Joan Samuelson

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We gratefully acknowledge the outstanding achievements and contributions that Joan Samuelson has made in the area of Parkinson's disease research and advancement. Joan founded Parkinson's Action Network (PAN) four years after being diagnosed with the disease herself.  A 1968 graduate of Poway High School, she went on to obtain a law degree where she continued to thrive until her diagnosis in 1987.  Parkinson's, which deteriorates the central nervous system, is typically diagnosed in older people, but there are known cases of early-onset, such as actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed at the age of 37, the same age Samuelson was.  Due to the general age of its victims and its relative obscurity at the time, Parkinson's victims received little funding to fight the disease or even ease their suffering as it progressed. In the wake of discovering these facts and the fight ahead of her, the seed for PAN - now a leading Parkinson's advocacy network - was planted.  Under Samuelson's capable guidance and personal experience, PAN began focusing on funding and quality-of-life issues for those living with the disease.  She has lobbied Congress and networked with surgeons, ensured the passage of an initiative that would support stem cell research for Parkinson's, and been appointed to the board of the new California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, where she served as Patient Advocate.  Her efforts and contributions have helped make possible an ever-expanding field of promising Parkinson's therapies and patient advocacy.

1968Steven Stone