Empowering the Every(woman)
Everyone needs to be heard. Validation can be empowering. Encouragement can come from the smallest success to the biggest victory. Individuals with a disability often have to shout louder to be heard, but those with lived experience must break through the noise. We must support those voices because they make an important difference and should be a key part of the conversation.
The Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize was launched in 2020 to honor our Founder and celebrate influential voices in the world of spinal cord injury (SCI). Because it carries an unrestricted $1 million award, we knew it would be impactful for the recipients, and it appears the acknowledgement means almost as much as the financial support.
Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD, (pictured) was one of three people awarded the Visionary Prize in 2021. Honored for her scientific works as well as her advocacy, she admits that receiving the prize gave her a fresh way of looking at herself, and a renewed drive to approach what was in front of her. For Kim, the world of SCI is education, diversity in the workplace, innovative rehabilitation technologies, bowel and bladder research, as well as relief from neuropathic pain.
“One of the biggest things that the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize did for me was revitalize me to keep on pushing through all the hard things and then continuing to do these kinds of things that are important to people with spinal cord injuries,” Dr. Anderson-Erisman explains.
With a newfound confidence, she took the lesson from the award and translated it into action. After fighting for the needs of people in the SCI community throughout her career, she was receiving recognition that empowered her to step up to the next stage of her storied career.
“Everything I had been doing for the last 20 years meant something,” Kim adds. “It was validation. There were a lot of struggles and I put myself out on the line and this meant something to people—and it made a difference—and fueled me to keep on doing that. It validated me raising my voice when something needs to be said in support of people with SCI… I speak out even more now!”
Craig Neilsen was a man who spoke up for others. Our hope is that all of the recipients of the Visionary Prize feel the same validation and confidence to forge ahead with their own visions to make the world a better place.