2017 Research & Hope Awards honor innovators in mental health

As we honor those who are fighting for better mental health, there are more than 140 medicines in development to treat mental health disorder.

Hannah Mooney Mack
Hannah Mooney MackOctober 10, 2017

2017 Research & Hope Awards honor innovators in mental health.


Mental health disorders are a heavy human and economic burden in the United States. More than 40 million people across the country are impacted by mental illness, and it’s estimated that in any given year there are more than $300 billion in direct and indirect costs to the U.S. economy related to mental illness.

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, PhRMA is recognizing and honoring five individuals who are working tirelessly to advocate for patients, fight stigma surrounding mental illnesses and advance research at our 2017 Research & Hope Awards. We are pleased to celebrate the following honorees:

2016_Doreen_Gentzler_Headshot.jpgVisibility & Progress Award Winner:

Doreen Gentzler

NBC4 News Anchor

Doreen Gentzler has brought public attention to health care innovation, rare diseases, care giving and research throughout her career as a health care reporter for NBC4 News. To help tell the story of those who have triumphed over their mental illness, Ms. Gentzler created “Changing Minds,” a multi-year series of stories through which she has educated people on mental illness in order to combat its stigma.

PhRMA_Awards_Orlando_PeggySymons.jpgCommunity Champion Award Winner:

Peggy Symons

Patient Advocate

Peggy Symons understands the importance of ensuring access to medications for people living with mental illness, because she has lived with schizoaffective disorder for the past 40 years. Ms. Symons fights every day to dispel misconceptions about mental illness, serving as anadvocate with the Patient Access for Florida coalition as well as through her writings, which have appeared in outlets such as USA Today and Newsweek.

PhRMA_Awards_Miami_JudgeLeifman.jpgExcellence in Advocacy & Activism Award Winner:

The Honorable Steven Leifman

County Court Judge with the Criminal Division of the Eleventh Judicial Circuit of Florida

From 2007 to 2010, Judge Steve Leifman served as Special Advisor on Criminal Justice and Mental Health for the Supreme Court of Florida. Judge Leifman chaired the Court’s Mental Health Subcommittee, which authored the ground-breaking report, Transforming Florida’s Mental Health System, that outlines recommendations to decrease inappropriate and costly involvement of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system. His work has shifted the paradigm for mental health treatment in Florida and now serves as a model for other major cities to better support their mental health communities.

PhRMA_Awards_Nashville_DrConn.jpgExcellence in Academic Research Award Winner:

Dr. Jeffrey Conn

Director of the Vanderbilt Center for Neuroscience Drug Discovery (VCNDD)

Dr. Jeffery Conn’s passion for mental health research was originally inspired by a childhood friend who suffered from a mental illness. This experience shaped his research. His primary mission at the VCNDD is to build on fundamental breakthroughs in neuroscience to develop novel treatment strategies for brain disorders, such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease and other central nervous system disorders. These efforts, in collaboration with biopharmaceutical companies, have generated multiple drug candidates at Vanderbilt that are novel approaches in advancing patient care and clinical development.

PhRMA_Awards_Philly_DrManji.jpgExcellence in Biopharmaceutical Research Award Winner:

Dr. Husseini Manji

Global Therapeutic Head for Neuroscience at Janssen

Dr. Husseini Manji’s work has helped conceptualize neuropsychiatric disorders, such as genetically-influenced disorders of synaptic and neural plasticity, and has led the investigation of novel therapeutics for refractory patients furing his time at Janssen Research and Development. Dr. Manji also founded and co-directed the NIH Foundation for the Advanced Education in the Sciences Graduate Course in the Neurobiology of Neuropsychiatric Illness.

America’s biopharmaceutical companies are committed to alleviating the considerable burden of mental illness and bringing cutting-edge medicines and new treatments to patients. According to a new report released today, there are more than 140 medicines in development to treat mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia and more.

The Medicines in Development report was released as part of PhRMA’s GOBOLDLY campaign in coordination with the newest chapter in the Together series featuring depression. Adrianne and Wayne are both fighting to raise awareness about this misunderstood set of diseases and transform treatments for patients.

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