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2015 Advocacy Awards

Research!America Vice Chair Michael Castle and Research!America President and CEO Mary Woolley presented the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy to Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) for their commitment to advancing the discovery, development and delivery of lifesaving medical treatments. The 21st Century Cures initiative, a bi-partisan legislative effort spearheaded by Reps. Upton and DeGette, underscores their dedication to supporting medical progress and innovation.

View videos of the awardees and visit our Flickr page to see a photo gallery of the evening.

2015 Advocacy Awards Highlights

The 19th annual Research!America Advocacy Awards, held March 11 at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C., honored exemplary leaders in medical and health research advocacy who have advanced our nation’s commitment to research. Among those who gathered to honor this year’s awardees: Margaret Hamburg, commissioner, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Francis Collins, M.D., Ph.D., director, National Institutes of Health; Tom Frieden, M.D., MPH, director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Richard Kronik, Ph.D., director, Agency for Healthcare Research & Quality; and many more luminaries in science and technology. Research!America Chair John Porter talked about “a new awakening to science” on Capitol Hill in his speech. Learn more here.

This year’s winners are Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.); ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin RobertsMichael Milken, founder of the Milken Institute and FasterCuresKenneth 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, each recipient shared their inspiring dedication to, and often personal motivation for, advancing medical research.

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) 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, a bipartisan effort to accelerate the pace of new cures and ensure the U.S. remains the world leader in health innovation,” said Rep. Upton.

“I’m honored to be the recipient of an award with this distinguished legacy,” said Rep. DeGette

Robin Roberts, who accepted the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion, is anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Roberts publicly shared her battle with not one, but two devastating diseases: breast cancer and MDS or myelodysplastic syndrome, a disease of the blood and bone marrow. In her remarks, Roberts expressed her gratitude for medical advances that enabled her to return to work after struggling with serious health threats.

Michael Milken, chairman of the Milken Institute and founder of FasterCures, was presented with the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award. Milken has led a wide range of initiatives over four decades that have supported public health, re-envisioned education, expanded access to capital and accelerated medical research. Milken, a cancer survivor who lost his father and other family members to the disease, emphasized the importance of  attracting young, talented people to scientific research to ensure the continuation of medical discoveries.

Kenneth Olden, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA, and former director of both the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and National Toxicology Program (NTP), was honored with the 2015 Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership. Considered to be the strongest champion of community based participatory research in the U.S., in his acceptance speech, he remarked on the health and economic issues that were prevalent in his hometown in rural Tennessee including illiteracy, malnutrition and lack of opportunity.

“The problems in our community were not being addressed,” he said. “As a teenager I concluded that ‘one of us’ had to ‘break out.’” Olden continued that, upon leaving his small town for college, he feared he would one day forget his roots and become uncaring. “Research!America, thank you for this award and for certification that I am the same person who left Tennessee.”

David Van Andel and  George Vande Woude, Ph.D., were presented with the Geoffrey Beene Builders of Science Award for their roles with the Van Andel Institute, which recruits top scientists for basic as well as translational research, fueling developments in treatments for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s. Van Andel, chairman and CEO, of the Institute, emphasized the power of teamwork to combat major diseases. “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.”

Dr. Vande Woude, founding scientific director of the Institute, is among the pioneers who laid the foundation for our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer.  He shared his own wife’s battle with breast cancer and, most recently, a pancreatic tumor, with the Dinner audience, stating there is an upside with new drugs and therapies on the market. “Don’t give up America,” he said. “We are close to the finish line.”

Steven E. Hyman, M.D., accepted the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award on behalf of the Society for Neuroscience (SfN). As president of SfN, the largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system, he represents the nearly 40,000 members drawn over 130 chapters around the globe, from more than 100 countries. Along with providing professional development activities and educational resources for neuroscientists at all stages of their careers, SfN educates the public about the wonders of the brain, and advocates for policies that promote research.

Click here for a special insert of the 2015 Advocacy Awards dinner and honorees.

To see the list of the 2015 Honorary Chairs, click here.