Roman made a tremendous difference in 2012 in many ways.
One of the most notable was catalyzing the TJ Atchison Spinal Cord Injury Research Act in Alabama, which provides $400,000/year in funding for research. Of course, TJ and many others who helped make this possible also deserve great credit and have my admiration, but Roman provided key leadership. Here in California, Roman’s Law supported its 11th year of grants all eligible for all forms of stem cell research. Roman informs me that it funded $749,00 overall and approximately $200,000 in stem cell funding.
In addition, Roman in 2012 mentored and energized a whole new generation of advocacy from young, energetic leaders: TJ Atchison, Katie Sharify, Richard Lajara and Tory Minus.
I would also say Roman has been an inspiration to me too and many others. One of Roman’s mottos is “A rising tide lifts all” and he doesn’t just say that, he lives it. He lifts up many others.
Here is a link to Roman’s foundation. Go take a look!
Roman also received the most votes in the online voting (you can see the final poll results here). More than 4,500 votes were cast in total. Only 6% behind Roman was the amazing activist Ted Harada followed by Roman’s dad the remarkable Don Reed, the wonderful Judy Roberson, and the super Katie Sharify nearly all tied for third. Next after them was the relative new kid in stem cell town, Leigh Turner (more on him below).
Roman is still moving mountains already in 2013. AIMing for some amazing developments in Alabama.
I made my own life very difficult with a stellar panel of 16 finalists for this award, but Roman stood out this year, something that the voters in the on-line poll and many of the other finalists also recognized as I asked them for their favorites amongst each other.
The runner-up for the 2012 award is Dr. Leigh Turner of the University of Minnesota. Leigh took the courageous, outside-the-box step in 2012 of contacting the FDA to investigate Celltex when he perceived patients could be at risk. As “thanks” for his action, he was put under enormous pressure and there was talk of possible litigation against him. Pressure was applied to his employer, the University of Minnesota. We’ll never know for sure, but from everything that I know I believe that Leigh’s actions directly led to prompt FDA action, which otherwise might not have happened at all or until much later. In my opinion, Leigh’s act of courage, helped make hundreds of patients safer in a direct way and indirectly may have set a higher standard for the field of stem cell treatments. It may also inspire other folks to contact the FDA if they perceive specific entities are putting patients at risk. I’d also like to note Doug Sipp here, who sometimes works together with Leigh, for his courageous efforts to educate the community on unlicensed stem cell operations as well, often “thanked” with threatened litigation too.
In a way I’m an additional winner from this contest because I got to know even more amazing people in the stem cell field as well. Their accomplishments inspire and motivate me even more! I also hope that by being nominated and chosen as finalists that this process was a win for everyone involved.
Overall, it was a tough thing to do to judge this thing as you might imagine. I’m betting that the 15 finalists who didn’t win for 2012 are going to be top candidates for the award in 2013, but I hope we have more newcomers as well. I’d encourage people in industry and in research labs to get more involved too in this award process.
Yes, I’m doing this again this year and the prize will be $1000 again for the winner for 2013. I’m going to do it a bit earlier, starting with calling for nominations in just 10 months from now. Time flies!
Keep up the good work! 2013 is going to be a banner year for stem cells.