s Detroit 40 under 40 winner for her work in disparities.
About Vinnie Johnson
In 1995, after a successful NBA career, Johnson founded Piston Automotive in an Empowerment Zone to create economic vitality, jobs and opportunity in Detroit. Piston Group (a holding company established in 2018) is comprised of Piston Automotive, Irvin Products and Detroit Thermal Systems. Under Johnson’s leadership, Piston Group has grown to become one of the largest privately owned automotive suppliers in Michigan with total revenues exceeding $2.8 billion. Piston Group was No. 1 on the 2020 Crain’s Detroit Business list of African-American owned businesses.
In addition to his business success, Johnson has put a priority to giving back to the city of Detroit. In 2010, Johnson established the Vinnie Johnson Foundation, a charitable organization focused on supporting educational and cultural opportunities for the children of Detroit and surrounding areas. Other charitable work includes support for Alternatives for Girls, Boys Club Girls Club of Detroit, Focus HOPE, Habitat for Humanity, United Way and many other deserving organizations.
Johnson was a member of the Detroit Pistons NBA Professional Basketball Club from 1981 to 1994. Nicknamed “The Microwave” for his ability to quickly heat up point streaks, Johnson was part of the Detroit Pistons consecutive NBA Championship teams in 1989 and 1990. Johnson is a current member of both the Michigan and New York Hall of Fame.
Click here for photos of Dr. Asha Shajahan, Vinnie Johnson and Fr. Tim McCabe.
About Pope Francis Center
Pope Francis Center has been feeding, serving and empowering Detroit’s homeless population for 30 years – and is dedicated to eradicating chronic homelessness in Detroit by 2030. In addition to its everyday services, the center also provides guests with access to medical care, legal services, dental services, social work and mental health support, employment assistance, mail services, bike repair and grooming services. For more information about Pope Francis Center, please visit popefranciscenter.org. You can also follow Pope Francis Center on Facebook and Instagram.