Research!America to Salute The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan and other Leaders in Medical and Health Research Advocacy

Thursday, September 27, 2018

The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, former Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), will be among the honorees at Research!America’s Advocacy Awards Dinner on March 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C.  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. He will receive the 2019 John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie, at the dinner on Wednesday, March 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C. as a part of Research!America’s 30th anniversary commemoration.

“Dr. Sullivan’s extraordinary accomplishments demonstrate his strong commitment to advancing research and public health to benefit individuals worldwide,” said Michael N. Castle, chair, Research!America. “Among his many achievements, he secured significant increases in federal funding for medical and health research, amplified efforts to address health disparities, transformed the health workforce and promoted healthy behaviors.”

Other 2019 Advocacy Award honorees announced today are Dr. Susan Hockfield, President Emerita of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Professor of Neuroscience and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, recipient of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award; Dr. David R. Williams, Professor of Public Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African American Studies and Sociology, Harvard University, recipient of the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research; Denny Sanford, one of the nation’s top health care philanthropists, who has contributed nearly $1 billion to Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, recipient of the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award; and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, recipient of the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award. Additional honorees will be named in the coming weeks. The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards program was established by the Board of Directors in 1996 to honor outstanding advocates for medical, health and scientific research.

“We are proud to salute the 2019 honorees who, in their own unique way, have contributed to scientific discovery, advanced the field of social sciences, improved care for underserved populations and accelerated research to treat disabling diseases,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO, Research!America. “Their advocacy for medical and health research is exceptional.”

The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, who will receive the 2019 John Edward Porter Legacy Award, became the founding dean and director of the Medical Education Program at Morehouse College in 1975. In 1981, the Medical Education Program became independent from Morehouse College and became the Morehouse School of Medicine with Dr. Sullivan as president and dean.  In 1989, he accepted an appointment by President George H.W. Bush to serve as secretary of HHS. 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. His efforts to improve the health and health behavior of Americans included leading the effort to increase the National Institutes of Health (NIH) budget from $8 billion in 1989 to $13.1 billion in 1993; establishing at NIH, the Office of Research on Minority Health, which has become the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities; inaugurating the Women’s Health Research Program at NIH; the introduction of a new, improved Food and Drug Administration food label;  the release of Healthy People 2000, a guide for improved health promotion/disease prevention activities; educating the public regarding the health dangers from tobacco use; leading the successful effort to prevent the introduction of  “Uptown,” a non-filtered,  mentholated cigarette; inaugurating a $100 million minority male health and injury prevention initiative; and implementing greater gender and ethnic diversity in senior positions of HHS. He is chairman of the Washington, D.C.-based Sullivan Alliance to Transform the Health Professions.

Dr. Susan Hockfield, recipient of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award, 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. She is now President Emerita, Professor of Neuroscience and a member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research. 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 helped shape national policy for energy and next-generation manufacturing, was appointed by President Obama in 2011 to co-chair the steering committee of the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership and served as a member of a Congressional Commission evaluating the Department of Energy laboratories in 2015. She is chairman of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As a biologist, Dr. Hockfield pioneered the use of monoclonal antibody technology in brain research, identifying proteins through which neural activity early in life affect brain development. She discovered a gene implicated in the spread of cancer in the brain, providing a link between her research and human health. 

Dr. David R. Williams, recipient of the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research, is the Norman Professor of Public Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Professor of African and African American Studies and Sociology at Harvard University. His prior academic appointments were at Yale University and the University of Michigan. Dr. Williams is an internationally recognized authority on social influences on health. He has been invited to keynote scientific conferences in Europe, Africa, Australia, the Middle East, South America and across the U.S. The author of more than 425 scientific papers, his research has enhanced our understanding of the complex ways in which race, socioeconomic status, stress, racism, health behavior and religious involvement can affect 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. This includes his service as the staff director of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Commission to Build a Healthier America and as a key scientific advisor to the award-winning PBS film series, Unnatural Causes: Is Inequality Making Us Sick? He or his research has been featured by some of the nation’s top print and television news organizations and his recent TED talk. He holds an MPH from Loma Linda University and a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Michigan.

Denny Sanford will receive the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award. Mr. Sanford’s initial focus was to help sick, disadvantaged, abused and/or neglected children. To that end, he has been a long-time supporter of the Children’s Home Society in South Dakota. Since an initial donation of $16 million in 2004 to build the Sanford Children’s Hospital in Sioux Falls, he has given nearly $1 billion to what is now Sanford Health, whose major initiatives include developing children’s clinics worldwide and whose research center focuses on finding a cure for type 1 diabetes. Part of that gift funded the Edith Sanford Breast Center, in honor of his mother. He has established the T. Denny Sanford Mayo Clinic Pediatric Center in Rochester, Minnesota, and the T. Denny Sanford Pediatric Center at Florida Hospital for Children. Mr. Sanford has pledged $70 million for the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead, South Dakota.

The mission of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, recipient of the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award, 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. When the CF Foundation was founded in 1955, people born with the disease weren't expected to live to attend elementary school. Today, because of their efforts, people with CF are living long enough to achieve milestones like graduating from high school, getting married, and starting a family. The CF Foundation advocates for programs, agencies, and policies that help advance research and drug development, improve access to specialized, quality CF care and raise awareness about the disease.

The 23rd Research!America Advocacy Awards, to be held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, D.C. on March 13, 2019, brings together leaders from government, industry, academia, patient groups, scientific societies, independent research institutes and health advocacy organizations to honor exceptional advocates for research. For more information about the 2019 Advocacy Awards Dinner, visit


About Research!America

Research!America is the nation’s largest nonprofit public education and advocacy alliance working to make research to improve health a higher national priority. Founded in 1989, Research!America is supported by member organizations that represent the voices of 125 million Americans. Visit

Media Contacts

Tim Haynes
Senior Director of Communications 

Without continued support for health research, many of the most promising young scientists, their ideas and a myriad of potentially life-changing scientific breakthroughs will vanish into oblivion.
Paul Marinec, PhD; University of California San Francisco