News Release

Monday, October 26, 2009

NIH Director's Council of Public Representatives Welcomes Six New Members to the Next Meeting, October 30, 2009, in Bethesda, Md.

The National Institutes of Health has selected six individuals to serve as members of the Director's Council of Public Representatives (COPR), the advisory committee to the NIH Director on issues important to the public.

"These new members bring extensive knowledge and professional experience in patient advocacy, health disparities, pediatric research, social welfare and aging, minority health, and educational media, along with a strong commitment to enhancing public participation in biomedical and behavioral research," said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "COPR's diversity is the keystone to its effectiveness in bringing the public's voice to the level of the NIH Director," he continued. "As I chair the COPR meeting for the first time this fall, I look forward to welcoming these new members."

The new members are Stephanie Aaronson of Arlington, Va.; Amye L. Leong, M.B.A., of Santa Barbara, Calif.; Jordan P. Lewis, Ph.D., M.S.W., of Fairbanks, Alaska; Gregory R. Nycz of Marshfield, Wis.; Lynn M. Olson, Ph.D., of Chicago; and Leo Wilton, Ph.D., of Binghamton, N.Y.

New COPR members will participate as confirmed members at the next COPR meeting, scheduled for Oct. 30, 2009. The meeting will highlight such topics as comparative effectiveness research, international health research initiatives, complementary and alternative medicine, and Director's Council Member reports.

2009 New Members to the NIH Director's Council of Public Representatives

Ms. Stephanie Aaronson is senior director of communications at PBS and PBS KIDS, where she serves on the senior corporate strategy and operations team. She also created and leads the PBS Healthy Kids and Healthy Communities Initiative, leveraging PBS' resources to help children, families, teachers, and communities better understand their health and adopt healthy habits. Ms. Aaronson initiated and manages two children's developmental advisory boards and oversees PBS publicity and events. She has more than 17 years' experience in public relations and communications for media and nonprofit organizations. As a crew captain outside the office, Ms. Aaronson has led teams of volunteers in the three-day, 60-mile Avon Walk for Breast Cancer.

Ms. Amye Leong is president and chief executive officer of Healthy Motivation, a health advocacy and communications consulting firm in California and France, and a motivational speaker. She is the international spokesperson and director of strategic relations for the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010, established by the United Nations and the World Health Organization to improve quality of life for people affected by bone and joint diseases. Diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis at age 18 and confined to a wheelchair by age 26, Ms. Leong underwent 16 surgeries and 12 joint replacements before learning to walk and function independently again. She founded the Arthritis Foundation's first education, support, and advocacy groups for young people with rheumatic disease.

Dr. Jordan Lewis is the vice president of the National Association of Social Workers, Alaska Chapter, for which he oversees recruitment and retention of members from rural areas of the state. He has just completed his doctorate in cross-cultural community psychology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and he plans to use his diverse social work skills and policy background to improve health care programs for Alaska Natives. Dr. Lewis has presented his research on successful aging among Alaska Natives at conferences around the country and in Sweden. He also has taught courses on rural social work and issues of resilience in Alaska.

Mr. Greg Nycz is the executive director of the Family Health Center of Marshfield, Inc., a federally and state-funded community health center. For more than 36 years, he has worked to improve access to quality care for disadvantaged populations and to eliminate health disparities, especially in rural communities. Mr. Nycz has served as co-investigator on several NIH-funded studies and was active in the Wisconsin Area Health Education System, serving as treasurer of the Northern Area Health Education Center and as vice chair and chair of the statewide board of directors. He specializes in bridging the gap between research and community health.

Dr. Lynn Olson is the director of the Department of Research for the American Academy of Pediatrics, where she studies the diverse attitudes and practices of pediatricians and supports collaborative, multi-institutional research projects. The results of this research shape national priorities and future directions for the academy. Dr. Olson has extensive experience working on teams to translate research findings into better patient care by including primary care pediatricians from all 50 states in the research process. She is also a strong advocate for the academy's Plain Language Pediatrics program to help pediatricians better communicate with their patients. As a sociologist, Dr. Olson works to promote the patient perspective (parent and child) in pediatric research, including issues involving lack of health insurance and preventive care.

Dr. Leo Wilton is an associate professor of Human Development and Africana Studies at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He specializes in health disparities related to HIV and AIDS, community-based research, and psychological development and mental health. As a regional trainer for the American Psychological Association's HIV Office for Psychology Education, Dr. Wilton provides outreach to diverse communities about HIV prevention. He has extensive experience as a psychologist providing clinical care for HIV negative and positive African-American and Latino men.

The COPR is a federal advisory committee made up of members of the public who advise the NIH Director on issues related to public input and participation in NIH activities, the NIH research priority setting process, and public outreach programs and efforts. The COPR is made up of 21 people from across the country who have been chosen to represent the public through an open nomination process. They are patients, family members of patients, health care professionals, scientists, health and science communicators, and educators. Additional information is available at .

The Office of the Director, the central office at NIH, is responsible for setting policy for NIH, which includes 27 institutes and centers. This involves planning, managing, and coordinating the programs and activities of all NIH components. The Office of the Director also includes program offices which are responsible for stimulating specific areas of research throughout NIH. Additional information is available at

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit

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