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Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame welcomes trio of difference makers

Ann Porter gives her speech after she was inducted in the Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame. Dr. Silvia Campbell, Ann Porter, and Julianne Holt were inducted at the Hillsborough Commission on the Status of Women's Hall of Fame Ceremony and Luncheon held at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Porter was the first director of the Hillsborough County Head Start program. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times
Ann Porter gives her speech after she was inducted in the Hillsborough County Women's Hall of Fame. Dr. Silvia Campbell, Ann Porter, and Julianne Holt were inducted at the Hillsborough Commission on the Status of Women's Hall of Fame Ceremony and Luncheon held at the Tampa Convention Center on Thursday, March 22, 2018. Porter was the first director of the Hillsborough County Head Start program. OCTAVIO JONES | Times
Published Mar. 25, 2018

TAMPA

The mantra, "If you don't like something, change it," is emblematic of the Hillsborough County Commission on the Status of Women's 2018 Women's Hall of Fame Class: surgeon Sylvia Campbell, Hillsborough County Public Defender Julianne Holt and ground-breaking educator Ann Porter.

Commission chair India Witte used the change mantra and it fit. Perfectly

For Campbell, the first female surgeon in Hillsborough County, that change was developing trauma systems in the state and the country, and helping the less fortunate receive life-saving care.

She proved instrumental in developing ways to get trauma patients faster care and changing the laws to prevent people from getting hurt in the first place when she served as the chair of the Florida Committee of Trauma and the national chair of the Injury Prevention Subcommittee of the American College of Surgeons.

Campbell's reputation as a a remarkable surgeon is complimented by her humanitarian work. She regularly takes mission trips to Haiti and Uganda to help the poor receive medical care through the Board of the Medical Benevolence Foundation of the Presbyterian Church, and the Board of Directors of Village Partners International.

She has received numerous awards over the years including USF College of Medicine Alumni of the year (2017). But after all the accolades, she says the best part is the gift of being able to touch someone's life.

She was in tears and practically speechless as she accepted her award.

"It's very humbling and I'm so grateful to be able to live this life," said Campbell, who serves as president of the board of the Judeo Christian Health Clinic, a free medical clinic .

"I love the people in Haiti and the people in Africa. They gave me so much. If I were to die tomorrow, it'd be fine because I feel so fulfilled."

Holt revels in similar fulfillment after serving as the public defender since 1993.

She decided she wanted to lend a voice to the voiceless while working as a clerk years ago, and seeing a defendant struggle without representation.

"It was for people who you could tell needed the help, they needed someone to speak for them and someone they could trust," Holt said. "And I wanted to be that person."

She is also passionate about juvenile justice and pinpoints a memorable moment in her career when she prevented a then 16-year old male from being tried as an adult and convicted to life for armed robbery by convincing the jury that he had an alibi.

"My goal right now is not to allow what everybody is seeing in terms of crime to define us, but to find a way to reduce crime and give people a better life that perhaps have turned to crime for the wrong reasons," Holt said.

She also noticed a lack of diversity in law, a highly male-dominated field, and set out to change that starting with her firm, which is the largest law practice in Hillsborough employing 225 attorneys, 57 percent of which are women.

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Porter, who dedicated her life to public service, was extremely thankful and shared how blessed she was to be a part of the growth of Hillsborough county.

Awards and certificates for her civic leadership are numerous. She served as the president of the Tampa Branch of the NAACP, the coordinator for the Tampa and Plant City chapters merger to form the Hillsborough County NAACP, and is a founding member of the Hillsborough County Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship Committee.

She has been instrumental in guiding young mothers and teenage girls as they journey through the difficulties of life as a participant of the Sanctuary Ladies and Sunday school at Beulah Baptist Institutional Church.

However, of them all she highlights her appointment as the first Director of Hillsborough County's Head Start program as her proudest accomplishment.

At age 80, she is still active in the church and the community and doesn't believe in stopping, just passing it on to the next generation.

"I have been blessed and I am hoping that all of what has occurred will be repeated in the life of so many," Porter said.

"Even though you may age, you don't tire out. We must keep the fire burning."

Contact Monique Welch at mwelch@tampabay.com

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