Craig H. Neilsen
Visionary Prize Past Recipients

The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is thrilled to continue the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize with each prize winner awarded $1 million, respectively.

2021 Visionary Prize Recipients

Kim Anderson-Erisman

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD, is the Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional SCI Model System based at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute. She is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine. Her research has focused on translational investigations and bridging the gap between basic science, clinical science, and the public community living with spinal cord injury (SCI). Dr. Anderson-Erisman is a founding member and serves as the President of the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (NASCIC), a consumer advocacy group.

Her training spans the spectrum of SCI research, from cellular and molecular studies to whole animal and behavioral studies, to human clinical research. Having lived with cervical SCI for over 32 years, she has leveraged her lived experience to help guide research to be more relevant to the broader population living with SCI.  Several of her studies have focused on obtaining the perspective of people living with SCI on various aspects of research, including functional priorities, acceptable benefits and risks, preferences for neuroprosthetics, and exercise participation. She has expertise in SCI outcome measures and has conducted a multi-center clinical study evaluating the reliability and validity of the Spinal Cord Independence Measure in the US healthcare setting, which is now the outcome measure for global function used in clinical trials. In addition to pursuing her own research regarding chronic injury, she was part of the leadership team running the 6 FDA-regulated Schwann cell transplantation clinical trials while a faculty member at the University of Miami. At MetroHealth-CWRU she is continuing her leadership in clinical trials of new interventions for SCI and further developing her independent research efforts addressing issues important to people living with SCI, with an emphasis on translational research to deploy treatments to the clinic and to the community.

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Wesley Hamilton

Wesley Hamilton is the Founder and CEO of Disabled But Not Really (DBNR), a non-profit with a mission to instill in the underserved “disabled” community, a physically limitless mindset that breeds courage, confidence, and competence. He aims to create an environment where anyone that is limited by circumstances beyond their control has a safe and inspiring place for growth. He accomplishes this through a focus on community engagement events with an emphasis on nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle, promoting a healthy and independent way of living. DBNR also partners with other community events to raise awareness about the role of good mental and physical health in overcoming life’s challenges. A scholarship program was created for individuals to have ongoing access to nutrition and fitness classes. DBNR also supports Kansas City’s homeless population, providing dignity care packages, water, and food.

Wesley was featured in Season 4 of the Netflix show Queer Eye where he sat with the man who shot him for a conversation. He says that the show “taught me how to be true to myself, and I was humbled by the experience.” Wesley has played an important role representing the Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing Line. With over 130,000 social media followers, Wesley is helping to raise the expectations for a broader range of products that are specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and is forcing other companies to take notice.

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Alice Sheppard

Alice Sheppard is an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. She studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and started her career performing with Infinity Dance Theater and AXIS Dance Company.

As Bessie award-winning choreographer, Sheppard creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. In 2016, Alice founded Kinetic Light, a disability arts ensemble featuring herself, Jerron Herman, Laurel Lawson and Michael Maag. Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company’s work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry.

In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a sought-after speaker and has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race, and dance. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, academic journals, and the anthology Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong.

2020 Visionary Prize Recipients

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Andrea Dalzell, BSN, RN

Andrea Dalzell, BSN, RN, has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis as a registered nurse in New York City, and is one of only a few wheelchair-using nurses in the country. She became a nurse in 2018, even learning to box in order to build up the strength to administer CPR. Dalzell was recently featured in the Raw Beauty Project, a New York arts project celebrating women with disabilities and educating viewers to redefine perceptions and beauty. She has been featured in Apple Watch commercials demonstrating some of the device’s accessibility features. Dalzell received her undergraduate degree in Neuroscience and Biology, as well as her nursing degree, at the CUNY College of Staten Island, where she was awarded CUNY’s Emerging Leader of the Year Award. She also won the Cindy Loo Disability Rights Advocate Award in 2015 and was crowned Ms. Wheelchair New York in 2015.

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Brian K. Kwon, MD, PhD, FRCSC

Brian K. Kwon, MD, PhD, FRCSC, has made several landmark contributions to SCI treatment and rehabilitation in his dual role as an attending orthopedic spine surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) and a scientific researcher at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries (ICORD), University of British Columbia in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Dr. Kwon has sought to bridge the gap between scientific discovery and clinical practice with translational research studies that are truly relevant to people with SCI. These include studies of how blood pressure management could be optimized to enhance recovery after SCI and how the biological responses to injury can be used to identify new targets for treatment. Additionally, Dr. Kwon has established a biobank to share valuable SCI tissue specimens with other scientists in an effort to help the international research community move forward faster in the search for new therapies. This reflects the spirit of global collaboration central to Dr. Kwon’s research program, which has been recognized with awards such as the Turnbull-Tator Award in SCI Research and the Apple Award for excellence in publishing in SCI rehabilitation literature. As the Canada Research Chair in Spinal Cord Injury and the Dvorak Chair in Spine Trauma, Dr. Kwon currently serves as the Associate Director of Clinical Research for ICORD and the Chair of the AOSpine Knowledge Forum in Spinal Cord Injury.

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Reveca Torres

Reveca Torres is an artist and nonprofit director in Chicago. In 2009, she founded BACKBONES, a nonprofit organization that connects people with SCI to their communities. Through her work with BACKBONES, Torres has proven that activities like yoga, photography, theatre, and fashion design can be made accessible to people of all abilities with the proper support from peers and institutions. Torres is also the co-director of ReelAbilities Film Festival Chicago and has curated touring photography and art exhibitions that showcase the work of people with disabilities and bring awareness to disability rights. Torres uses painting, illustration, photography, film, movement, and other media as a form of expression as a tool for advocacy and social justice. She was also named New Mobility’s 2015 Person of the Year.