October 13, 2016

Dr. Stephen Sulkes Receives First Special Olympics New York Golisano Health Leadership Award for Advancing Inclusive Health for People with Intellectual Disabilities

Dr. Stephen Sulkes

Award is Special Olympics top health honor –Tom Golisano presented award that bears his name

Special Olympics New York is honored to announce the selection of Dr. Stephen Sulkes of Rochester, New York as the 2016-17 Golisano Health Leadership Award honoree. The Golisano Health Leadership Award was established in 2016 in partnership with Special Olympics International and the Golisano Foundation, and is given to one of only 32 individuals or organizations in the world who are dedicated to improving the health of people with intellectual disabilities and advancing the health work of Special Olympics.

“Special Olympics New York is delighted to be able to present Dr. Stephen Sulkes with the Golisano Health Leadership Award. Dr. Sulkes has been a health leader within the Special Olympics movement, in the Rochester region, and nationally among his peers for many years. In every endeavor, from providing a sports physical to an athlete so that they can train and compete in Special Olympics, to mentoring medical students to improve healthcare delivery and outcomes for people with developmental disabilities, to championing systems level improvements at the state and national level, Dr. Sulkes is passionate, dedicated, and incredibly effective. He is a shining example we hope others in our state will emulate and we can think of no one more deserving of this honor,” stated Neal Johnson, President & CEO, Special Olympics New York.

“I appreciate this recognition from international leaders in health for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities like Special Olympics and the Golisano Foundation,” said Dr. Sulkes. “It is an honor not so much for me as for my colleagues at Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities and at the University of Rochester Medical Center, who have been working hard for years to make Rochester the healthiest place to live for this population.”

Dr. Sulkes is a state and a national leader in advancing the health and rights of people with ID. He has been a Clinical Director for Healthy Athletes for six years.  In his work as the Co-Director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, he has championed Healthy Communities work and has been an incredible resource and advisor.  He has secured grants from organizations such as the Special Hope Foundation to improve the fitness of Special Olympics New York athletes.  He founded the Rochester student chapter of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) and encourages students to get involved with Special Olympics both through Healthy Athletes but also as event volunteers and coaches.

Dr. Sulkes’ work is also reflective of the unique commitment of the University of Rochester to make inclusive health a part of its strategic plan – advancing access to care in multiple arenas – from the newly opened Complex Care Center and enhanced access to oral health, to training the next generation of clinicians to care for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

At the ceremony, Michael Worboys, Special Olympics New York Genesee Region Athlete, said, “Through Special Olympics Healthy Communities, I have learned a lot about taking personal responsibility for my health and in staying focused on a goal. Healthy Communities, which was made possible by the Golisano Foundation, gave me a Fitbit that I wear every day. I always get more steps than anyone else on my team. My secret is that I work at Wegmans and am on my feet all day for work. I have become a role model to my teammates and I encourage them to walk more and eat better each day, Special Olympics has also helped me to become a leader and a mentor to my peers.”

Others on hand for the award presentation were Paychex and Golisano Foundation Chairman Tom Golisano, University of Rochester President and CEO Joel Seligman, Special Olympics International CEO Mary Davis, Golisano Foundation Director Ann Costello, University of Rochester Medical Center CEO Mark Taubman, MD, and URMC Chair of the Department of Neuroscience, John Foxe, PhD.

Dr. Sulkes is one of up to 32 individuals or organizations across the Special Olympics movement that will receive the Golisano Health Leadership Award in 2016. Up to seven honorees will be selected to receive the global award to be presented this March at the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria.

Regional honorees are selected based on their involvement in work related to year-round efforts to increase access to quality health care, programming and resources for people with intellectual disabilities. Nominees will be selected based on the following criteria: 1) expanding Healthy Athletes (health events and exams offered to Special Olympics athletes free of charge); 2) impact on follow-up care and/or wellness programming; 3) increasing the financial sustainability of health programs; and 4) advancement of the health rights of people with intellectual disabilities.

Since 2012, philanthropist and Paychex Chairman, Tom Golisano, and the Golisano Foundation, have committed $37 million to Special Olympics health program to increase access to inclusive health, fitness and wellness programs for people with intellectual disabilities in the communities in which they live.

People with intellectual disabilities are part of one of the largest and most medically underserved disability groups in the world. Millions with intellectual disabilities lack access to quality health care and experience dramatically higher rates of preventable disease, chronic pain and suffering, and premature death in every country around the world.

Special Olympics’ vision of its health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation, is to create a world where people with intellectual disabilities have the same opportunities and access to health care as people without intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics’ 19 years of experience identifying and addressing the unmet health needs of people with intellectual disabilities has revealed the myriad of complex barriers to health faced by this population. Barriers to this vision include lack of access to quality health care, education, and resources.

Through this multi-layered effort, Special Olympics is working to create a tipping point where health becomes inclusive for people with intellectual disabilities globally by changing curriculum, training health care professionals and policymakers, influencing policy, advocating for inclusive health programming, building partnerships for follow up care and harnessing the power of the Special Olympics Movement to build awareness.

About Special Olympics New York

Special Olympics New York provides year-round sports training and competition in 22 Olympic-style sports to children and adults with intellectual disabilities. Special Olympics New York is the largest Special Olympics program in North America with 67,162 athletes training and competing year-round. Engage with us on: Twitter

About Special Olympics International

Special Olympics is a global movement that unleashes the human spirit through the transformative power and joy of sports, every day around the world. We empower people with intellectual disabilities to become accepted and valued members of their communities, which leads to a more respectful and inclusive society for all. Using sports as the catalyst and programming around health and education, Special Olympics is fighting inactivity, injustice and intolerance. Founded in 1968 by Eunice Kennedy Shriver, the Special Olympics movement has grown to more than 5.3 million athletes and Unified partners in 169 countries. With the support of more than 1 million coaches and volunteers, Special Olympics delivers 32 Olympic-type sports and over 108,000 games and competitions throughout the year. Special Olympics is supported by many individuals, foundations and partners.  To see a full list of partners click here.


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