Why the Lorraine Cross Award is important to Sanford

Finalists for medical research award are innovating now for the next generation

The Sanford Lorraine Cross sits on display at the 2018 Sanford Lorraine Cross Award event

The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award was created to celebrate tremendous innovation, research and scientific achievement.

“These are individuals who have been able to say ‘mission accomplished’ and check the box,” Micah Aberson said.

Aberson is Sanford Health executive vice president and was involved in the award’s beginning stages.

Watch: Sanford Lorraine Cross Award: Who are the 2020 nominees?

“At Sanford, one of the things that we pride ourselves on is surrounding ourselves with other people that have done tremendous things and made significant contributions to humanity, to their clinical or research practice,” Aberson tells Sanford Health News. “And the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award aligns so well to that.”

Leading the way

Sanford’s integrated health care delivery includes a world-renowned research operation. Research scientists and clinicians at Sanford Research spend their days focused on using cutting-edge science to eradicate diseases and bring cures from the laboratory bench to the hospital bedside.

“Our ability to find like-minded people across the globe who have done remarkable things, introduce them to our researchers and to our clinicians, just adds so much value to what we’re trying to do,” Aberson said. “The association between Sanford Health and these people who have done remarkable things is just great for our organization.”

David Pearce, Ph.D., president of Sanford Research, Innovation and World Clinic, knows that well.

“We want to reward other people who have the same philosophy as us,” Dr. Pearce said. “Our philosophy in research is to impact our patients, to make a difference, to cross the finish line with something that’s really going to treat a malady or a disease and improve the health of an individual who needs it.”

While, uniquely, the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award rewards an individual outside its own organization with a $1 million prize, Dr. Pearce adds, this is about recognizing someone who just reached a major biomedical breakthrough.

The award process includes a proprietary algorithm and robust scientific advisory board to narrow down fields and individuals that have made the most significant advancements and impact within five years.

“Innovation is usually something that takes time to be recognized because it creates change,” Dr. Pearce said. “So, for us to recognize innovation before anybody else recognizes that, Sanford is leading the way.”

‘When they win, we all win’

It’s a slogan that sticks at the heart of the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award: “When they win, we all win.”

“I think there are awards out there, very reputable and for good reason, that celebrate a lifetime’s worth of achievement or they celebrate publishing in academic papers, things like that,” Aberson said. “But perhaps go over the head of the normal everyday citizen — or my 7-year-old daughter — who can otherwise see very clearly what accomplishments have been made and understand how significant that is.”

Sanford Health and Sanford Research leaders are proud to be a part of inspiring others through this process.

Additionally, they’re grateful for the Founders Circle, a celebrated group of donors who fund the award. Aberson said these donors are all invested in the shared vision and contribute to an endowment which ultimately generates the $1 million prize.

“It’s not just about a scientist or researcher getting an accolade or financial prize, but making a contribution to a life-changing impact on people’s health,” Aberson said.

And, they say, no greater time than the COVID-19 pandemic to really showcase significant breakthroughs in biomedical research and innovation as it relates to health care.

From the human resources to financial resources, Aberson said it has been amazing to see the world work quickly to bring a solution to market from treatments to vaccines.

“What we’re trying to do with the award is create an environment that celebrates accomplishments of those people that are doing remarkable things, whether they’re curing a form of blindness, like our inaugural winners in 2018, or our 2020 finalists who have done remarkable things in their respective areas,” he said.

He says part of the goal is inspiring the next generation of individuals to follow their lead and try to find a cure for something that was previously incurable.

“What a gift,” Aberson said. “What a gift to the next generation, what a gift to someone that you’ve never met before, impacting a life of someone you don’t know.

“The work that these finalists are doing and the work that we’re helping to inspire and to celebrate is an absolute game changer. It changes somebody’s life in profound ways that we will never completely understand or appreciate.”

The Sanford Lorraine Cross Award is held every two years. The 2020 event was postponed from December to April 13, 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Sanford Health News continues its coverage as the 2020 winner is announced. 

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Posted In Lorraine Cross, Research