Walt Mickens and Lois Victor honored with “See the Light” Awards
BOCA RATON, Fla. – (January 28, 2008) – More than 200 guests of The Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation (MFRF) enjoyed a stirring evening including a touching tribute to the recent loss of another affected child and the hopeful presentation of the major milestones being reached in genetic testing and research during a successful “Evening of Sweetness and Laughter” on Saturday, January 12th at The Broward Center.
Inspired by the strength of a little boy with the fatal Tay-Sachs disease, MFRF was founded in South Florida in 1998 to support education and research of children’s genetics diseases of the brain.
Among the guests who support MFRF’s work and enjoyed a buffet dinner, a gourmet dessert reception and a performance of the Tony Award-winning musical comedy “The Drowsy Chaperone”, were South Florida leaders including Congressman Ron Klein and his wife, Dori.
During the evening’s festivities, the MFRF honored Walt Mickens, Chief Executive Officer of West Boca Medical Center/Tenet Healthcare Systems, and Lois Victor, Founder of The Victor Centers for Jewish Genetic Diseases with the Foundations’ annual “See the Light” awards.
“We have now surpassed the million dollar milestone in fundraising for our Foundation as we partner with leading institutions in South Florida including Florida Atlantic University, Scripps Florida, Miami Children’s Hospital and The University of Miami to support leading genetic researchers, educators, physicians and nurses in our area,” said MFRF President Kevin Romer. “This special evening also allowed us to honor Walt Mickens and Lois Victor for their outstanding contributions in pioneering and delivering genetic testing and education programs in our community and throughout the country.”
Under the leadership of CEO Walt Mickens, West Boca Medical Center is a charter and lead sponsor of fifth anniversary Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation South Florida Genetic Testing and Education Fair and has provided a team of nurses, phlebotomists and physicians along with important funding to support the delivery of FREE screening for fatal genetic diseases to more than 400 potential parents.
“We believe the South Florida Genetic Testing and Education Fair is an important community outreach that compliments the outstanding maternity services that we provide at our hospital,” said Mickens. “I was pleased to be recognized with the “See the Light” Award and I value the partnership we have with the MFRF in bringing this important genetic carrier screening to the community.”
Mickens was named CEO of West Boca Medical Center in September 2003 after serving as Chief Operating Officer of Parkway Regional Medical Center in North Miami Beach. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Boca Raton Chamber of Commerce and a board and executive committee member of the South Florida Hospital & Healthcare Association.
Lois Victor is the Founder of the Victor Center for Jewish Genetic Diseases at the Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, the Victor Outreach Program at Tufts-New England Medical Center in Boston, and the recently opened Victor Center at The University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
A native of Boston, Lois is a long-time resident of Florida who lost two children to a Jewish Genetic Disease. Her mission is to make sure that other children and their families need not be subjected to the heartaches of preventable diseases.
“The purpose of our Centers is to further the awareness, education and prevention of Ashkenazi Jewish Genetic Diseases and I was proud to be honored with the “See the Light” Award for this effort,” said Victor. “Working together with The Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation we can enhance the quality and reach of all of our programs and services.”
Major sponsors of an “Evening of Sweetness and Laughter” included the Adolph and Rose Levis Foundation, Judy Levis Markhoff, Lois and Herm Siegel, Akerman Senterfitt, Baron Delivery on Demand, West Boca Medical Center, Florida Atlantic University, Universtiy of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Wachovia and Lillian and Jules Raen.
Event co-chairs were Lisajane and Kevin Romer and Lois and Herm Siegel. Committee members included Carl Meyers, Lisa and Allan Spiro, Carole Romer, Ellen Meyers, Walter Collins, Sondra and Manny Geller, Dawn McCormick, Linda and Harry Meran, Robin Oberman, and Debi and Steve Shapiro.
This year’s event raised more than $65,000 to support programs in education, testing and research.
In 2007, The Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation surpassed the Million Dollar Milestone in fundraising with only 5% of the money raised going to administrative costs.
In October, MFRF presented The Fifth Annual South Florida Genetic Testing and Education Fairs at The Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing at Florida Atlantic University and for the first time in Broward County at Broward General Medical Center. To date, of the nearly 600 potential parents who have receive free genetic testing, more than 20% of those tested have been detected as carriers of at least one of six fatal genetic diseases including Tay-Sachs, Canavan, Cystic Fibrosis, Familial Dysautonomia, Gaucher and Niemann-Pick.
The National Research Initiative, co-founded by MFRF, has exceeded $800,000 in funding from its network with the National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association (NTSAD) leading to an additional $2 million in federal funding for research. Its 15th Research Initiative grant went to the new Gene Therapy Consortium with four institutions announcing an unprecedented goal of reaching clinical trials for Tay-Sachs disease in three years.
MFRF also awarded its eighth and ninth Pediatric and Genetic Nursing Scholarships in 2007. To date, these scholarships have assisted students at major South Florida colleges including Florida Atlantic University, Florida International University and Nova Southeastern University.
A Platinum Sponsor with Scripps Florida of the second annual Florida Biosciences Career & Education Expo, MFRF marked Florida Biosciences and National DNA Month last Spring by creating a “Make Your Own DNA Necklace” program at the Spring Children’s Fair. Hundreds of children collected their own DNA (from their saliva) to make “cool” necklaces in glass vials.
MFRF has also expanded support for the Pediatric Genetics Residency & Fellowship with Miami Children’s Hospital Brain Institute and was named one of the select member
organizations of the national Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium (JGDC) to educate medical professionals, rabbis and the Ashkenazi Jewish population about carrier screening.
For more information, call The Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation at (561) 477-0337 or visit www.mfrfoundation.org.
About the Matthew Forbes Romer Foundation
The Mathew Forbes Romer Foundation (MFRF), established in 1998, is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization under section 501(c) (3) of the IRS code that drives education and research of children’s genetics diseases of the brain. In 2007, the Foundation surpassed the Million Dollar Milestone in fundraising. MFRF is the South Florida affiliate of National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association (NTSAD),a member of the Jewish Genetic Disease Consortium (JGDC) and listed with the National Organization of Rare Disorders (NORD). Now celebrating its ninth anniversary, MFRF is committed to increasing access to quality genetic testing, facilitating research of genetic diseases and bringing diagnostic and treatment options to South Florida.