Research!America to honor leaders in medical and health research advocacy

Robin Roberts, Michael Milken, Dr. Kenneth Olden,  David Van Andel, Dr. George Vande Woude and the Society for Neuroscience to Receive 2015 Research!America Advocacy Awards

ALEXANDRIA, Va. (September 29, 2014)—Research!America’s 19th annual Advocacy Awards will honor distinguished research advocates who are trailblazers in advancing medical progress to improve the health and economic security of our nation. The event will take place on Wednesday, March 11, 2015, at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium in Washington, DC.

The 2015 Advocacy Award winners are ABC’s “Good Morning America” anchor Robin Roberts; Michael Milken, founder of the Milken Institute and FasterCures; Dr. Kenneth Olden, Director, National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA; David Van Andel, Chairman and CEO, and Dr. George Vande Woude, Founding Scientific Director, Van Andel Research Institute; and the Society for Neuroscience (SfN).

“These exceptional leaders have advanced scientific discovery and innovation through their determination to improve the health of individuals worldwide,” said Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research!America. “Their work has paved the way for others who are committed to ensuring that we save lives and sustain our nation’s global competitiveness with robust support for research.”

Robin Roberts, who will receive the Isadore Rosenfeld Award for Impact on Public Opinion, is anchor of ABC’s “Good Morning America.” Her headline-making interviews include President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, actor Sidney Poitier, as well as basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar on his battle with leukemia, and Lisa Niemi on the loss of her beloved husband, Patrick Swayze. Roberts has also traveled to the Middle East with former First Lady Laura Bush, who was on a mission to raise awareness about breast cancer in the Muslim world; and to Africa with former President Bill Clinton for a first-hand look at the AIDS crisis in that part of the world. Roberts was diagnosed with breast cancer in June 2007. Her courageous and public battle has been recognized with awards and honors from organizations around the country, including The Susan G. Komen Foundation, The Congressional Families Cancer Prevention Program, and Gilda’s Club, a non-profit organization founded by the late Joel Siegel.

Michael Milken, selected to receive the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award, has led a wide range of initiatives over four decades that have supported public health, re-envisioned education, expanded access to capital and accelerated medical research. Esquire magazine listed him among “The 75 Most Influential People of the 21st Century.” Beginning in 1972, his efforts to advance medical solutions, especially by supporting young investigators, were recognized in a Fortune magazine cover story called “The Man Who Changed Medicine.” Mike formalized his previous philanthropy in 1982 by co-founding the Milken Family Foundation, a major force for medical research and education reform. In 1998, he led a March on Washington in support of increased funding for biomedical research. When funding increases slowed in 2003, he founded FasterCures, which works to remove bureaucratic and regulatory barriers to progress against all life-threatening diseases. In March 2014, George Washington University announced the naming of the Milken Institute School of Public Health in recognition of a gift from the Institute.

Dr. Kenneth Olden, director of the National Center for Environmental Assessment, U.S. EPA, will be honored with the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Award for Sustained National Leadership. He is considered to be the strongest champion of community based participatory research in the U.S. He was named director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the director of the National Toxicology Program (NTP) on June 18, 1991, by Dr. Louis Sullivan, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). Dr. Olden is a cell biologist and biochemist by training, and has been active in cancer research for more than four decades. He was director of the Howard University Cancer Center and professor and chairman of the Department of Oncology at Howard University Medical School in Washington, D.C. from 1985–1991, and founding dean of the School of Public Health at the City University of N.Y. from 2008-2012. Dr. Olden has served on the editorial boards of cancer and cell biology journals, he was elected to membership in the Institute of Medicine in 1994, and was named by President George H. W. Bush to the National Cancer Advisory Board in January 1991.

David Van Andel and Dr. George Vande Woude, have been selected to receive the Geoffrey Beene Foundation Builders of Science Award. Van Andel is Chairman and CEO of Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Van Andel Institute has become a major contributor to science with the recruitment of top scientists and funding support. Work at the Institute encompasses basic as well as translational research, fueling developments in treatments for cancer and neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson’s. Van Andel is an entrepreneur involved in several business interests in the natural and life science products industries. The Van Andel family, co-founder of Amway, has been exceptionally generous to the Grand Rapids community. An endowment from Jay and Betty Van Andel covers the Institute’s operating costs, which enables 100 percent of all donations to go directly to research and education.

Dr. Vande Woude is among the pioneers who laid the foundation for our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer. As the director of the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) Basic Research Program in Frederick, Maryland, he recruited world class researchers and implemented a vital research review process. From 1995 to 1998 he served as special adviser to the director of the National Cancer Institute, helping streamline intramural basic science at NCI. In 1999, he was selected to be the first director of the Van Andel Research Institute (VARI) where, in concert with David Van Andel, he built an exceptional cancer research program from the ground up.

The Society for Neuroscience (SfN), selected to receive the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Advocacy Award, is the largest organization of scientists and physicians devoted to advancing understanding of the brain and nervous system, with nearly 40,000 members drawn over 130 chapters around the globe and members from more than 100 countries. The Society’s mission is to advance understanding of the brain and nervous system, provide professional development activities and educational resources for neuroscientists at all stages of their careers, educate the public about the wonders of the brain, and advocate for policies that promote research. SfN advocates for robust science funding to advance science and health, and for policies that support responsible animal research. The Society also publishes The Journal of Neuroscience, the largest weekly scholarly journal dedicated to neuroscience discovery, and recently launched eNeuro, a neuroscience-focused, open access journal.

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. Recognized individuals and organizations are those whose leadership efforts have been notably effective in advancing our nation’s commitment to research. For more information about the 2015 Advocacy Awards Dinner, visit

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