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ADL Honors Warner Thomas & Steve Gleason for Visionary Leadership and Social Impact

ADL Honors Warner Thomas & Steve Gleason for Visionary Leadership and Social Impact

New Orleans, LA -- ADL (The Anti-Defamation League) has selected Ochsner President and CEO Warner Thomas and former New Orleans Saint's player Steve Gleason as this year’s A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Winners. Mr. Thomas and Mr. Gleason are influential and respected leaders who embody the prestigious award in their demonstrated commitment to the community and the values of ADL.

“This year’s award recipients were chosen because they have changed how we think about health, ability, and well-being, and they have shown a commitment to breaking down barriers that people face every day in accessing health care,” says Aaron Ahlquist, ADL’s South Central Regional Director. "Warner is a visionary leader who has guided Ochsner Health to prioritize innovation, inclusivity and diversity, and a holistic approach to patient health. Through Team Gleason, Steve Gleason has fundamentally changed perceptions around ability and neuromuscular disorders,inspiring countless others to change their understanding of perseverance and possibility. The award recipients actively seek to make a positive and lasting impact for individuals and communities facing adversityand work to overcome those challenges. They represent the best of ADL’s mission, which is to seek justice and fair treatment for all.”

Mr. Thomas has led Ochsner Health System’s effort to build lasting and meaningful engagement focused on communal health access and emotional and physical well-being throughout the region. Since 1998, he has led Ochsner’s vision and growth – first as President and Chief Operating Officer, and since 2012 as President and CEO. Under Mr. Thomas’ leadership, Ochsner has become a national and global destination for healthcare. It is the only Louisiana hospital U.S. News and World Report recognized as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories. He has been instrumental in developing a population health focus at Ochsner, which strives to empower patients to manage chronic conditions while focusing on prevention and education. Ochsner and ADL began partnering in 2017 to establish best practices in embracing diversity and inclusion throughout the health system’s work. This partnership helps clinicians, staff, residents, medical students, and caregivers to embrace social-emotional health as a critical component to quality healthcare.

“As a pediatrician at Ochsner Hospital for Children and an ADL board member, I am very excited about our ground-breaking partnership work addressing the “whole child” and the recognition that social-emotional health is of equal importance to a child’s physical health,” says Dr. Daniel Bronfin, ADL South Central Board Member and General Pediatrician and Medical Director, Ochsner Craniofacial Program. “In this first year of our partnership, we have focused on teaching effective engagement of children and adolescents in important conversations about bullying and identity.”

Steve Gleason is a beloved member of Saints Nation, having played with the New Orleans Saints from 2000-2008. He will always be remembered for his blocked punt against the Atlanta Falcons on the night the Louisiana Superdome reopened for the first time after Hurricane Katrina. Mr. Gleason was diagnosed in January 2011 with ALS. Since that time, he has personified strength and hope, helping to educate people about ALS and inspiring those like him who have been diagnosed with ALS or other neuromuscular diseases. By sharing his journey, he demonstrates that people can live and thrive after an ALS diagnosis. Steve and his wife, Michel, formed Team Gleason to help accomplish these goals and create a global conversation about ALS to find solutions and end the disease ultimately. When Steve was first diagnosed, he famously said there would be “No White Flags,” which has become the mantra of Team Gleason.

“The positive impact Warner and Steve have had – and will continue to have – on people in this region and beyond results not just from passion and hard work but also from a refusal to accept the status quo,” says Ann Thompson, ADL South Central Regional Board Chair. “They push to improve and increase access to quality healthcare, not letting obstacles get in their way. Their success is rooted in leading by example and addressing challenges in a collaborative way. They embody ADL’s goal of seeking fair treatment for all, and we are honored to recognize them as recipients of the Torch of Liberty award.”

The award will be presented at the annual A.I. Botnick Torch of Liberty Award Dinner at the Hyatt Regency New Orleans on December 5, 2018. Warner Thomas’ dinner chairs are Bill Oliver and David Gaines, and Steve Gleason’s dinner chairs are Phyllis Taylor and Zach Strief. Tickets are available at or by contacting the local ADL office at or 504-780-5602.

About ADL

ADL is the world’s leading anti-hate organization. Founded in 1913 in response to an escalating climate of anti-Semitism and bigotry, its timeless mission is to protect the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment for all. Today, ADL continues to fight all forms of hate with the same vigor and passion. A global leader in exposing extremism, delivering anti-bias education, and fighting hate online, ADL is the first call when acts of anti-Semitism occur. ADL’s ultimate goal is a world in which no group or individual suffers from bias, discrimination or hate. 

About Ochsner Health System

Ochsner Health is Louisiana’s largest non-profit, academic, healthcare system. Driven by a mission to Serve, Heal, Lead, Educate and Innovate, coordinated clinical and hospital patient care is provided across the region by Ochsner's 30 owned, managed and affiliated hospitals and more than 80 health centers and urgent care centers. Ochsner is the only Louisiana hospital recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a “Best Hospital” across three specialty categories caring for patients from all 50 states and more than 60 countries worldwide each year. Ochsner employs more than 18,000 employees and over 1,200 physicians in over 90 medical specialties and subspecialties, and conducts more than 700 clinical research studies. Ochsner Health is proud to be a tobacco-free environment. For more information, please visit and follow us on Twitter and Facebook.