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A Salute to Service and Dedication in the Scleroderma Community

Awards presented during the 16th annual National Patient Education Conference in Anaheim, Calif.

Virginia Steen, Aryeh Fischer accept awards
(L-R) Scleroderma Foundation CEO Robert J. Riggs, Dr. Virginia Steen, Kerri Connolly, SF Director of Programs and Services, and Dr. Aryeh Fischer at the awards dinner in Anaheim, July 2014.

DANVERS, MASS. (Aug. 19, 2014) – The Scleroderma Foundation presented a Lifetime Achievement Award to Virginia D. Steen, M.D., of Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C., last month during its National Patient Education Conference held in Anaheim, Calif. Recognized internationally as a leading expert in scleroderma, Dr. Steen has been a longtime ally of the organization and currently is a member of its Medical Advisory Board Steering Committee, chairing its Physician Education and Development Committee. Over the years, she has supported the Foundation in numerous ways, including presenting workshops at the Foundation’s National Conference, leading patient education seminars around the country, writing articles for publications, and most recently, co-leading the organization’s two African-American Patient Education Day programs, a much-needed educational event to reach an underserved population.

“She has committed a lifetime to advancing scleroderma research and providing amazing and compassionate care to people living with the disease,” said Robert J. Riggs, the Foundation’s CEO, in remarks during the award presentation. He went on to compliment Dr. Steen for her dedication to cultivate the next generation of scleroderma researchers and work to increase education about the disease to community-based physicians. “Whenever she travels, she reaches out to physicians and medical centers and offers up her time and services to give a lecture so that they can learn more about this complicated disease.”

The Foundation also recognized Aryeh Fischer, M.D., as Doctor of the Year. The award recognizes a skilled physician or researcher for his or her involvement with the Foundation, and for helping provide guidance and support to the scleroderma community. Dr. Fischer is a physician, researcher and Associate Professor at National Jewish Health and the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver. He is recognized as a leader among his peers as a clinician and researcher focusing on lung manifestations associated with scleroderma and other connective tissue diseases. He is a member of the Foundation’s Medical Advisory Board and has been a faculty member for the Foundation’s Continuing Medical Education/Continuing Nursing Education program. Said Riggs, “We depend upon the time and talents of fine doctors, like Dr. Fischer, to not only educate us, but also to guide us as an organization, as we work together to better understand, and ultimately conquer scleroderma.”

Queen Latifah, and her mother Rita Owens, received this year’s Messenger of Hope award, which acknowledges an individual’s words or actions that offer hope and inspiration. Earlier this year, Queen Latifah shared her mother’s struggle with scleroderma in a story in PEOPLE magazine. Messenger of Hope awards also were presented to two sisters, Rosa Johnson and Marilyn Sibley, both of Rochester, N.Y., for their dedication to helping educate others about the disease and their commitment to the Foundation’s Tri-State Chapter.

Other award honorees were:

  • Philanthropist of the Year: Beta Sigma Phi
  • National Volunteers of the Year: Rosemary Markoff, Binghamton, N.Y., and Suzy Ballantyne, Clifton Park, N.Y
  • Chapter Volunteer of the Year: John Niemi, Highlands Ranch, Colo.
  • Support Group Volunteer of the Year: Jovana Desarden, San Antonio, Texas
  • Individual Fundraiser of the Year: Cos Mallozzi and Ronni Shulman Mallozzi, North Venice, Fla.
  • Chapter of the Year: Tri-State Chapter
  • Outstanding Patient Education Program: Greater San Diego Chapter
  • Outstanding Patient Support Award: Tracy Hagel, Oak Harbor, Wash.


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