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Recognizing Excellence in the PD Community

A special feature of PDF’s 50th Anniversary event on October 11 was an awards dinner at which we were able to recognize four outstanding contributors to the Parkinson’s community.

Dr. Stanley Fahn, PDF’s scientific director since 1973, received the James Parkinson Medal, PDF’s highest honor.  This medal, given only once each decade, recognizes Dr. Fahn’s lifetime of achievement as a scientist and clinician in Parkinson’s disease (PD).  In his acceptance remarks Dr. Fahn thanked his wife, Charlotte, and colleagues Dr. Lewis Rowland and Dr. Ira Shoulson.  He also recounted to the audience how it was he came to work on Parkinson’s disease.  In 1965, during Dr. Fahn’s first year at Columbia as a neuroscientist, he attended a special lecture by Dr. Oleh Hornykiewicz, a noted young Austrian scientist.  “When I heard Dr. Hornykiewicz describe his discovery of low dopamine levels in the basal ganglia of people who die of Parkinson’s … I was so impressed … that I came away from the lecture, and I said to myself, this is the field I want to go into.”  Dr. Hornykiewicz was touched to hear this story for the first time and sent Dr. Fahn a letter of congratulations.

Rhona Johnson, a long-time spokesperson for caregiving and a member of PDF’s People with Parkinson’s Advisory Committee (PPAC), became the first recipient of the Award for Leadership in Caregiving.  Ms. Johnson became involved with Parkinson’s community upon the diagnosis of her late husband Bob, for whom she then became sole caregiver.  Upon accepting her award, she said, “The national spotlight is directed increasingly to the role of caregivers across the US and their work and devotion reflects directly in the lives of people with Parkinson’s for whom they care.  So I accept this award on their behalf.”

The 50th Anniversary Award for Exemplary Contributions to the Advancement of Parkinson’s Science was awarded jointly to Dr. Alim-Louis Benabid, Chairman of Neurosurgery at Joseph Fourier University in Grenoble, France, and Dr. Mahlon DeLong, Professor of Neurology at Emory University, for their pioneering work in developing deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s.  Each scientist expressed his thanks and respect to the other for his contributions to the science of Parkinson’s surgery.  Dr. DeLong also observed the great changes in the field from pre-levodopa times to the present.  Dr. Benabid noted that the award was really about a treatment that he believes helps patients, and “this, after all, is what lies behind all of our commitment.”

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PDF congratulates all award recipients on their exceptional work and well-deserved accolades.