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Release: April 16, 2001

'Celebration of Hope' event April 16 to feature Sen. Tom Harkin

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- Sen. Tom Harkin will serve as the honorary chair of the "Celebration of Hope" dinner Monday, April 16 in the Wayne Richey Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union on the University of Iowa campus.

The event honors local service leaders in the fight against Huntington's disease (HD) and recognizes the efforts of the researchers and staff of the Huntington's Disease Center of Excellence at the UI.

One highlight of the "Celebration of Hope" dinner will be the awards ceremony to present Distinguished Leadership Awards and the HD Humanity Award.

The Distinguished Leadership Awards are given to honor individuals who have made outstanding community contributions. This year's honorees are former Iowa State Bank & Trust president and CEO W. Richard Summerwill; community leaders Willard and Susan Boyd; and Robert Kelch, M.D., dean of the UI College of Medicine, professor of pediatrics and UI vice president for statewide health services.

The HD Humanity Award honors individuals or families who have proven their dedication to the fight against HD and serve as models of service to others. This year's recipient is the Wagner family of Roland, Iowa. Michelle Wagner, whose fund-raising efforts for HD research and care have been exemplary, will accept the award on her family's behalf.

The directors of the HD Center of Excellence are Jane Paulsen, Ph.D., Robert Rodnitzky, M.D., and Henry Paulson, M.D. Paulsen, chair of the Center of Excellence committee for the Huntington's Disease Society of America (HDSA), has pioneered work in neurobehavioral and brain imaging aspects of HD in pre-symptomatic subjects. Rodnitzky has performed more than 50 studies in experimental therapeutics for patients with movement disorders, such as HD and Parkinson's disease. Paulson, a member of the HDSA's Medical and Scientific Advisory Board and the steering committee of the Coalition for the Cure, is recognized for his basic research on HD and related genetic diseases.

The HDSA recently recognized the Huntington's Disease Clinic and Research Group at
UI Hospitals and Clinics as one of only nine national HD Centers of Excellence. The HDSA is committed to furthering research toward a cure, lending support to those affected by HD and promoting education about the disease.

Huntington's disease is a fatal, inherited brain disorder that progressively affects an individual's ability to walk, talk, think and reason. The gene that causes HD was discovered in 1993. Though at present there is no cure, the HDSA has stated that its goal is to "make this the last generation with HD." The HDSA relies upon the generosity of individual sponsors and donors to support research and care programs. This support is crucial to maintaining their commitment to combating the illness.

To contact the Huntington's Disease Center at the UI for information about the disorder, call Elizabeth Penziner at (319) 353-4307, or visit the Web site at

University of Iowa Health Care describes the partnership between the UI College of Medicine and the UI Hospitals and Clinics and the patient care, medical education and research programs and services they provide.