The 2019 Advocacy Awards Dinner, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium on March 13, 2019, was a celebration not just of the incredible honorees, but of Research!America’s 30 years of advocating for health research. In recognizing the awardees, acknowledgment was also given to the inspiring progress that has been made in health and medical research over the past three decades.
In March 1989, The Honorable Louis W. Sullivan, MD was confirmed as Secretary of Health and Human Services. Thirty years later, he was the recipient of the John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie. The Honorable John Edward Porter gave a warm and touching introduction of Dr. Sullivan. Lou Sullivan is a not just perfect example of what a public servant should be, he said. “Lou Sullivan is a perfect example of what a human being should be.”
Dr. Sullivan also reflected on his experiences in 1989. “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.”
U.S. Representative Nita M. Lowey (D-NY-17) graciously accepted the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy. As she looked back at some of the innovations of the prior 30 years, she commented, “research has unlocked the mysteries of the human genome, and led to advances such as immunotherapy that provide a chance at survival when just years ago the same diagnosis would be a death sentence.” U.S. Senator Richard Shelby (R-AL) also received the Whitehead Award.
NIH Director Francis Collins presented the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. “It was a rainy night in 1989,” he described, when he and the rest of the team of researchers “identified a three-letter deletion in a previously unknown gene on chromosome 7” and knew they had found the cause of cystic fibrosis. Melissa Shiffman, a cystic fibrosis patient and advocate, shared how the research on treatments conducted since then have impacted her life. CFF’s “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,” she said.
Other honorees included David R. Williams, PhD, 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, who received the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research; Susan Hockfield, PhD, President Emerita, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Professor of Neuroscience and member of the Koch Institute for Integrative Cancer Research, who received the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award; Denny Sanford, health care philanthropist and longtime supporter of Sanford Health and its Sanford Research arm in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, who received the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award; and Siddhartha Mukherjee, MD, DPhil, physician, oncologist, and author, Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center, who received the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion.