No Brainer: Toronto Writer Wins Journalism Award

Article highlights advances in spinal cord research MONTREAL, May 6 /CNW/ - Less than 20 years ago, a spinal cord injurymeant life confined to a wheelchair. The belief was, nerve cells don'tregenerate and damage was permanent. Now, we know that damaged nerve cells cangrow and sometimes, the injured can walk away. Journalist Mark Wittenunderstands this well. His engaging account of families impacted by theseinjuries and their treatment strategies has won him this year's sanofi pasteurMedal For Excellence In Health Research Journalism. Witten's article, "The Miracle Makers", published in the October 2007issue of Canadian Living, provides a comprehensive overview of the recentadvances in spinal cord research and the Canadian scientists who are leadingthe way. He profiles Franci Sterzer and her struggle to recover from a spineinjury suffered in a car accident. Recent discoveries and developments in thefields of neuroprotection, regeneration, muscle rehabilitation andtransplantation are discussed; realities and potentials evaluated. Inaddition, Witten's article explores clinical trials from both the researcherand patient points of view. The journey for Sterzer, whose movement is stilllimited, has been slow but new therapies give real hope for significantimprovement. According to her husband, their ultimate goal is to see her walkagain. "We congratulate Mr. Witten on this achievement," says CHR president,Patricia Guyda. "He has done an exemplary job encapsulating how basic andclinical research directly benefits patients and how each new finding provideshope. In addition he has accurately and expertly summarized the significantprogress that has been made in the area of spinal cord research. He hasdemonstrated how good journalism can raise public awareness." Witten's work was judged by a panel of scientists and writers thatenthusiastically and unanimously agreed his was the winning entry. The judgespraised the other submissions for their thorough, interesting, informative andaccurate accounts of medical health research but viewed Witten's article asoutstanding in its balance of patient and research perspectives. CHR launched the sanofi pasteur Medal in 1995, and administers theselection process. Sponsored by sanofi pasteur, Canada's premier vaccinecompany, the inaugural medal recipient was Globe and Mail science reporterStephen Strauss for his longstanding contribution to promoting publicawareness of science. Other recent awardees include Paul Schliesmann from theKingston Whig-Standard, Michael Smith from University Affairs and Peggy Curranfrom the Montreal Gazette. "As a company that is built on nearly a century of science, sanofipasteur is pleased to be associated with this prestigious award thatrecognizes excellence in science journalism," says Nancy Simpson, Director,Communications at sanofi pasteur Canada.