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Alliance celebrates its 2022 Heroes in Health

Published September 30, 2022

For the first time since 2019, the Alliance for Aging Research hosted its signal social event in person. The U.S. Institute of Peace was the beautiful backdrop on September 20 for the 2022 Heroes in Health Celebration which included the 29th Annual Bipartisan Congressional Awards Dinner and 2022 Roundtable Discussion. On the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic that reshaped health care and concern for older adults, this year’s theme was “An Evening to Celebrate Generativity, Joy, and Healthy Aging.” 

The 2022 Heroes in Health raised a record-breaking $620,000 for Alliance initiatives.

In her opening remarks, Alliance President and CEO Sue Peschin, MHS, explained the deliberate selection of this year’s theme, which includes an “SAT word” this year: “generativity.” 

“The term ‘generativity’ was coined by the psychoanalyst Erik Erikson and his wife, Joan. The Eriksons were the first theorists to suggest that we keep developing until we die,” Peschin said. “Generativity takes place during middle adulthood—generally ages 40 to 65 years—and it’s about giving back to society through doing or making things—being productive at work, becoming involved in community activities and organizations, or raising children. Through generativity we develop a sense of being a part of the bigger picture.” 

With generativity in mind, the evening kicked off with two roundtable discussions, each with standing-room only audiences.  

Alliance Board Chair Jim Scott moderates the first roundtable discussion featuring panelists Doug Jacobs, M.D., MHS; John E. Kraus, M.D., Ph.D., DFAPA; and Greg Gierer, M.P.P.

The first, “CMS Roundtable: Supporting the Medicare Population through Care Redesign and Innovation” focused on the demands that the COVID-19 pandemic has placed on older adult health and how it has accelerated changes to the Medicare program. Moderated by Alliance Board Chair Jim Scott, panelists included Doug Jacobs, M.D., MHS, Chief Transportation Officer, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services; John E. Kraus, M.D., Ph.D., DFAPA, Vice President & Clinical Development Therapeutic Head, Central Nervous System, Otsuka America Pharmaceutical, Inc.; and Greg Gierer, M.P.P., Vice President of Policy and Research, Better Medicare Alliance.  

Alliance President and CEO Sue Peschin, MHS, moderates the FDA roundtable discussion featuring panelists Robert Califf, M.D., Annie Kennedy; and Michael Irizarry, M.D., M.P.H.

The second, “FDA Roundtable: Aligning the FDA’s Regulatory Authority with an Aging Population,” focused on the unprecedented changes that the FDA is facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moderated by Peschin, panelists included Robert Califf, M.D., Commissioner of Food and Drugs, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; Michael Irizarry, M.D., M.P.H., Senior Vice President of Clinical Research and Deputy Chief Clinical Officer, Eisai Inc.; and Annie Kennedy, Chief of Policy, Advocacy, and Patient Engagement, EveryLife Foundation for Rare Diseases.  

Following a networking reception, attendees were welcomed to the dinner program led by master of ceremonies Kevin Rigby.  

“I’m pleased to report that—with all of your help—the Alliance has had a record year in fundraising for this event—$620,000, almost $100,000 more than our last record year,” Rigby announced to thunderous applause. “We know there are a lot of incredible causes, and you are pulled in a million directions. It means the world to us to have you here and to have given such generous support for the Alliance’s mission to accelerate the pace of scientific discoveries and their application to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance’s vision is a culture that respects aging as a greater good and values investments that advance independence, dignity, and equity. THAT is what you are supporting tonight.” 

During the awards program, the following individuals were recognized for their contributions to advance the science of human aging: 

U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) was recognized with the Claude Pepper Award for Advancing Healthy Aging. This award is presented each year to a Democratic member of Congress who is leading the way for policies encouraging medical research, innovation, and care to benefit Americans as they grow older. 

U.S. Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA) accepts the Claude Pepper Award for Advancing Healthy Aging.

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) was recognized with the Distinguished Public Service Award. This award is presented each year to a Republican member of Congress who is leading the way for policies encouraging medical research, innovation, and care to benefit Americans as they grow older. 

U.S. Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) accepts the Distinguished Public Service Award via video message.

Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer, internationally famous radio and television talk show host, sex therapist, Holocaust survivor, author, and former Haganah sniper, was recognized with the Silver Innovator Award. This award is presented to an individual who anticipates and embraces the evolution of high-quality research aligned with the needs of older patients. 

DeChane Dorsey shares remarks about Silver Innovator awardee Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer.

Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Minority Quality Forum (NMQF), was recognized with the Daniel Perry Founder’s Award. This award is presented to an individual or group who is helping to change the paradigm of how we view aging and well-being as we age. 

Alliance President and CEO Sue Peschin, MHS, Gary A. Puckrein, Ph.D., and Alliance Founder Dan Perry.

Janet Woodcock, M.D., Deputy Principal Commissioner to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was recognized with the Perennial Hero Award. This award is presented each year to honor an older individual who is actively contributing to create positive societal change and serves as a role model for people of all ages.  

Dr. Robert Califf presents Dr. Janet Woodcock with the Perennial Hero Award alongside Alliance Board Member Andrea Masciale.

These awards have a deep and meaningful purpose: to remind lawmakers of the nation’s bipartisan commitment to advance medical research to improve the lives of millions of Americans. 

“The tenacity, vision, and sheer courage of this year’s award recipients are inspirations in every facet of our work,” said Alliance Board Chair Jim Scott. “We are honored to consider them partners in helping people live longer, happier, more productive lives.” 

Thank you again to our generous sponsors and supporters, our honorees, and our Roundtable panelists and participants. We look forward to sharing details about the 2023 Heroes in Health Celebration when they are available. Be sure to check and follow #HeroesinHealth on social media for updates. And be sure to watch your email for a save-the-date and a special message from 2022 honoree Dr. Ruth K. Westheimer. 

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