Spectrum Health Physician Honored for Anti-Smoking Efforts

Spectrum Health physician Thomas H. Peterson, M.D., has received national recognition for his local anti-smoking efforts. Dr. Peterson received the Community Activist Award at the fifth annual Legacy Honors Awards on March 10 in New York City.

The American Legacy Foundation® is a national public health foundation dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit smoking. The American Legacy Foundation Honors ceremony is an annual fundraising event to recognize individuals and organizations from the worlds of business, entertainment, government, media and public health who have demonstrated commitment, leadership and innovation in their work toward creating a tobacco-free world.

Peterson was a practicing pediatrician for more than 15 years prior to joining Spectrum Health. He currently serves as medical director, Spectrum Health Healthier Communities and medical director, quality, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

“I am honored and humbled by this recognition,” said Dr. Peterson. “I hope this acknowledgment helps raise awareness of how important it is for people, regardless of age, to stay away from tobacco use.”

According to the Foundation, Dr. Peterson received the Community Activist Award for his significant successes and innovations during 15 years of working with youth, health care providers and adults of all ages to become or stay tobacco-free. He also consults with hospitals and businesses throughout the country that are interested in establishing smoke-free work environments. He began the Michigan Smoke-Free Hospital effort in 1996, which has expanded to most Michigan hospitals. The program helped develop four educational CDs that are used by hospitals nationwide and in five countries. He also was instrumental in creating the first national multi-hospital, smoke-free campus collaborative in Grand Rapids in 2003.

Dr. Peterson has founded many tobacco awareness programs over the years including “Tobacco Free Partners,” a coalition of more than 45 organizations that work together to provide tobacco cessation classes, education and advocacy in Kent County. This coalition has provided multiple free smoking classes every year for Kent County since 2000. He founded “NicoTeam,” a coalition of organizations that helps to provide tobacco prevention education to children. He was also involved in the formation of “NicoTeam Docs,” retired physicians who provide tobacco prevention talks to inner city schools in Grand Rapids.

During the past 20 years, Dr. Peterson has given more than 250 presentations about the dangers of tobacco use and smoking cessation to health care professionals and businesses. He has spoken to more than 90,000 school-aged children on tobacco education and health promotion issues. In addition, he has provided tobacco cessation training for pediatricians and primary care physicians representing the Michigan Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics locally and nationally, and has advised colleges across the United States to advocate smoke-free campus life.

While serving as assistant clinical professor at Michigan State University’s College of Human Medicine, Dr. Peterson developed a community tobacco education program with first and second-year medical students called “Tobacco Free Michigan Active Doctors.” The program trains medical school students to go into local schools and give tobacco prevention lectures.

Dr. Thomas Peterson maintains membership in numerous professional medical societies and currently serves as a member of six different committees and councils in Michigan, many of which focus on tobacco prevention. He also serves on multiple community and non-profit boards.

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through its seven hospitals, more than 140 service sites and 560,000-member health plan, Priority Health. Spectrum Health’s 14,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care to those in medical need. The organization provided $98.6 million in community benefit during its 2007 fiscal year. Spectrum Health has earned more than 50 national awards during the past 10 years.

The American Legacy Foundation® is dedicated to building a world where young people reject tobacco and anyone can quit. Located in Washington, D.C., the foundation develops programs that address the health effects of tobacco use, especially among vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the toll of tobacco, through grants, technical assistance and training, partnerships, youth activism, and counter-marketing and grassroots marketing campaigns.

The foundation’s programs include truth®, a national youth smoking prevention campaign that has been cited as contributing to significant declines in youth smoking; EX®, an innovative public health program designed to speak to smokers in their own language and change the way they approach quitting; research initiatives exploring the causes, consequences and approaches to reducing tobacco use; and a nationally-renowned program of outreach to priority populations. The American Legacy Foundation was created as a result of the November 1998 Master Settlement Agreement (MSA) reached between attorneys general from 46 states, five U.S. territories and the tobacco industry. Visit  for more information.