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Research!America Advocacy Awards to Recognize Leaders in Medical and Health Research 

The annual Research!America Advocacy Awards — first hosted in 1996 — recognizes individuals and organizations whose leadership efforts have advanced the nation’s commitment to medical, health, and scientific research. 

“We are proud to honor all of our 2024 Advocacy Award recipients. These remarkable individuals and organizations – through their innovation, dedication, resilience, and creativity – have been instrumental in advancing our nation’s commitment to research,” said Mary Woolley, President and CEO of Research!America. “In their own way, each honoree has expedited research advancement, bolstered the research enterprise, and heightened public and policymaker awareness and support of medical and health research.” 

Our distinguished awardees announced today: 

  • Abraham Verghese, MD, MACP, will receive the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion, which recognizes an individual who has been extraordinarily effective in delivering medical, public health, or other health-related research advocacy messages to the public. Dr. Verghese is a Master of the American College of Physicians; he is also the Linda R. Meier and Joan F. Lane Provostial Professor of Medicine and Vice Chair for the Theory and Practice of Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Verghese combines his expertise as physician and his gift for writing to advocate for the patient-physician relationship. Among other subjects, his writings have addressed the AIDS epidemic in rural America, addiction, what drives an individual to practice medicine, and the difference between healing and curing the patient. His most recent book, “The Covenant of Water,” was published in May 2023 and is one of the most acclaimed novels of the year.
  • Rita R. Colwell, PhD, Distinguished University Professor at the University of Maryland, will receive the Builders of Science Award, which recognizes those who have provided inspiration and determination in building an outstanding home for research. In addition to her academic roles, she is Senior Advisor and Chair Emeritus for Canon U.S. Life Sciences, Inc., and the Founder and Chair of CosmosID, Inc., a company working to help unlock our understanding of the microbiome and its role in human health and disease. Dr. Colwell served as the 11th Director of the National Science Foundation (1998-2004) and is a longstanding, influential advocate for K-12 and graduate STEM education and for increasing the number of women and minorities in STEM fields. She is also a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and the past-president of AAAS, the American Society of Microbiology, and several other organizations. She has received numerous accolades, including the U.S. National Medal of Science in 2006, the Stockholm Water Prize in 2010, and the Lee Kuan Yew and Singapore Water Prizes in 2018.
  • Robert W. Conn, PhD, Distinguished Policy Fellow in the School of Global Policy and Strategy at the University of California San Diego, and President and CEO Emeritus of The Kavli Foundation, will receive the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award. The award recognizes individuals who have made a significant contribution to increasing the level of advocacy for medical and health research at the local, state, or national level. Dr. Conn is a leader in science and engineering, and the recipient of the 2023 Simon Ramo Founders Award of the National Academy of Engineering. He has been a leader in science philanthropy, a champion of basic science and technology research, and co-founded the Science Philanthropy Alliance. As the President and CEO of the Kavli Foundation, he raised the profile of science philanthropy and expanded funding opportunities for basic science research.
  • Norman Augustine, Retired Chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin and Former Acting Secretary of the Army, will receive the Herbert Pardes Family Award for National Leadership in Advocacy for Research, which recognizes individuals who, throughout their careers, have demonstrated distinguished leadership and sustained commitment to public engagement and advocacy for research. Mr. Augustine is a tireless advocate for research in the public and private sectors and chaired the National Academies’ study committee that wrote the landmark 2005 report, “Rising Above the Gathering Storm,” which sounded the alarm on America’s need to act boldly to prosper in a global economy and led to passage of the first America COMPETES Act. He has chaired many committees, including advisory committees for NIH and NSF, committees advising presidents on NASA, and the Defense Science Board.
  • The Alzheimer’s Association will receive the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award, which recognizes a public or private organization that is a strong advocate for medical and health research at the national, state, or local level. The Alzheimer’s Association works on a global, national, and local level to provide care and support for all those affected by Alzheimer’s and other dementias. Its advocacy victories include passage of the bipartisan National Alzheimer’s Project Act, which mandated the creation of a national plan to fight Alzheimer’s, a more than seven-fold increase in NIH Alzheimer’s and dementia research funding in the last decade, and most recently, securing Medicare coverage of new FDA-approved amyloid-targeting drugs. The Association also develops policy resources to educate decision makers on the economic and emotional toll that Alzheimer’s takes on families and the nation. 

We are also pleased to announce the honorees of the Outstanding Achievement in Public Health Awards generously supported by Johnson & Johnson. These Advocacy Awards celebrate and champion the role individuals and organizations play through research, communication, and public-private partnerships in confronting public health threats that jeopardize our security, prosperity, and well-being.

  • Rajiv J. Shah, MD, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, will receive the Outstanding Achievement in Public Health Award, which recognizes an individual for their extraordinary work and enormous contributions to public health. Dr. Shah is a highly respected leader who has worked around the world to expand access to global health, clean energy, food security, and economic opportunity for all. Under his leadership, The Rockefeller Foundation, with the Bezos Earth Fund and IKEA Foundation, co-launched its biggest effort in 110 years: the Global Energy Alliance for People and Planet, while advancing solutions to end the COVID-19 pandemic for everyone, everywhere, launching the Global Vaccine Initiative, supporting the Global Fund, collaborating with the World Health Organization, and more. As USAID Administrator, he led the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, alongside securing bipartisan support to reshape the agency’s operations in more than 70 countries and increase its capacity to respond to humanitarian crises and invest in sustainable development solutions.
  • Jason McLellan, PhD, Professor of Molecular Biosciences and Robert A. Welch Chair in Chemistry at the University of Texas at Austin, will receive the Building the Foundation Award. The award recognizes one or more individuals whose basic research discoveries have played a pivotal role in advancing public health. Dr. McLellan led a team of researchers who developed the first 3-D atomic-scale map of the SARS-CoV-2 viral spike protein. His team also developed a way to optimize these proteins through genetic engineering to boost the body’s immune response. This technology is being used in the leading COVID-19 vaccines.
  • Céline Gounder, MD, ScM, Senior Fellow and Editor-at-Large for Public Health at KFF Health News, will receive the Meeting the Moment for Public Health Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that has been a “clear voice,” playing a key role in communicating public health information and developments to members of the public. Dr. Gounder’s voice as a physician and public health leader has been influential in combining empathy with facts to dispel misinformation during the COVID-19 pandemic and more broadly in public health. She regularly appears on CBS News, was a medical analyst for CNN, served on the Biden-Harris Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board, and is a physician at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
  • Gavi, The Vaccine Alliance, will receive the Rapid Translation Award, which honors a public-private partnerships that has made a critical contribution to public health progress. Gavi spurs innovation and harnesses the power of partnerships to drive broad scale access to vaccines. Since its inception in 2000, it has protected over one billion children from potentially fatal infectious diseases. Gavi works closely with donors – including governments, private sector foundations and corporate partners, NGOs, advocacy groups, professional and community associations, faith-based organizations and academia, vaccine manufacturers, research, and technical health institutes – to expand immunization coverage, strengthen primary health care, and bring countries closer to the sustainable development goal of universal health coverage. 

The honoree of the John Edward Porter Legacy Award, generously supported by Ann Lurie will be announced soon. This award honors individuals who show outstanding commitment to sustaining the nation’s world-class leadership in medical and health research. 

The honoree of the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research Advocacy will be announced early next year. This award recognizes exemplary leaders, particularly those in public office, who have demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing medical and health research as a national priority and who galvanize others in support of science. 

Presentation of all the Advocacy Awards for 2024 will be made at Research!America’s annual awards event on March 13, 2024. 

For more information about the 2024 Advocacy Awards, including bios of each honoree and details about the various awards, visit: www.researchamerica.org/advocacy-awards. 

Contact Taylarr Lopez, Director of Communications, at 571-482-2719 or tlopez@researchamerica.org with press inquiries. 

About Research!America 

Research!America is a nonprofit medical and health research advocacy alliance which advocates for science, discovery, and innovation to achieve better health for all. Visit www.researchamerica.org.