“This is an extraordinary time for advocacy in research - because it is an extraordinary time for science,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America, at the 19th annual Research!America Advocacy Awards, held March 11 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. The 2015 Advocacy Awards honored exemplary leaders in medical and health research advocacy who have advanced our nation's commitment to research, including Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.); ABC's "Good Morning America" anchor Robin Roberts; Michael Milken, founder of the Milken Institute and FasterCures; Kenneth Olden Ph.D., director, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA; David Van Andel, chairman and CEO, and George Vande Woude, Ph.D., founding scientific director, Van Andel Research Institute; and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). In their acceptance speeches, the recipients shared their personal motivations for advancing medical research.
Reps. Upton and DeGette were presented with the 2015 Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy for their commitment to furthering the discovery, development and delivery of lifesaving medical advances. “Our leadership support for medical progress has been long, extending from the doubling of the NIH budget … to the 21st Century Cures initiative today,” said Rep. Upton, while Rep. DeGette stated, “I’m honored to be the recipient of an award with this distinguished legacy.”
Robin Roberts, who accepted the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion, publicly shared her battle with not one, but two devastating diseases: breast cancer and MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome. “For 174 days, because of my illness, I was unable to say ‘Good morning, America’ and yes I was counting.”
Michael Milken, a cancer survivor who lost his father and other family members to the disease, was presented with the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership award. He said, “Had I been diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s instead of 1993, I might not be with you tonight. Most of all, I want to thank you for your commitment which allows me to stand here today.”
Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., recipient of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership, shared the impact that his childhood in an impoverished community in Tennessee had on his future career path. “The problems in our community were not being addressed,” he said. “As a teenager I concluded that ‘one of us’ had to ‘break out.’”
David Van Andel and George Vande Woude, Ph.D., were presented with the Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award. Van Andel emphasized the importance of teamwork, saying, “We can change the world, but we have to work together,” he told attendees. “I urge you to acknowledge the nuance and necessity of everyone’s role in what makes us successful,” while Dr. Vande Woude shared the struggle of his wife’s battle with cancer, but added that there was hope in new therapies. “Don’t give up America,” he said. “We are close to the finish line.”
Steven E. Hyman, M.D., president of SfN, accepted the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award on behalf of SfN. “As a society, we are absolutely dedicated to making sure that we can find the funds both to make new discoveries and to translate them,” said Hyman.
To learn more about the event and this year’s recipients, or to nominate someone for the 2016 Advocacy Awards, visit www.researchamerica.org/advocacy_awards.
Click here for a special insert of the 2015 Advocacy Awards dinner and honorees.