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2019 Advocacy Awards


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See a special photo wrap up of the event. View the program book.

“We have a moral responsibility to fund research because it saves lives,” declared Speaker of the House, U.S. Representative Nancy Pelosi, in her remarks congratulating the honorees at the Research!America 2019 Advocacy Awards dinner. “Tonight we thank all of you- this room full of dreamers, dreamers with a plan… it’s not just about research, it’s about a healthier America, a healthier world.”

Speaker Pelosi joined many leaders in research advocacy in celebrating Research!America’s 30th anniversary at the event, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on March 13, 2019.

Speaker Pelosi also spoke in praise of U.S. Representative Nita M. Lowey, who received the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. “Her strong commitment to innovative research and the health of American families has led to transformative progress in our mission to strengthen our communities and save lives,” she described.

Representative Lowey gave an emotional tribute to the importance of medical research, for which she has advocated for many years. “In those toughest of times, when reliance on even the best medical professionals is not enough, we move forward with the hope that one day, no more people will suffer from this disease,” she said. “That is why research is the key.”

“The long arc of cystic fibrosis research over the last 30 years is truly unique and inspiring,” said Dr. Francis Collins, director of NIH, in his presentation of the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “It was a rainy night in 1989 when a collaborative effort between my lab at Michigan and Lap-Chee Tsui’s lab at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, identified a three-letter deletion in a previously unknown gene on chromosome 7, and we knew we had found the cause of CF.” But, he pointed out, it took many more years to turn this discovery into progress. “Had it not been for the risk-taking and phenomenal fund-raising of the CF Foundation,” he said, “the amazing progress we are here to celebrate tonight would not have happened.”

The award was accepted by Mary Dwight, Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and Melissa Shiffman, a patient advocate. Melissa described her experience living with cystic fibrosis (CF) and thanked the CF Foundation for its “steadfast dedication to drug development research while searching for a cure has allowed me to live a much fuller life than was expected when I was diagnosed in 1978.”

Research!America Chair Emeritus The Honorable John Edward Porter presented the first-ever John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie, to the Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary of Health and Human Services and Founding Dean and President Emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine. Porter praised Dr. Sullivan’s dedication throughout his career. “I couldn’t be more proud of Lou Sullivan, a man of huge integrity, monumental modesty, personal dignity and quiet leadership showing us how we should act not only on the public stage, but in our interactions with one another.”

In fact, it was thirty years ago that Dr. Sullivan was appointed Secretary of HHS. “Thirty years ago I was excited by the opportunity to serve as secretary,” Dr. Sullivan said, “to give greater voice and leadership to address the health needs of the nation, including the need for continued, robust investment in biomedical research, the challenge of improving health literacy and health behavior of our citizens…and the need to improve access to health services for all Americans, especially the poor and the medically underserved.”

Dr. David R. Williams, who is known for his groundbreaking research on the social influences on health, accepted the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research. “Research points us to avoidable gaps and shortfalls in health that persist in this great nation, and it calls us to use the science we have to take effective action and improve the health of any American,” he said. “In the post fact and post truth era of which we live the need has never been greater for research to drive policy and practice,” he added. Dr. Williams is the Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University.

Dr. Paul Stoffels, Vice Chair of the Executive Committee and Chief Scientific Officer for Johnson & Johnson, delivered remarks in his role as Corporate Host. “The last 30 years have brought amazing transformation in science, technology and medicine,” he commented. “From mapping of the human genome to gene editing, from monoclonal antibodies to immune-therapy, from minimally-invasive procedures to robotic surgery, from AZT to one-pill once-a-day that enables people with HIV to live a normal life. The rapid progress of the last 30 years has truly been remarkable to see and be a part of.”

In her President’s Remarks, Research!America CEO Mary Woolley also reflected on the progress of the last 30 years. “In 1989, science – whether focused on health or another goal, whether financed by the public or private sector – drove progress, engendered desperately needed hope…and faced an uncertain future. In 1989 an economic recession threatened federal funding. The priority our nation then assigned to science seemed to be flagging – aspiration was losing ground to apathy.”

Denny Sanford received the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award for his dedicated philanthropy efforts. He shared how many years ago a friend had “challenged me to think beyond a life of business success and work toward one of significance,” and how his investments seek to bring “the most meaningful returns for the most people.”

Physician, oncologist, and author Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee received the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion. He spoke about the importance of doctors and researchers having “purpose, mastery, and autonomy” in their lives and reminded the audience that “we have a lot of work to do.” Dr. Mukherjee is the author of award-winning books The Emperor of All Maladies and The Gene: An Intimate History.

MIT President Emerita and Professor of Neuroscience Dr. Susan Hockfield closed out the evening with her acceptance of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award. She was recognized by Seema Kumar and Dr. William N. Hait of Johnson & Johnson for her contributions to strengthening MIT’s foundation and growing the convergence of life sciences with engineering and physical sciences. “Building the kind of innovation economy our country has enjoyed over the last more than 50 years doesn’t take a village – it takes a nation,” she said.


A Washington tradition, the annual Research!America Advocacy Awards Dinner brings together distinguished supporters of medical, health and scientific research to honor outstanding, notably effective leaders of research advocacy. Click here to see a list of honorary chairs.


Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Representative Nita M. Lowey received the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy for their pivotal roles in improving the lives of Americans through health research.

Senator Shelby has served as Chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations since 2017. As Chairman and throughout his tenure in the Senate, he has made investment in fast-paced medical progress a top priority. Senator Shelby has played a pivotal role in securing funding increases for the National Science Foundation (NSF), which supports the broad array of science and engineering disciplines contributing to U.S. R&D leadership. He was first elected to the Senate in 1986 and is currently in his sixth term. Prior to his election in the United States Senate, Senator Shelby served four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and eight years in the Alabama legislature.

Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey became Chair of the House Appropriations Committee beginning in January with the current Congress, the first woman from either party to do so. Currently in her sixteenth term in Congress, she has leveraged her tenure on the Appropriations Committee to advocate successfully for medical and public health research. As a leader in women’s health, she authored the Breast Cancer and Environmental Research Act to increase research on the links between breast cancer and the environment. Congresswoman Lowey also worked to ensure clinical trials at National Institutes of Health included females to understand gender differences in benefits and risks of medications and treatments. She is a strong supporter of the Center for Disease Control’s WISEWOMAN services that screen women for heart disease, stroke and other cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death among women.

The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and founding dean and president emeritus of the Morehouse School of Medicine, was among the honorees. He received the 2019 John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie. Dr. Sullivan, chairman of the board of the National Health Museum in Atlanta, Georgia, is internationally known for his efforts to improve the health and health behavior of Americans and raising scholarship funds in the U.S. and South Africa for black health professions students. Dr. Sullivan became the founding dean and director of the Medical Education Program at Morehouse College in 1975.  He accepted an appointment by President George H.W. Bush to serve as secretary of HHS in 1989. In this cabinet position, Dr. Sullivan managed the federal agency responsible for the major health, welfare, food and drug safety, medical research and income security programs serving the American people.

Dr. Susan Hockfield, President Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of Neuroscience and member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, was the recipient of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award. Dr. Hockfield served from 2004 to 2012 as the sixteenth president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first life scientist and first woman in that role. As president, Dr. Hockfield strengthened the foundations of MIT’s finances and campus planning while advancing Institute-wide programs in sustainable energy and the convergence of the life, physical and engineering sciences. She is chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Dr. David R. Williams, Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health, Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University, received the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research. Previously, he served 6 years on the faculty of Yale University and 14 at the University of Michigan. He holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan. Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized social scientist focused on social influences on health. Dr. Williams has played a visible, national leadership role in raising awareness levels of the problem of health disparities and identifying interventions to address them.

Denny Sanford, health care philanthropist and longtime supporter of Sanford Health and its Sanford Research arm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was the recipient of the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award. Mr. Sanford’s initial focus was to help sick, disadvantaged, abused and neglected children. Since an initial donation of $16 million in 2004 to build the Sanford Children’s Castle of Care Hospital in Sioux Falls, he has given nearly $1 billion to what is now Sanford Health, a non-profit integrated health care system, which includes Sanford Research. Sanford Health’s major initiatives include finding a cure for type 1 diabetes and developing clinics worldwide. Part of Mr. Sanford’s gifts funded the Edith Sanford Breast Center, in honor of his mother. He has also been a longtime supporter of the Children’s Home Society in South Dakota.

Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, physician, oncologist, and author, received the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion. Dr. Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center and is widely known for his books, The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer, which earned him the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, and The Gene: An Intimate HistoryThe Emperor of All Maladies has been adapted into a documentary by filmmaker Ken Burns, and was included among Time magazine’s 100 best nonfiction books of the past century. Dr. Mukherjee’s achievements as a writer and educator build upon his career as a renowned medical scholar.  His groundbreaking studies into the composition and behavior of cancer cells have pushed the boundaries of modern medicine.  His innovative research signals a paradigm shift in cancer pathology, and has enabled the development of treatments that reach beyond current pharmaceutical models toward new biological and cellular therapies.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation recieved the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award. The mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation is to cure cystic fibrosis and to provide all people with the disease the opportunity to lead full, productive lives by funding research and drug development, promoting individualized treatment, and ensuring access to high-quality, specialized care. The CF Foundation is the world’s leader in the search for a cure for cystic fibrosis and funds more CF research than any other organization. Nearly every CF-specific drug available today was made possible because of CF Foundation support.

For more information about the dinner and awardees, read the press release. For more information about past Advocacy Awards, click here.







  • AAAS – American Association for the Advancement of Science
  • AcademyHealth
  • AdvaMed
  • Alzheimer’s Association
  • American Association for Cancer Research
  • American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy
  • American Cancer Society
  • American Heart Association
  • Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine
  • Charles Craft and Mary Hendrix
  • Emergent BioSolutions
  • Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting
  • The George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Morehouse School of Medicine
  • Sanford Health
  • UC San Diego – Sanford Consortium of Regenerative Medicine – Sanford Burham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute
  • University of California, San Francisco
  • Mary Woolley
  • Vertex

Research!America’s Advocacy Awards Dinner

The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards Program was established in 1996 by the Board of Directors to honor outstanding advocates for medical, health and scientific research. We recognize individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research. A list of our past Advocacy Award winners is available here. To learn more about supporting the Advocacy Awards, contact Donna McKelvey at dmckelvey@researchamerica.org(link sends e-mail).