The Award for Government Research was awarded to Lisa G. Rider, MD, deputy chief, environmental autoimmunity group, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, National Institutes of Health. Dr. Rider’s research focus has been on juvenile myositis—developing validated assessments and trial response criteria, as well as defining major autoantibody phenotypes and associated outcomes. She says, “Finding the cure is a long and winding road with many forks and complex puzzles like looking at biomarkers, genetics and environmental factors.” Although the cure may not be just around the corner, she says, “The research for the cure provides information for developing new response treatments.”
Virginia Ladd, president and executive director, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association (AARDA) Inc., was the recipient of the Award for Excellence in Advocacy & Activism. Ms. Ladd’s advocacy came from personal experience. She got involved with the beginning of the Lupus Foundation in Michigan after she came down with the disease at a young age. Then in 1991, she founded AARDA to bring national focus on autoimmunity. “Autoimmune diseases were not recognized as related.
The separate approaches to all the different diseases were bad for research,” says Ms. Ladd. She takes pride in AARDA’s annual in-kind contributions of about $1 million. “I try to find really good people and get them involved.”
The Award for Visibility & Progress recipient is Parker Lentini, patient and advocate. A 16-year-old high school student with systemic-onset juvenile arthritis and several overlap syndromes, Mr. Lentini has raised more than $105,000 for juvenile arthritis since his diagnosis at age 10.
When Mr. Lentini told fellow students he had arthritis, the typical response was, “My grandmother has arthritis.” No one seemed to know that kids could have arthritis.
After he made a video about “what I go through each week, the kids didn’t treat me as though I was different.” As for his future plans, Mr. Lentini says, “I see myself always being part of this community, because the community has helped me more than I can say.”
Ann-Marie Lindstrom is an independent writer and editor based in the Tucson, Ariz.