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October 15, 2013

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Awards Dean’s Medals to Autism Speaks Founders Suzanne and Bob Wright

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Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, will award the Dean’s Medal to Suzanne and Bob Wright, co-founders of Autism Speaks, for their worldwide advocacy on behalf of individuals with autism. The Dean’s Medal is the Bloomberg School’s highest honor and celebrates individuals who have made a significant contribution to the field of public health. The Wrights will be presented with the Dean’s Medal at the Bloomberg School in Baltimore, Md. on October 15 during the Inaugural Symposium for the Wendy Klag Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

Inspired by the challenges facing their grandson who suffers from autism, Suzanne and Bob Wright launched Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization, in February of 2005. The organization is dedicated to funding research into the causes, prevention, treatments and a cure for autism, increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocating for the needs of individuals with autism and their families. In addition to funding research, Autism Speaks has created resources and programs including the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network, Autism Speaks Autism Genetic Resource Exchange and several other scientific and clinical programs. Notable awareness initiatives include the establishment of the annual United Nations-sanctioned World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, which Autism Speaks celebrates through its “Light It Up Blue” initiative. Also, Autism Speaks’ award-winning “Learn the Signs” campaign with the Ad Council has received $323 million in donated media. Autism Speaks family resources include the Autism Video Glossary, a 100-Day Kit for newly-diagnosed families, a School Community Tool Kit, a Grandparent School Kit, and a community grant program. Since its inception, Autism Speaks has made enormous strides raising nearly $450 million and committing over $195 million to research and to developing innovative new resources for families.

“Suzanne and Bob Wright have shown great vision and leadership in advancing the public awareness of autism spectrum disorders and advocating for research to understand, treat and prevent these conditions both in the United States and around the world,” said Klag. “Their direct contributions and the contributions of their foundation, Autism Speaks, have prompted federal legislation to improve the government’s response to autism, and have successfully advocated for insurance reform to cover behavioral treatments in most states. Their efforts to tackle the pressing public health challenges presented by autism embody the spirit of our mission, protecting health, saving lives—millions at a time.”

Previous recipients of the Dean’s Medal include William Foege, MD, MPH, celebrated epidemiologist and physician instrumental in smallpox eradication; Richard Besser, MD, health and medical editor for ABC News; Richard Horton, editor of The Lancet; Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Oshinsky; David Heymann, MD, assistant director-general for Health Security Environment and Representative of the Director-General for Polio Eradication at the World Health Organization; Sam Thier, MD, president, Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences; HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn of Thailand; Carol Bellamy, executive director, UNICEF; Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; and Alfred Sommer, dean emeritus, Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Media contact for Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health: Natalie Wood-Wright at 410-614-6029 or nwoodwri@jhsph.edu.