March 19, 2017

Seven are Honored for Pioneering Global Health Work with First-ever Golisano Global Health Leadership Award

Group photo at the Golisano Global Health Leadership Award

Golisano Global Health Leadership Award Honorees: Seated from left to right: Remi Huwaert, Paul Nauwelaerts, Ann Costello, Amporn Benjaponpitak, Mary Davis, Boonrueng Triraungworawat Standing from left to right: Susan Danberg, Mohamed Askar, Stephen Sulkes, Denisse Aguilar, Peter Mazunda, Steven Perlman, Jianbo Zhu

Dr. Stephen Sulkes of Rochester, NY, USA is Honoree from North America – Honorees Were Announced at Special Olympics World Winter Games in Austria

he Golisano Foundation and Special Olympics, the largest public health organization for people with intellectual disabilities (ID), honored seven healthcare organizations and professionals who are on the frontlines of bringing essential and often unprecedented health care services to the most marginalized people on earth, those with intellectual disabilities.

The first-ever Golisano Global Health Leadership Award, named for philanthropist and Paychex founder, B.Thomas Golisano, was presented to seven recipients at a ceremony today in Schladming, Austria at the 2017 Special Olympics Winter World Games. Two additional Golisano Global Health Leadership Pioneer Awards, which recognize lifetime achievement in health services, were also presented.

The Golisano Global Health Leadership Award was established to recognize the progress being made around the world to increase access to essential health care for people with intellectual disabilities.  It is Special Olympics’ highest honor for health partners.

Special Olympics Health made possible by the Golisano FoundationThe honorees are health champions in their countries. Their extraordinary efforts are fulfilling the goals, values, and mission of Special Olympics’ global Health program, made possible by the Golisano Foundation. This award recognizes individual leaders and organizations that are making significant contributions to Special Olympics health programs, specifically through Healthy Communities, and promoting inclusive healthcare, wellness, and fitness for people with intellectual disabilities.

Since it was launched in 2012, Special Olympics Healthy Communities has been expanding unprecedented year-round access to quality health care to more than 50 communities around the world – reaching almost every continent. The program is working to continue to expand access to care in 100 communities by 2020.

“The work we are seeing on the frontlines of healthcare in villages and cities throughout the world is inspiring,” shared Ann Costello, Executive Director of the Golisano Foundation, which is one of the largest private foundations dedicated exclusively to helping people with intellectual disabilities. “We applaud these individuals and organizations for their game-changing work to advance inclusive health in their communities. They see the possibilities. They are focused on outcomes. They are changing the way health care is delivered to people with intellectual disabilities and are changing the way future generations of health care providers will deliver care.

“We hope the Golisano Global Health Leadership Award serves as a catalyst and inspiration for more individuals and organizations to make much-needed changes in healthcare for people with intellectual disabilities.”

“These recipients have demonstrated their passion for Special Olympics athletes and their quest for achieving their personal bests on and off the field of competition.” said Mary Davis, Special Olympics CEO. “Each has played a role in breaking down barriers and changing perceptions. They are leading the way and have made critical contributions to achieving health equity.”

The seven global finalists were selected from 25 recipients of the 2016 regional Golisano Health Leadership Awards by a Special Olympics International cross-departmental team of Special Olympics athlete leaders, Healthy Athletes Global Clinical Advisors and a representative from the Golisano Foundation.

The recipients of this prestigious international award are:

Africa: Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA) for their work with Special Olympics Uganda in creating health solutions where there is no access to healthcare. KOICA provides volunteer staff in the areas of medical and sports and holds free medical camps in the communities where athletes live. KOICA also has a mobile health program that provides medical screenings and treatment for the community. To date more than 400 athletes have benefited from this partnership.

Asia/Pacific: Rajanukul Institute, Ministry of Public Health, Thailand in Bangkok, Thailand for launching a national health assessment program for children with intellectual disabilities. The institute’s healthcare and educational personnel have developed screening tools specific to the needs of athletes, prepared training resources for health care professionals and special educators, as well as providing healthcare advice to athletes and families. The Rajanukul Institute has expanded the Healthy Community model from six pilot schools to the remaining 14 schools across the country. The Rajanukul Institute has provided services to over 5,000 athletes and trained over 140 health care professionals.

East Asia: Beijing Tongren Eye Hospital, Capital Medical University in Beijing, China for coordinating medical professionals throughout China and ensuring sustainable eye health and treatment access are available to Special Olympics athletes. The hospital has committed to provide 300 free medical check and consultation for people with ID who need follow up care every year. Since Beijing Tongren Eye Hospital, CMU has engaged with Special Olympics Opening Eyes, over 3,000 athletes have been screened.

Europe/Eurasia: Lions Club International MD 112 in Brussels, Belgium for their leadership in creating healthcare solutions for Special Olympics athletes and their investment in making Special Olympics Belgium a Healthy Community. Lions Clubs Belgium supports Belgium’s Healthy Athletes program financially by covering costs for the necessary supplies for multiple Healthy Athletes events. Lions Clubs International Belgium supports the Belgium’s Healthy Athletes Program also on a logistical level. Each year they gather almost 4000 giveaways to donate to Special Olympics events.

Latin America: Universidad Cientifica del Sur – Escuela de Estomatologíca (FCS) in Lima, Peru for educating hundreds of dental students on how to care for people with intellectual disabilities and for opening their doors to Special Olympics Peru athletes to provide inclusive dental treatment. Universidad Cientifica del Sur also provides dental care for people with intellectual disabilities at no charge. The academic curriculum of the dental program has been updated to include eight mandatory hours to train students on how to approach and interact with patients who have special needs. This model will be replicated with other medical schools at the university.

Middle East/North Africa: Dr. Mohamed Askar of Cairo, Egypt for his leadership in Special Olympics Health work in Egypt and opening the doors of his orthopedic practice to provide free services for people with intellectual disabilities. Dr. Askar recruits and trains volunteer health professionals during Special Olympics events and in his private orthopedic clinic. Dr. Askar’s clinic also provides free medical care for athletes. By doing this he encourages families to bring their children for follow up, referrals and treatment if needed. Dr. Askar uses his connections with medical companies and universities to secure equipment, supplies and free medicine balls and wheelchairs for athletes during the events.

North America: Stephen Sulkes, MD, Co-Director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester, New York, USA In partnership with Special Olympics New York
In his work as the Co-Director of the Strong Center for Developmental Disabilities, Dr. Stephen Sulkes 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 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.

Two Pioneer Awards for Lifetime Achivement Presented

In addition to the seven 2017 awards, two Pioneer Awards for lifetime achievement were presented to Steven Perlman, DDS of Boston, Massachusetts and Paul Berman, OD(Posthumously) of Hillsdale, N.J for founding Special Olympics Healthy Athletes 20 years ago. Their vision and pioneering work launched Healthy Athletes Special Smiles and Opening Eyes and paved the way for medical and dental professionals in medical schools, medical centers and private practices to improve access and standards of care for people with intellectual disabilities.

Steven Perlman, DDS is a Clinical Professor of Pediatric Dentistry at The Boston University Goldman School of Dental Medicine. Perlman is a past president of both the Academy of Dentistry for Persons with Disabilities and The Massachusetts Academy of Pediatric Dentistry.  In addition, he has served on the executive board of both organizations for many years. Perlman founded Special Olympics Special Smiles, an Oral Health Initiative for the athletes of Special Olympics International.  He currently serves as their Senior Global Clinical Advisor.

Paul Berman, OD (1950-2013) was the founder and global clinical director of the Special Olympics’ Opening Eyes and Healthy Athletes programs, Berman received many accolades including the 2007 “Spirit Award for Special Lifetime Global Leadership in Promoting Human Dignity” and, in 2012, White House “Champions of Change.” Berman served as a senior consultant for Essilor with emphasis on philanthropic activities. Additionally, he served as director of professional relations and education for Liberty Sport Liberty Sport and was team optometrist for the New Jersey Devils hockey team.

The next round of Golisano Global Health Leadership Awards will be presented at the Special Olympics Summer World Games in Abu Dhabi in 2019.

The Golisano Foundation is making Special Olympics Health work possible around the world and has invested $37 million to create and expand Special Olympics Healthy Communities throughout the world. Golisano’s gift is the largest received by Special Olympics in its nearly 50 year history, and is also the largest single gift ever given by Tom Golisano and his Foundation.

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. In developing and developed countries alike, people with intellectual disabilities are consistently the most marginalized population subset – a status that comes with horrific health outcomes. Barriers that contribute to this include stigma and discrimination, insufficient or lack of health care provider training, over-attributing symptoms to a particular condition which results in conditions being untreated and undiagnosed,  limited prevention education reaching this population, limited self-advocacy, cultural beliefs, increased poverty and poor enforcement of laws and policy to protect this population.

Special Olympics Health

Over the past 20 years Special Olympics has grown to become the largest global public health organization specifically focused on people with ID. Led by the Golisano Foundation, and supported by other organizations globally and locally including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Special Olympics is making strides for ensuring inclusive health and working with corporations, organizations, universities, hospitals, and health care professionals to do more to ensure people with intellectual disabilities are not excluded from the health care systems within their communities.

Since 1997, Special Olympics Healthy Athletes program, also supported by Golisano, has been providing free examinations and education for people with intellectual disabilities across the areas of audiology, dentistry, health promotion, optometry physical exams, physical therapy and podiatry. The award-winning Healthy Athletes program and the more than 135,000 health care professionals trained on the specific health care concerns of people with intellectual disabilities have provided more than 1.7 million free examinations to Special Olympics athletes worldwide in more than 130 countries. Special Olympics now maintains the largest dataset on the health of people with intellectual disabilities.

About Special Olympics

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. Engage with us on: Twitter@specialolympics,,, and

Tom Golisano and Golisano Foundation

B. Thomas Golisano, an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and civic leader, is Chairman of Paychex, Inc., a national leader in the payroll and human resource industry. He has demonstrated ongoing generosity and commitment to numerous non-profit organizations and has been recognized for his achievements and endeavors by many organizations and national publications. The Golisano Foundation, which he established in 1985, is one of the nation’s leading foundations dedicated exclusively to helping organizations that assist people with developmental disabilities. In addition to the Foundation’s contributions, Mr. Golisano has been very generous to many other institutions and organizations, his philanthropy totaling more than $267 million.

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