As a result of his work with Baby Adam and his involvement with cleft palate repair in Palestine, Dr John van Aalst was nominated by the UNC Healthcare News Office for a Health Care Hero award with the Triangle Business Journal and received the Physician award on March 21st, 2013. The 29 finalists- doctors, nurses, volunteers and administrators- were honored at an awards dinner on March 22nd, 2013, following a showcase and networking event at the Renaissance Raleigh North Hills Hotel. "Our winners this year represent another class of exceptional heroes", says Bryan Hamilton, publisher of Triangle Business Journal. "Whether serving those in need or working on breakthrough innovations in health care, these winners are changing people's lives."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 6.5% of the US population fail to obtain medical care due to cost. Improving access to health care was the top answer for Health Care Heroes when asked what one thing they could change if they had the power. Dr van Aalst shared the sentiments of his colleagues as he commented "I would improve access of care- making access less dependent on language, culture or an understanding of the health care system".