Learn about the amazing advocates and researchers who are helping us raise support for brain disease research as we pursue the treatments and cures of tomorrow.
At the American Brain Foundation, we are proud to fund research across the full range of brain diseases and disorders. We know that advancements in one research area will lead to additional treatments and cures in many others, and that only through research will we achieve our vision of life without brain disease.
We are thrilled to announce our 2023 Commitment to Cures awardees, who have helped us advance our mission through critical contributions to research and tireless efforts to raise awareness about brain disease.
“Each of this year’s award recipients has made incredible strides in the areas of brain disease research and public awareness and education. Their work today is creating the foundation for the treatments and cures of tomorrow,” says American Brain Foundation Chair David Dodick, MD, FAAN. “As we look toward the future, we are reminded that without the support of incredible advocates and researchers—and all of our sponsors and supporters—there can be no cures.”
We will be recognizing our 2023 awardees at our annual Commitment to Cures Gala in Boston later this month. Please join us in celebrating their important work and achievements below!
Arianna Huffington: Public Leadership in Neurology Award
We are honoring HuffPost founder Arianna Huffington for her work raising public awareness of the importance of sleep and brain health through her book Sleep Revolution: Transforming Your Life One Night at a Time. In her book, Huffington explores recent research on how sleep impacts brain function and offers insights on the vital role sleep plays in our physical and mental well being.
Researchers are increasingly realizing that there are significant links between sleep and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Lewy body dementia—but these links are not yet fully understood. By bringing attention to the often overlooked issue of healthy sleep habits, Huffington gives us hope of better understanding these links and provides tools for millions of people to better look after their own brain health.
“I’m truly honored to receive the Public Leadership in Neurology Award from the American Brain Foundation,” says Huffington. “I’m thrilled to be working in parallel with the neurology community to raise public awareness of how critical prioritizing our well-being is for brain health.”
Peter Frampton: Ambassador Award
Celebrated singer and guitarist Peter Frampton is being recognized for elevating public awareness of inclusion-body myositis (IBM), an inflammatory autoimmune disease he was diagnosed with in 2015 and that causes progressive muscle weakness. In 2019, Frampton established the Peter Frampton Myositis Research Fund at Johns Hopkins University to improve the lives of people living with myositis and, ultimately, find a cure.
Because IBM progresses slowly and shares early symptoms with diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), it is difficult to diagnose. Research that helps us better understand and diagnose this rare condition will lead to insights and treatments for a range of other progressive neuromuscular diseases.
“When I was first diagnosed with inclusion-body myositis I knew my life would be forever changed,” says Frampton. “What I didn’t initially realize was how my platform could help to raise awareness of this condition and change the lives of others for the better. I hope we can aid the American Brain Foundation’s research efforts to find a cure.”
Josep Dalmau, MD, PhD, FAAN, and Vanda Lennon, MD, PhD: Scientific Breakthrough Award
The American Brain Foundation is recognizing Dr. Josep Dalmau and Dr. Vanda Lennon with our Scientific Breakthrough Award for their career-long commitment to deepening our understanding of autoimmune neurological diseases like encephalitis, stiff person syndrome, and others. Their collective body of work has defined and transformed the field of autoimmune neurology and has had a major impact on the diagnosis and care of patients with autoimmune neurologic diseases around the world.
Dr. Dalmau put autoimmune encephalitis on the map by discovering 10 autoimmune encephalopathies that were previously not able to be diagnosed or treated. Dr. Lennon’s autoantibody research has resulted in leaps forward in the diagnosis and treatment of countless autoimmune diseases. Her name has become synonymous with autoimmune neurology. Thanks to the work of Dr. Dalmau and Dr. Lennon, many autoimmune neurologic diseases can now be cured.
Deanna Saylor, MD, MHS: Ted M. Burns Humanism in Neurology Award
Dr. Saylor is being recognized for her work establishing the first neurology residency program and first neurology inpatient service in Zambia at the University Teaching Hospital in Lusaka. Her dedication to improving the availability and quality of neurologic care by training future leaders in neurology in sub-Saharan Africa exemplifies a compassionate, patient-centered approach.
“Being selected [for this year’s award] is important because it recognizes the importance of high-quality, compassionate neurology education in all parts of the world so that people everywhere can continue to access skilled, patient-centered neurologists who can walk with them on their journey with neurological disorders,” says Dr. Saylor.
Maria Luisa Gorno-Tempini, MD, PhD: Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and Related Diseases
The Potamkin Prize is the highest honor in Alzheimer’s research, and is given to recognize foundational contributions to research in Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Dr. Gorno-Tempini’s research has deepened our understanding of the brain functions responsible for language. Her work has resulted in new guidelines for diagnosing primary progressive aphasia, enabling earlier and more effective treatment for people with the disease. Additionally, her research has profound implications for our understanding of dyslexia and how early brain development may contribute to neurodegeneration later in life.
Virginia Lee, PhD: Sheila Essey Award for ALS Research
Dr. Lee’s work has been critical in establishing how misfolded protein buildups in the brain contribute to neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), Parkinson’s, and others. Specifically, Dr. Lee’s research discovered a link between the TDP-43 protein and the development of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and ALS. These discoveries have been foundational in advancing our understanding of these diseases and have given researchers new targets for investigating better treatments and developing new testing methods. Additionally, her career-long dedication to mentoring younger colleagues will continue to impact the field for generations to come.
Sanjay Singh, MD, FAAN: Association of Indian Neurologists in America Lifetime Achievement Award
Dr. Singh is being honored for his career-long dedication to mentoring neurologists in India and the U.S. Dr. Singh was only the second neurologist of Indian origin to be promoted to chairman at a major university, and over the last 11 years he has mentored countless other neurologists, many of whom have risen to similar levels at various institutions.
Since 2010, Dr. Singh has led development of the Neuroscience Institute and Neurology Service Line at Creighton University, which now provides the region’s most advanced neuroscience care. Dr. Singh was also president of the AINA during the COVID-19 pandemic, during which he not only helped the organization survive but also established scholarship funds to help train neurologists from India.
Gretchen Birbeck, MD, MPH, DTMH, FAAN; Bhim Sen Singhal, MD, FAAN; and Olha Tychkivska, MD: Mridha Spirit of Neurology Humanitarian Award
The Mridha Spirit of Neurology Humanitarian Award recognizes neurologists and neuroscientists who have made great strides in bringing neurological care and resources to impoverished communities of the world.
For nearly 30 years, Dr. Gretchen Birbeck has been a leader in advancing the care of patients with neurologic disorders in Zambia and Malawi. Her clinical care, research, and capacity-building efforts have had a ripple effect in the region, revolutionizing care for patients in sub-Saharan Africa while also legitimizing global health as a specialty focus within the neurology field.
For over six decades, Dr. Bhim Sen Singhal has worked tirelessly to help patients with debilitating neurological diseases and has devoted himself to developing the field of neurology across India. Recognizing the need to promote patient care and neurological education in India, he established Neurology Foundation India and the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Society of India.
Dr. Olha Tychkivska is being recognized for her heroic efforts to secure epilepsy medications and other high-priority drugs for people in Ukraine. In addition to remaining a full-time physician caring for her own patients, she works with colleagues at the Ukraine Neurology Initiative to distribute medication to children in need throughout the country.
Our annual Commitment to Cures Gala will be held in Boston on April 26. If you would like to attend the event in person, you can get your tickets or make a donation here. Looking for more ways to support the critically important work of researchers like our award recipients above? You can also start your own fundraiser to spread awareness and ask your friends, family, and extended network to join you in the fight against brain disease.
The American Brain Foundation was founded to bring researchers and donors together in the fight against brain disease. Learn more about brain disease or make a gift to support groundbreaking brain disease research.