Each year the Scleroderma Foundation recognizes the outstanding achievements by dedicated individuals and hard working chapters that helped advance the Scleroderma Foundation's mission during the preceding year. The following honorees have demonstrated unwavering commitment to the Scleroderma Foundation’s mission of support, education, and research, and we are deeply grateful for their passion and good works.
2020 Award Recipients
Lifetime Achievement Award
The Scleroderma Foundation’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award is presented to Maureen D. Mayes, M.D., M.P.H. The Lifetime Achievement Award is the Foundation’s highest honor and is reserved for individuals who have provided exceptional service and leadership to the Scleroderma Foundation for at least a decade across its entire scope of mission. Dr. Mayes completed her Rheumatology Fellowship and Internal Medicine training at the Cleveland Clinic following graduation from Eastern Virginia Medical School. She went on to receive a Master’s in Public Health in Epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health. She joined the faculty of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston as a Professor of Medicine in 2002. There, she serves as the founder and director of the Scleroderma Clinical and Research Program, where she pursues her primary clinical interest in the diagnosis and treatment of scleroderma. Beyond her clinical work, Dr. Mayes conducts basic science research on the genetics of scleroderma, as well as clinical treatment trials to find better therapies. She has published over 250 articles and reviews in the medical literature describing her findings.
Many people living with scleroderma know her as the author of a definitive book for patients, titled The Scleroderma Book: A Guide for Patients and Families. Dr. Mayes is the recipient of many distinctions and awards including being named Master of the American College of Rheumatology, a past recipient of the Scleroderma Foundation’s Messenger of Hope Award, listed in Best Doctors in America as well as named one of the Texas Super Doctors. Being a distinguished clinician, professor, researcher, and author is a full plate by anyone’s standards. Yet, for more than 25 years, Dr. Mayes, has actively volunteered on behalf of patient advocacy organizations. She was a Board member of the United Scleroderma Foundation in the early 1990s and has gone on to serve the Scleroderma Foundation as a member of its Medical & Scientific Advisory Board for the past 22 years. Her long history of service to the Foundation as a trusted advisor to chapter leadership and the national organization, as well as her commitment to education, clinical care, and scientific discovery are truly exemplary.
This Lifetime Achievement Award is as much a recognition of her work on behalf of the Scleroderma Foundation as it is for her service to the entire scleroderma patient, medical, and scientific communities. She is a world-renowned expert that always finds time to share her knowledge with the patient community at national and regional Foundations events, to serve as an inspirational mentor to the next generation of scleroderma researchers and clinicians, and a valued colleague to established scleroderma experts world-wide. Congratulations, Dr. Mayes, on being recognized with the Scleroderma Foundation’s 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award.
Doctor of the Year
The 2020 Doctor of the Year Award was presented to Tracy Frech, M.D., in recognition of her outstanding work as a physician and caregiver to the scleroderma community. Dr. Frech is associate professor of medicine and Director of the Systemic Sclerosis Clinic at the University of Utah Hospital in Salt Lake City and Director of Clinical Trials for the Division of Rheumatology. Her primary interest is early diagnosis and health care delivery to people living with scleroderma. Dr. Frech has a long-standing and far-reaching involvement with the Scleroderma Foundation. She is an active member of our Medical and Scientific Advisory Board and is a tireless volunteer advisor and teacher, giving frequent lectures at education events hosted by the Foundation and its chapters throughout the country. Dr. Frech’s commitment to advancing clinical research, patient care, and education are truly exemplary. The award also recognizes her deep commitment to helping those living with scleroderma to become stronger advocates for themselves in the ever-changing healthcare environment. Dr. Frech is a great champion of the Foundation’s mission. A true partner and an invaluable resource. Congratulations, Dr. Tracy Frech, for being recognized as the 2020 “Doctor of the Year.”
Philanthropists of the Year
The 2020 Philanthropists of the Year award is proudly presented to Karen and Bruce Bittmann in recognition of their outstanding efforts to advance the mission of the Scleroderma Foundation through philanthropy. “Scleroderma affected my life, my sister’s life, and my father’s, who raised us as a single parent after my mother passed away,” said Bruce, who was five years old at the time his mother died from scleroderma. His sister was nine. “Funding attracts the researchers; it’s only natural.” Karen added, “As we get older and feel more vulnerable, we want to know more about our medical backgrounds. We’re motivated to leave a better, healthier world for our kids and grandkids. A cure to scleroderma would do that. Research is the key.” In addition to their major gifts, the couple has participated in Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma walks in Denver for several years accompanied by their rescue dog, Sarah Zona.
Fundraiser of the Year
The 2020 Fundraiser of the Year is Tom Cronin of Shelter Island, NY, for his extraordinary fundraising campaign, Jet Ski for Julia, to raise funds in honor of his great niece, Julia Ceresnak, who has systemic scleroderma. Julia, who is nine now, was diagnosed at age five. When Tom learned of her diagnosis, he just knew he had to do something to make a difference. What Tom did was big! He and his buddy, Jason (known as Tobey), meticulously planned Jet Ski for Julia, a jet ski trip worthy of a Guinness World Record from Shelter Island (on Long Island) to Key West and back. The trip had tremendous challenges and risks, both logistical and physical, but Tom and Tobey were up to the challenge because Julia kept them inspired. Tom's fundraising exceeded a remarkable $35,000 and his efforts spread great awareness. Thank you and congratulations, Tom Cronin, Tobey, and Julia!
National Volunteer of the Year
The 2020 National Volunteer of the Year award is proudly presented to Amy Gietzen. Amy partnered with the Scleroderma Foundation to create and facilitate an online community forum (Inspire SuperStarz) to allow young adults living with scleroderma to connect and offer support for their journey living with a rare disease. In 2019, Amy coordinated stronger connections online by sharing her perspectives and starting meaningful conversations with this group. Young adults regardless of location can now connect and offer mutual support. Congratulations, Amy!
National Support Group Volunteer of the Year
Barb Frodin's journey to become a scleroderma support group leader started to honor the memory of her best friend by helping her friend’s daughter, Sandee, newly diagnosed with scleroderma. As co-leader, Barb stepped in when Sandee had health setbacks to keep the Denver group going. Deeply involved, Barb ultimately joined the Rocky Mountain chapter board in 2018. She overcame her tech struggles to incorporate “JoinMe” and PowerPoint presentations for speakers. She continued group email and phone communications in between meetings, and held the summer picnic on her own. Barb also mentored the new Southern Colorado support group leader and even attended several meetings in Colorado Springs. Always learning, Barb was one of the first to register for SPIN-SLEDD training. Congratulations, Barb!
Chapter Volunteer of the Year: Sheryl Bishop
Sheryl Bishop has been a dedicated volunteer for almost 20 years. In addition to being a fundraising champion, she manages the chapter’s social media posts, ensuring that they engage the scleroderma community. She raises awareness from getting her hometown to declare June as Scleroderma Awareness Month, to securing billboard space to promote scleroderma awareness, to being the loudest cheerleader at the Southern California Chapter’s awareness event at The Price Is Right. Thank you, Sheryl!
Outstanding Education Program: South Carolina Chapter
The 2020 Outstanding Education Program is awarded to a chapter that recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of its outstanding annual event named for the chapter’s founding president. Highlights include a tour by Carol Feghali-Bostwick, Ph.D., of her research lab and some serious southern hospitality. For these and many more reasons, the South Carolina Chapter’s Annual Amy K. Parrish Patient Education Conference is awarded the 2020 Outstanding Education Program.
Outstanding National Advocate: Demeshia Montgomery
The 2020 National Advocate of the Year award recipient is never short on creative ideas to raise awareness to advance the Foundation's legislative priorities forward. Active at the local, state, and national levels, she was the driving force behind efforts to secure state awareness proclamations in every state. It was her comments during national advocacy committee meetings that helped refocus our messaging to link awareness and advocacy in new ways. The 2020 National Advocate of the Year is Demi Montgomery of the Ohio Chapter.
Outstanding Patient Support: Michigan Chapter
The recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Chapter Patient Support award goes to the chapter that embraced virtual education long before it became a necessity. By supplementing in-person patient education with a variety of webinars, they fulfilled their goal to have a greater reach for patients and caregivers. Their outreach includes identification and support efforts of the psycho-social needs, specialized pediatric programming, and male-related disease specific complications. The Michigan Chapter is well deserving of this year’s Outstanding Chapter Patient Support award.
Outstanding Chapter Awareness: Tri-State Chapter
The recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Chapter Awareness award consistently keeps awareness and advocacy as integral parts of their communication and outreach. They maintain a strong presence in community events and health fairs throughout the chapter region. With a long history of creating and sharing excellent content, staff member Candice Snider upped their game over the last year with an amazing social media presence with very engaging content. Congratulations to the Tri-State Chapter as the recipient of the 2020 Outstanding Chapter Awareness award.
Chapter of the Year Award: Texas Bluebonnet Chapter
The Chapter of the Year Award recognizes overall excellence in advancing the mission of the Scleroderma Foundation. This year’s recipient has faced difficult challenges and obstacles and persevered to remain focused on our shared mission. The chapter has an active presence throughout its region with support groups, education events, and effective advocacy efforts. Congratulations to the Texas Bluebonnet Chapter.
For more information about the annual awards, please contact the Scleroderma Foundation’s national office: (800) 722-HOPE (4763).