PHA Honors 7 Outstanding Community Members at Conference

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by Mary Chapman |

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Seven members of the pulmonary hypertension (PH) community — ranging from an 11-year-old advocate diagnosed in infancy to a physician who has led clinical trials, to a longtime fundraiser who’s a retired teacher — have been honored for their dedication and service by the Pulmonary Hypertension Association (PHA).

The Outstanding Member Awards ceremony took place during the organization’s International PH Conference and Scientific Sessions, held this June in Atlanta.

These awards honor people who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to the PH community through volunteering in patient and caregiver support, promotion of quality patient care, advocacy, and devotion to advancing PH research, according to a press release.

In addition to patients, award recipients include healthcare professionals, caregivers, and PH support group leaders.

Longtime PHA board member Betty Lou Wojciechowski captured the Julie Paton Hendry Memorial Scholarship. Over the years, the retired elementary school teacher, a resident of southern California, has consulted for and led a PH support group and has raised funds for the PHA. Her husband, Jerry, and all four of their children have pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

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The Outstanding Physician Award went to Steven M. Kawut, MD, who directs the pulmonary hypertension/pulmonary vascular disease program at the University of Pennsylvania. Kawut, who has published more than 300 papers, is federally funded to perform PAH clinical trials. He also studies physical activity in PH patients and has long promoted excellent clinical care, PH research, and disease education.

Support group leader, PHA fundraiser, and nurse practitioner Fran Rogers won the Outstanding Allied Health Professional Award. The clinical coordinator for Temple University’s pulmonary hypertension/chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension program, Rogers has been involved with the PHA since 2007.

Jackson Wall, 11, diagnosed with PAH at the age of 14 months, received the Outstanding Young PH Citizen Award for his advocacy efforts. Wall and his family host an annual fundraising golf competition, called Driving Fore a Cure for PH, in Clayton, North Carolina, where he regularly speaks to audiences about his PH journey and care.

Chloe Temtchine garnered the Outstanding PH Citizen Award for her creation of “Super Brave,” an interview series featuring children and adults who live with chronic conditions. The award-winning singer, songwriter, and speaker received a double-lung transplant two years ago, 12 years after starting her PH and pulmonary veno-occlusive disease journey.

The Outstanding Caregiver Award was presented to Sadie Ruiz, who handles care for her mother, Monica Sanchez. Sanchez received a PAH diagnosis when Ruiz was 6 years old. The southern California resident today assists her mother by, among other efforts, sorting medications and draining under-the-skin treatment sites. She also helps her mother keep her spirits up, doing her hair and helping her get dressed on days when she can’t do so independently. Ruiz also advocates for PAH patients and helps to spread awareness.

Finally, Betsie Miklos received the award for Outstanding PHA Support Group Leader. Miklos, who was diagnosed with severe idiopathic (no identified cause) PAH in 2010, leads PHA’s Northern Virginia Support Group. She has supported PHA-accredited PH Care Centers and used her technological expertise to help establish the PHA patient registry. Miklos also is on the PH Care Centers board.