A television producer, legislators, and movement disorder specialists are among recent recipients of The Michael J. Fox Foundation’s (MJFF) 2020 Parkinson’s Advocacy Awards.
The annual presentation, which this year took place virtually at the organization’s Parkinson’s Policy Forum, recognizes individuals or groups that do outstanding work advocating on behalf of the Parkinson’s disease community.
One category is the Morris K. Udall Award for Public Service, presented to those “who have made important contributions to public policy with humor, grace, and dignity, in the spirit of Morris ‘Mo’ K. Udall,” the MJFF states on its webpage announcing the winners. Udall, who died from complications of Parkinson’s in 1998, served three decades in the House of Representatives.
This year’s recipients were selected based on their work to rid the environment of toxic chemicals. The following lawmakers were lead authors on bills last year to prohibit paraquat, an herbicide that has been linked to a heightened risk of Parkinson’s.
- U.S. Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, lead author of H.R. 3817 — the Protect Against Paraquat Act — which would remove paraquat from herbicides used for agriculture. The measure is in the subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture, and research. Velazquez is serving her 14th year representing New York’s Seventh Congressional District, and is chairwoman of the House small business committee.
- U.S. Rep. Joe Neguse, along with Sen. Thomas Udall, introduced H.R. 7940 — Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act of 2020 — which would be the first comprehensive update since 1996 to the law governing pesticide use in the United States. The legislation is in the subcommittee on biotechnology, horticulture, and research. Neguse represents Colorado’s Second Congressional District and is the state’s first African-American congressional member.
- Thomas Udall, a lead author of H.R. 7940/S. 921, served as a senator for New Mexico from 2008 until early this January. During his congressional tenure, Udall championed several environmental bills.
The other awards category is the Outstanding Advocacy Award, which acknowledges advocates who used their talents and skills to promote Parkinson’s priorities in legislative arenas. “Recognizing the unique year that was 2020, this award recognizes advocates who continued their advocacy in their own ways,” the MJFF added.
Award recipients included:
- Dan Harvey, a Parkinson’s patient and Massachusetts advocate who participated in several Policy Forums and engaged year-round with legislators. He also helped to organize a strong advocacy group in his home state and inspired fellow patients and their caregivers to get involved. Harvey died late last year.
- Maria L. De Leon, MD, of Texas, a movement disorder specialist, avid research advocate, and MJFF Patient Council member. De Leon has worked to understand gender differences in neurological disorders and the disparity gap in healthcare treatment among minorities.
- John Humphreys of Georgia, a Parkinson’s patient and advocate who is committed to clinical study; he has participated in more than 300 such trials. Humphreys is also an ambassador for advocacy, recruitment, and mentorship.
- Caroline Tanner, MD, PhD, who is professor of neurology at the Weill Institute for Neurosciences, University of California, San Francisco. She specializes in movement disorders, particularly as it relates to Parkinson’s. Her interests include epidemiological studies with an emphasis on links between the environment and disease.
- Edwin Zane of California, a TV producer and documentary filmmaker whose father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s after 22 years of exposure to herbicides and pesticides while working in Hawaii. Zane has used his skills to advocate for Parkinson’s research.
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