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AACR Announces Recipients for 2023 Distinguished Public Service Awards

PHILADELPHIA – The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) will present the 2023 AACR Distinguished Public Service Awards for Exceptional Leadership in Cancer Advocacy to Phyllis Pettit Nassi, MSW, and Jane Perlmutter, PhD, MBA, at the AACR Annual Meeting 2023, April 14-19 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Florida.

Phyllis Pettit Nassi, MSW, is the associate director of research and science, special populations at Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah. She is being recognized for her longstanding commitment as a patient advocate for American Indian Tribes across the Mountain West and beyond, and for an unwavering commitment to improving health literacy and clinical trial enrollment among American Indian populations. Her work has profoundly impacted tribal, rural, and frontier communities and improved quality of life and access to cancer care.

Pettit Nassi, an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe and member of the Cherokee Nation, has been a member of the AACR since 2010. She served as a member of the AACR Cancer Disparities Progress Report Advisory Committee in 2022 and cochair of the Program Committee for the 12th AACR Conference on The Science of Cancer Health Disparities in Racial/Ethnic Minorites and the Medically Underserved in 2019, where she was also a panelist for the session “Addressing Advocacy at the Bench: Implementing Change.” She has been active in the AACR Minorities in Cancer Research and Women in Cancer Research constituency groups for many years.

In 2022, Pettit Nassi was invited by President Joseph Biden and First Lady Dr. Jill Biden to attend the White House event where the reignited Cancer Moonshot was announced. She has been honored with numerous awards, including the Utah Department of Health and Human Services Certificate of Recognition (2007); the Utah Division of Indian Affairs Outstanding Manager Award (2006); and the University of Utah’s College of Social Work James Garland Woolsey Memorial Award for Professional Promise in the Fields of Health and Rehabilitation (2006) and the Pete Suazo Social Justice Award (2005).

Pettit Nassi received her bachelor’s in science and mathematics from Southern Oregon University, and her master’s of social work with a focus on health disparities from the University of Utah.

Jane Perlmutter, PhD, MBA, is president and founder of the Gemini Group. A survivor of breast, esophageal, and lung cancer herself, she is being recognized for her unparalleled leadership as a patient advocate, including through the AACR’s Scientist↔Survivor Program®; her dedication to improving the patient experience through innovative clinical trial designs, including ISPY2, TAPUR and the Alliance for Clinical Trials; and for efforts to ensure that the patient voice is included in research and trial design, accelerating patient access to new treatments and drastically improving their quality of life and overall survivorship.

Perlmutter has been a member of the AACR since 2006. She is a member of the AACR Women in Cancer Research constituency group (2019-present) and is an AACR Advocate Ambassador (2008-present). She has previously served as faculty for the AACR/ASCO Methods in Clinical Cancer Research Workshop (2021; 2018-2019; and 2006-2010). She spoke at the AACR Patient Advocate Forum: Revolution in Cancer Clinical Trials (2022) and was invited to participate on the AACR Annual Meeting Cancer Dialogue panel (2016). Perlmutter published an article in the AACR journal Cancer Research titled “Cancer Research Advocacy: Past, Present, and Future” (2013) and has been honored with the AACR’s Distinguished Advocate Mentor Award (2008).

In 2022, Perlmutter was elected a Fellow of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO). She has served as patient advocate chair of the ISPY Trials and chair of the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Patient Engagement Advisory Panel. She has also served on numerous other advisory boards, committees, and task forces, with the goal of integrating patient concerns and priorities into large clinical trials and other cancer research initiatives.

Perlmutter received her master’s in educational psychology and computer and information science and her PhD in cognitive psychology from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She received her master’s in business administration from the New York University Stern School of Business.

“Ms. Pettit Nassi and Dr. Perlmutter’s advocacy work has had a powerful impact on the lives of patients with cancer,” said Margaret Foti, PhD, MD (hc), chief executive officer of the AACR. “Phyllis has devoted her career to improving outreach to and clinical trial enrollment for American Indians, a greatly underserved patient population. Jane’s important contributions to clinical trial design have helped ensure that clinical cancer research is inclusive and sensitive to patient issues. They have both served as dedicated mentors to other advocates, amplifying and strengthening the patient voice within the cancer research community. The AACR is immensely proud to honor them with these Distinguished Public Service Awards.”

Pettit Nassi and Perlmutter both have long histories with the AACR’s Scientist↔Survivor Program®. Pettit Nassi served as an advocate mentor (2015), member (2007-2011), and advocate (2007-2010), and Perlmutter was an advocate mentor (2016) and advocate (2006-2010). This first-of-its-kind program is designed to build enduring partnerships among the leaders of the scientific, cancer survivor, and patient advocacy communities worldwide by providing advocates with special lectures using lay language, small group discussions, and other opportunities for the exchange of information on key aspects of cancer research, survivorship, advocacy, and public policy. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the program.

“When we launched the Scientist↔Survivor Program®, it was clear that defeating cancer would require cancer survivors and advocates working closely with scientists to inform and enhance progress in cancer research,” said Anna Barker, PhD, chair of the Scientist↔Survivor Program® and chief strategy officer at the Ellison Institute. “Phyllis and Jane are shining examples of the power and impact this partnership has in advancing research and improving the lives of patients with cancer.”

Pettit Nassi and Perlmutter will be honored and will deliver remarks during the AACR Annual Meeting 2023 Opening Ceremony on Sunday, April 16, at 8 a.m. ET.

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