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Announcing Our 2024 Commitment to Cures Awardees

Get to know the incredible advocates and researchers working to make our vision of life without brain disease possible. 

The American Brain Foundation is dedicated to pursuing the treatments and cures of tomorrow for brain diseases, disorders, and injuries. Just one discovery in one research area could impact our understanding of many other related diseases, leading to better treatments, opportunities for earlier diagnosis, and cures. But these discoveries are only possible thanks to the advocates, researchers, and donors who share and support our vision of life without brain disease. 

We hold our annual Commitment to Cures fundraising gala to acknowledge and honor all those who have contributed to this vision. Ahead of the event, we are thrilled to announce our 2024 Commitment to Cures awardees, individuals who have left a lasting impact on research and advocacy efforts. 

“Every honoree this year has shown remarkable dedication to advancing the understanding of brain diseases, disorders, and injuries and raising public awareness for them. Their contributions are laying the groundwork for future breakthroughs and prevention,” says American Brain Foundation Chair David Dodick, MD. “Looking ahead, we’re reminded that progress relies on the unwavering support of passionate advocates, diligent researchers, and the generous backing of our sponsors and supporters.” 

Join us in celebrating our award recipients and the milestones in research made at our 2024 Commitment to Cures Fundraising Gala in Denver on April 13. This night is dedicated to honoring the research advancements taking place and the people behind them. 

Cam Heyward: Public Leadership in Neurology Award

Pittsburgh Steeler and 2023 Walter Payton Man of the Year Cam Heyward will be recognized for his outstanding efforts in raising awareness about brain cancer and enhancing the well-being of individuals and families affected by brain tumors.  

In 2006, Heyward’s father passed away from a brain tumor caused by bone cancer. To honor the memory of his father, Heyward initiated a collaboration with The Southeastern Brain Tumor Foundation, raising $40,000 in scholarships to aid people with brain tumors and their families in pursuing post-secondary education. These scholarships, called Voices of Hope, have helped reduce the financial burden of living with brain tumors for many recipients and families. 

Primary brain tumors affect an estimated 700,000 Americans annually and living with them is exceedingly difficult and costly. By supporting the people most affected by them, Cam Heyward exemplifies the American Brain Foundation’s vision of working towards a life without brain disease. His commitment to making a difference through The Heyward House and Voices of Hope scholarships serve as a beacon of hope for individuals and families navigating the challenges of brain tumors. 

Bruce Ovbiagele, MD, MSc, MAS, MBA, MLS: Scientific Breakthrough Award

At Commitment to Cures, we will be acknowledging the tremendous impact Dr. Ovbiagele has had on the field of health equity and inclusion. His transformative research focuses on the development, dissemination, and translation of evidence-based behavioral interventions into clinical practice and community settings to improve stroke outcomes for underserved and vulnerable populations. 

Stroke, which occurs when the brain’s blood supply is interrupted due to factors such as a blood clot or hemorrhage, affects 800,000 people each year. Through his research, Dr. Ovbiagele is helping reduce systemic bias in medical research and address neurodisparities in the diagnosis and treatment of stroke. His pioneering work in stroke interventions not only improves outcomes for marginalized populations, but also addresses systemic biases in health care.

On top of his research efforts, Dr. Ovbiagele has also trained and mentored individuals from underrepresented groups in medicine, inspiring them to pursue high-quality research that could one day lead to more advancements in brain disease, disorder, and injury research. By mentoring a diverse new generation of researchers, Dr. Ovbiagele is ensuring a legacy of compassion, innovation, and inclusivity in the pursuit of essential research. 

Francisco Lopera, MD, PhD, Universidad de Antioquia, Medellin, Colombia: Potamkin Prize for Research in Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and Related Diseases

The Potamkin Prize committee recognizes Dr. Francisco Lopera for his exceptional contributions to the understanding of the causes, prevention, treatment, and cure for Pick’s, Alzheimer’s, and related diseases. His research, which has spanned three decades, focuses on characterizing the genotypes and phenotypes of large Colombian families with Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. Dr. Lopera is also the Founding Director of the Group of Neuroscience at the University of Antioquia in Medellin, Colombia. With over 270 publications and multiple awards, including the Windblad Lifetime Achievement Award from the U.S. Alzheimer’s Association, he has truly made an impact on Alzheimer’s research efforts. 

Alzheimer’s disease impacts approximately 5 million individuals in the United States and is the leading cause of dementia. It comes with a devastating prognosis of fatality within a decade of onset, underscoring the critical need for advancements in research. 

Dr. Lopera’s community-based research in Colombia has identified both predictive and preventive genetic mutations for Alzheimer’s disease, opening up new avenues for research for treatments and cures. Reflecting the Foundation’s belief that curing one will cure many, this research also extends to other neurodegenerative diseases, including frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Parkinson’s disease, and Huntington’s disease. Dr. Lopera’s work offers hope for those affected by these devastating conditions and exemplifies the spirit of collaboration and innovation in the quest for effective treatments and cures. 

Eva Feldman, MD, PhD, University of Michigan / Michigan Medicine, Ann Arbor, MI: Sheila Essey Award: An Award for ALS Research

The Sheila Essey Award Committee recognizes Dr. Eva Feldman’s outstanding achievements in the field of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) research. Her significant scientific contributions to both fundamental and clinical neuroscience in relation to ALS along with her recent groundbreaking work on ALS epidemiology demonstrate her immense merit as a recipient of this prestigious award. An exceptional ALS physician, Dr. Feldman has been listed in Best Doctors of America for 20 consecutive years. 

ALS is a rapidly progressive, ultimately fatal neurological disease that attacks the nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscles. It currently has no cure. Dr. Feldman’s research is contributing to a more hopeful outlook for the approximately 20,000 people diagnosed with this disease. 

We are thrilled to honor Dr. Feldman’s continued work on the development of new treatments for ALS, along with her commitment to the care of people living with ALS, her considerable generosity as a collaborative researcher, and her enthusiasm and support as a mentor to many younger ALS researchers. As one of the most distinguished neurologists of her time, Dr. Feldman’s work shows that with research, better treatment strategies for brain disease are possible.

Support advancements in research for brain disease

Our annual Commitment to Cures Fundraising Gala takes place in Denver on April 13. If you’d like to further champion the vital efforts of researchers, including our esteemed award recipients, consider making a donation. With the support of people like you, your friends, your family, and beyond, we can raise awareness and essential funding for the research that will one day make life without brain disease more than just a vision for the future.