American College - Center for Special Needs

50 for 50 Part III: Congratulations and Thank You, EP Magazine Advocate Heroes!

EP Magazine, formerly called Exceptional Parent, is celebrating its 50th anniversary of providing an award-winning forum for the disability community.  With the recognition that it’s the advocates who have provided the landmark events in the disability rights movement, EP is proud to honor 50 Advocate Heroes and showcase their extraordinary work and achievements in the following pages. While we have all had the opportunity to learn from those giants and pioneers that came before us, we are honoring living advocates.

BY EP Staff | August 2021 | Category: Healthcare

50 for 50 Part III: Congratulations and Thank You, EP Magazine Advocate Heroes!

Although it's safe to say that every parent of a child with complex disabilities is indeed an advocate, many of them have also distinguished themselves in advocating in a larger arena. Many of our showcased advocate heroes started out as parents, exceptional parents for sure.  They combined their efforts in becoming teachers, therapists, counselors, lawyers, healthcare providers, researchers and activists. This special brand of advocates—along with all the others we honor—will always have a special place in the disability movement, not only for what they have done, but also for those they have inspired. 

On behalf of EP Magazine, its Editors, the EP Editorial Advisory Board, and a group of our peers in the disability field, we congratulate and thank our 50 Advocate Heroes for their tireless work in support of the special needs community.  Our honorees will be featured in this and succeeding commemorative issues of EP Magazine. 

ESTELLE BENSON

“Our mission is that every person affected by GBS, CIDP, or related syndromes will have access to early and accurate diagnosis, appropriate treatment, and knowledgeable support services. Our unwavering commitment to the patients we serve is built on four pillars: support, education, research and advocacy.”

In 1979 Estelle Benson’s late husband, Robert, came down with a bad cold and pneumonia. One week later he was in the hospital, paralyzed, and the family was given the diagnosis of Guillain-Barre Syndrome (GBS). They had no idea what it was; they couldn’t even pronounce or spell it. There was no information and no one for him to speak to. They felt all alone. Ms. Benson vowed then and there, that if he ever recovered, she would do something about it.

One year later, she met with eight people who were affected by Guillain-Barre Syndrome, in her home, for a small support group. Using the leadership and organizational skills she had acquired as a teacher and a school administrator for many years, eventually, their little group began to grow. With support of people like Abbey Meyers from NORD, the neuromuscular medical community, and many others who kept inspiring Ms. Benson to keep moving, she is proud to say that the GBS|CIDP Foundation now has 190 chapters in 47 countries! She said, “Through it all, we have never lost sight of why we started the foundation. That is, and will always be, putting the patient first. We vow that no one will ever be alone in this journey.”

Ms. Benson “is humbled to have received many awards on behalf of the many people” their organization serves, most recently including, the 2015 President’s Award from Patient Services Inc., the 2018 Honoree for the Abbey S. Meyers Leadership Award from the National Organization for Rare Disorders, and the 2020 Public Recognition Award from both the Peripheral Nerve Society (PNS) and the American Association of Neuromuscular & Electrodiagnostic Medicine (AANEM). 

Even though Ms. Benson has technically retired, she is still very involved with the Foundation, and doubts that will ever change. She said that she is “very proud of my family, two children, four grandchildren and I have recently become a great grandmother.” 

ROBERTA CARLIN, MS, MA, JD

“Advocacy is a two-tier responsibility for everyone, which includes systems change and individual advocacy. Always remembering the important guiding light, ‘nothing about us without us’ reminds me daily of the need to have a strong and consistent voice to right the wrongs in society and advocate for an inclusive and accessible world.”

Roberta Carlin has been the Executive Director of the American Association on Health and Disability (AAHD) since 2002.  AAHD is dedicated to ensuring health equity and inclusion for persons with disabilities through policy, research, education and dissemination. Ms. Carlin became involved in the disability and health field 35 years ago as a result of growing up with two cousins with intellectual disabilities and watching the challenges encountered by family members, as well as the ongoing need for both systems and individual advocacy.  She has a long-standing commitment and history of working to eliminate health disparities and advocate for health equity, inclusion and full accessibility, and promote health and wellness initiatives in children and adults with disabilities.

Ms. Carlin’s work at AAHD includes the launching of the Medline indexed Disability and Health Journal, the creation of the AAHD Research, Knowledge Translation and Dissemination Center, the NIDILRR funded Health Insurance Literacy Academy, and the National Disability Navigator Resource Collaborative.  She is proud of AAHD’s outreach and engagement involvement with NIH All of Us Research Program, which focuses on advancing individualized health care to all Americans.  She has overseen AAHD’s advocacy and research initiatives resulting from COVID-19 and its impact on people with disabilities, as well as AAHD’s women’s health initiatives.

Ms. Carlin serves on numerous coalitions and task forces and previously chaired the Friends of NCBDDD, served on the Executive Committee of the APHA Disability Section, the HHS National Biodefense Science Board, and as a Commissioner on the Montgomery County Commission for People with Disabilities.  Prior to AAHD, she was the Associate Executive Director/Director of Government Affairs at the Spina Bifida Association of America. Earlier in her career she was a Certified Rehabilitation Counselor.  She has a Juris Doctorate (JD) degree, a MS in Rehabilitation Administration and a MA in Counseling and Guidance.  She resides in the MD suburbs with her husband, and they are proud parents of three adult children and grandparents of seven.

MARC P. DIFAZIO, MD

"My career working with individuals with neurologic special needs has been incredibly rewarding.  Children and adults who have such challenges have always demonstrated to me resiliency and strength, sometimes in the face of remarkably physical and intellectual difficulties.  Their parents have likewise been an amazing example of how to nurture children to achieve the highest level of accomplishment.  I am so appreciative for the opportunity to share in the care of these families!” 

Marc DiFazio, M.D., is the Vice President of Ambulatory Services at Children’s National Hospital. He completed his pediatric and neurology training at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, and went on to become the Chief of Child Neurology at Walter Reed, where he served on active duty until 2005 before transitioning to private practice in Rockville, MD.

Dr. DiFazio “is well-known in the metropolitan area pediatric community for his service, leadership and expertise in clinical child neurology, with interests and concentration in the areas of Tourette syndrome, headache/migraine, concussion, behavioral neurology/autism and the use of botulinum toxin in a variety of conditions.” His leadership activities at Children’s National includes his service as the incumbent Medical Executive Staff President. He continues to serve in the Army Reserves as Command Surgeon of Legal Command, USARC.  Some of his leadership roles include serving as: President, Medical Staff, Children’s National Health System, 2018-2020; Command Surgeon, USAR Legal Command; Executive Director, Children’s National Physicians Associates (CNPA) 2021-Present; Vice President, Ambulatory Services, Children’s National Hospital; Medical Director, Ambulatory Neurology, CNH 2017-2021; Co-Chair, Children’s National Medical Executive IT Subcommittee, 2019-2020 Chair, Credentials Committee, CNH 2020-Present.

Dr DiFazio attended the Stritch School of Medicine Loyola University Maywood, Illinois Medical Doctor; Pediatrics, (Residency) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, D.C.; Neurology with subspecialty Qualification in Child Neurology, 1996-1999 (Second Residency) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center Washington, D.C.; and is pursuing his Healthcare at George Washington University Washington, D.C. 

TOM HARKIN (RETIRED SENATOR)

“Growing up with my brother Frank, who was totally deaf, I saw how societal barriers and attitudinal barriers restricted him in so many ways: education, employment, travel, and just in everyday living. Frank was my first inspiration to engage in the efforts to address this discrimination against persons with disabilities. Later, during my early years in the US House and Senate, I was continually inspired by so many in the disability rights movement, individuals you will see in the documentary film ‘Crip Camp’. They engaged in nonviolent protests and demonstrations across America…The most memorable demonstration occurred when a number of individuals fell out of their wheelchairs and crawled up the steps to the US Capitol to show that was the only way they could enter. This became known as the ‘capital crawl’. All of these brought to the attention of the American people the discriminations faced by persons with disabilities. In 1989 I became the lead sponsor in the Senate of the bill which would become the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), signed into law July 26, 1990. This law has changed the face of America to be more inclusive and barrier free for all persons with disabilities. I was so privileged and honored to be in the right place at the right time to be able to lead this bill through the legislative process and to the President’s desk.

Many times, I read that I was the ‘author’ of the ADA. While I did have a hand in drafting it and getting it passed into law, the real ‘authors’ of the ADA are the disability rights pioneers who labored for over 20 years to get this law enacted. I was, and still am, so proud of all these pioneers who would not take ‘stay in your place’ as an answer to the barriers to full inclusion for all persons with disabilities.” 

In 1974, Tom Harkin was elected to Congress from Iowa's Fifth Congressional District. In 1984, after serving 10 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, Senator Harkin challenged an incumbent senator and won. Iowans returned him to the Senate in 1990, 1996, 2002, and 2008. He retired from the United States Senate in January 2015. 

As a young senator, Senator Harkin was tapped to craft legislation to protect the civil rights of millions of Americans with physical and mental disabilities. What emerged from that process would later become his signature legislative achievement — The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA has become known as the "Emancipation Proclamation for people with disabilities”. To preserve the intent of the ADA after several court rulings weakened its standards, Senator Harkin and Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) introduced the ADA Amendments bill to ensure continuing protections from discrimination for all Americans with disabilities. It was signed into law in September 2008. For his ongoing and dedicated work to people with disabilities around the world, Senator Harkin was twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. In September 2009, Senator Harkin became chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Senator Harkin was born in Cumming, Iowa, the son of an Iowa coal miner father and a Slovenian immigrant mother. To this day, he still lives in the house in Cumming where he was born. In 1968, he married Ruth Raduenz, the daughter of a farmer and a school teacher from Minnesota. They have two daughters, Amy and Jenny, and four grandchildren. 

ISABEL HODGE

“One of the biggest compliments I received was from an attorney many years ago who said, ‘Isabel Hodge is like a bulldog who bites at heels until she gets what she wants and smiles while doing it.’ I never gave up. I keep a list. 

I have met with parents and advocates with disabilities living in countries who do not have a civil rights law like the ADA or reliable social protection systems.  They are eager to see progress and learn from the US example. Listen to their life stories and figure out what you can do to help, big or small, and add it to your list. It is common occurrence for parents and advocates from all over the world to stay at our house and share their stories over dinner.  Each visitor has their name engraved on a wooden center piece on our dining table. It's quite full now but our door is still open. 

My journey began as a parent, and later as a person with a disability, and has been so much richer because I simply listened, shared what I had learned along the way, recruited other advocates, and acted.  Be the change you want to see in the world. Don't forget to smile!” 

Isabel Hodge is a distinguished leader and advocate in the international disability rights movement. As Executive Director of the United States International Council on Disabilities (USICD), she manages a 30-year global networking and consulting hub with relationships with organizations of persons with disabilities in countries around the world. Isabel’s advocacy work involves striving for the US’ ratification of and promoting and assisting countries with their implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). She is guided by a commitment to the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by people with disabilities.

Ms. Hodge is a native of Glasgow, Scotland and a US Marine Corps veteran. Prior to joining USICD, she was a Senior Analyst for the US Department of Defense Office of Special Needs. She was also an Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) specialist at Headquarters Marine Corps and an installation EFMP program manager. In 2000, she received the Commander-in-Chief’s Special Recognition for Installation Excellence Award from President Bill Clinton.  Ms. Hodge currently serves as the Vice President of Disabled Peoples International North America and the Caribbean and on the Board of Directors for Wheelchairs for Kids International. She is an advisor to the Enabled Children’s Initiative, which is a non-profit working to improve the quality of life for Afghans with disabilities.

Her middle child, Allistair, is an adult who has autism and an intellectual disability. Ms. Hodge is also a person with a disability and is the spouse of a disabled Marine Corps veteran. 

MATTHEW HOLDER, MD

“I have been lucky enough to watch and learn from some of the most magnificent self-advocates, family-advocates, and professional-advocates in the field.  In my opinion, these are some of the very best people that humanity has to offer.  If you want to see true strength of will and strength of character, you will find it here.  Over the years, those advocates have taught me that advocacy means never giving up—to be told ‘no, it can’t be done’ 1000 times, and to still be there for the 1001st time, when you are finally able to make it happen.  It means being a lion when you need to be a lion, and it means walking away when you have lost, only because you already have a better plan to win.”

Dr. Matthew Holder earned his BA in psychology, MBA with a focus on entrepreneurship and MD degrees from the University of Louisville.  He helped co-found the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD) in 2002 and served as that organization’s Executive Director and, later, President, and is still active as a Board member.  In 2009, as part of his AADMD work, he founded the National Curriculum Initiative in Developmental Medicine – a national effort to standardize the emerging field of Developmental Medicine – the care of adults with IDD.  This work led to curriculum changes in over 30 medical schools, nurse practitioner schools and residency programs.  Additionally, Dr. Holder founded the American Board of Developmental Medicine to certify physicians in the field of Developmental Medicine. 

In 2005 Dr. Holder became the Global Medical Advisor for Special Olympics, creating the MedFest program and developing the first set of IDD-specific physical examinations protocols for that program.  He later served as the Chair of the Medical Advisory Committee until retiring from that post in 2021.  During his time at Special Olympics Dr. Holder trained tens of thousands of medical students and practicing physicians and the physical protocols that he and his team developed improved the quality of sports physical performed on millions of athletes with intellectual disabilities in over 170 countries. 

In 2014, Dr. Holder cofounded the Lee Specialty Clinic in Louisville, KY.  The Lee Specialty Clinic is considered the preeminent model for interdisciplinary outpatient care for patients with IDD.  Funded by the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the clinic is home to 18 different teaching programs, including the only dental residency training program in the United States with a 100% IDD patient base.  As a pioneer in the field of developmental medicine, Dr. Holder has met with multiple Presidents, congressional representatives, Surgeons General, and other national and state leaders with the message of systemic change in the way we provide healthcare to the IDD population.  Examining both the clinical and the business side of medicine, Dr. Holder firmly believes that there is a better way to provide healthcare services to this population that will produce far better outcomes at less cost.  In the near future, he will be leading the charge in a newly formed organization to prove it. 

SETH M. KELLER, MD

“I am an advocate for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities by my ability to share my expertise, personal stories, and by my leadership and networking skills. The end of the day for my efforts will be if I am able to help those with IDD, their families and supports, and we all benefit from the experience and knowledge of our combined energies and dedication.”

Seth M. Keller, MD is a board-certified neurologist in private practice with Neurology Associates of South Jersey. He specializes in the evaluation and care of adults with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (IDD) with neurologic complications. Dr. Keller is on the Executive Board of the Arc of Burlington County, as well as on the board for The Arc of New Jersey Mainstreaming Medical Care Board.   Dr. Keller is the Past President of the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry (AADMD). He is the co-president of the National Task Group on Intellectual Disabilities and Dementia Practices (NTG). He is also the chair of the Adult IDD Section with the American Academy of Neurology. Dr. Keller is actively involved in national and international I/DD health education as a speaker and webinar and workshop participant. He is a co- author on a number of articles and book chapters relating to aging and dementia in those with IDD.

Raised in Philadelphia, PA, Keller received his bachelor’s degree from Temple University, earned his medical degree from The George Washington University School of Medicine in 1989, and completed his neurology internship and residency at Bethesda Naval Hospital. He also served as a neurologist at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Okinawa, Japan.

SHARON LEWIS 

“Advocacy starts at home. Families of children with disabilities are critical in raising strong adults who will live self-determined lives and contribute to our communities. Parents do this by holding both our systems and our kids to high expectations, allowing them to take risks and make mistakes, rejecting segregation in the name of safety, teaching our children to advocate for a just and equitable world – and by getting out of the way when our youth become young adults who need our support, not our paternalism.”

Sharon Lewis is a national expert in disability policy who currently assists publicly-funded health and human services programs as a consultant. As a parent to three amazing adult daughters, one who experiences intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), she has spent the past twenty-five years advocating for equitable and inclusive communities for all, and for the rights of, and opportunities for, people with disabilities.

Ms. Lewis was appointed by President Obama to multiple leadership roles at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) including Principal Deputy Administrator of the Administration for Community Living (ACL), Senior Disability Policy Advisor to the HHS Secretary, and Commissioner of the Administration on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, after serving on President Obama’s transition team for the U.S. Department of Education. At HHS, she co-founded ACL, established initiatives to improve I/DD employment outcomes, expanded alternatives to guardianship, furthered higher education opportunities for people with I/DD, promoted Olmstead implementation, and advocated for the human and civil rights of people with disabilities and their families. In collaboration with CMS leadership, she also worked on significant reforms in Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS), known as the “HCBS Settings Rule,” requiring community integration and person-centered services.

In her time as Congressional committee staff, Ms. Lewis provided critical leadership in the passage of disability-related amendments to laws including the Head Start Act, the Higher Education Act, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, and the Americans with Disabilities Act, as well as the Affordable Care Act. She led the drafting and House passage of the first federal bill seeking to eliminate restraint and seclusion in schools, and to maintain accountability for students with disabilities in federal education policy. Prior to her federal service, Sharon led public policy, legislative strategy and grassroots organizing for multiple I/DD non-profit advocacy organizations and coalitions in Oregon.

Ms. Lewis is the recipient of numerous honors, including the Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities Chairman’s Award, a Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. Foundation Public Policy Fellowship, and multiple advocacy leadership awards from the disability community. She is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. 

HAROL (HACKIE) REITMAN, MD

“To me, advocating for those of us whose brains and bodies are different has meant the opportunity to fight for the underdog. It has meant taking positive actions to encourage all the families, friends, and self-advocates to support each other in maximizing our potential, while emulating such heroes and mentors as Dr Rick Rader and Dr Steve Perlman in uniting silos of research and advocacy. Society needs to understand and embrace neurodiversity and all of our differences for the benefit of ALL of us.” 

Harold “Hackie” Reitman, M.D. is the founder of the nonprofit Different Brains® Inc. and DifferentBrains.org. He is also an author, filmmaker, retired orthopedic surgeon, former professional heavyweight boxer, the past chairman and president (and current board member) of The Boys and Girls Clubs of Broward County, and a neurodiversity advocate. However, it was his role as a father that led to his dedication to speaking out for the differences in our brains. 

Hackie’s daughter Rebecca grew up with epilepsy, 23 vascular brain tumors, and underwent two brain surgeries before the age of five. Her struggles and recovery put him on the road to, through 26 professional heavyweight boxing matches, raising awareness and money for children’s charities (to which he donated every fight purse). Rebecca eventually went on to graduate from Georgia Tech with a degree in Discrete Mathematics, and Dr. Reitman wrote and produced a film based on her experiences there. After graduation, Rebecca received a diagnosis of Asperger’s syndrome. Hackie, shocked at his own ignorance of the topic despite being an M.D., embarked on years of research that culminated with his book Aspertools: The Practical Guide for Understanding and Embracing Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorders, and Neurodiversity. 

This experience revealed to Hackie the interconnectedness of the conditions that fall under the neurodiversity umbrella, while alerting him to the in-fighting and fractured relations that often plague the organizations tasked with serving the community. Convinced that overcoming these schisms could help all of society, Hackie forged the Different Brains philosophy of inclusive advocacy: "Supporting Neurodiversity - From Autism to Alzheimer's and All Brains In Between". 

Hackie is the main mentor of the neurodiverse participants of the Different Brains Mentorship Program, the host of the weekly interview show Exploring Different Brains, writes blogs for the DifferentBrains.org, and tours the country speaking at conferences, conventions and private functions, all with the goal of improving the lives of neurodiverse individuals and their families, and maximizing the potential of those with different brains. 

NEIL ROMANO

“The Declaration of Independence says: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ Being an advocate for the rights of people with special needs gives me the great honor of helping to make that simple truth more of a reality in the lives of millions of Americans.”

In 2007, Neil Romano was nominated by President George W. Bush to be the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Disability Employment Policy and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. During his time as Assistant Secretary for ODEP, he developed a series of outreach programs to help Americans in general and businesses in particular, understand the great value of people with disabilities in the workplace. Called “A conversation with America” his goal for this program was to accentuate the positive nature of people with disabilities and combat negative stereotype of people with disabilities in our society.

He has also served as a member of the President’s Committee for People with Intellectual Disabilities, The United States Access Board and The Committee for Purchase from People Who Are Blind or Severely Disabled. In 2015, he was selected to be a member of the National Council on Disabilities for a term of three years. In 2018, he was reappointed by Senator McConnell to another three-year term on NCD and was elevated to the council’s Chairmanship by President Trump.  During his time as Chairman, NCD released a series of groundbreaking reports that called for an end to the Ability One program and the use of section 14C of the Fair Labor Standards Act, which allows employers to pay people with disability less than minimum wage. Under Mr. Roman’s leadership NCD released a series of bio-ethic reports, which demonstrated the poor treatment, by sectors of the medical community, of people with disabilities. These bio-ethic reports proved to be invaluable in the fight against the discrimination against people with disabilities during the covid-19 pandemic. He still serves on NCD.

Recently Mr. Romano has become involved with a significant effort to help people with disabilities understand and receive their full benefits under Medicare and he is working launching the largest private disability employment program in the history of the United States. He is published in various academic journals on subjects ranging from drug abuse to disability issues.

Born with dyslexia, in 2013, Neil was diagnosed with leukemia. Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1954, Mr. Romano presently lives in Florida with his wonderful wife of 32 years, Barbara. They have two adult daughters, Mrs. Bianca Romano-Stephens, a physiotherapist in Texas and Christina Romano a practicing attorney in Kentucky. 

JOSEPH M. VALENZANO

 “President George W. Bush, whose father signed the Americans with Disabilities Act, so eloquently said that we will become a greater nation and a better people when we learn to regard people with disabilities as people to be respected, not as problems to be confronted.  In the years that I served as CEO of Exceptional Parent, that was a driving force in all that we did, the programs we created, the voice we gave to parents and the witness we served to attest to the remarkable accomplishments that Exceptional Parents and caregivers have achieved.  We have been so privileged to serve them.” 

Joseph M. Valenzano was President & CEO of EP Global Communications, Inc. and Exceptional Parent Magazine from the mid-1990s through 2016.  Under his leadership, EPGL worked with the Department of Defense on issues concerning returning veterans with significant disabilities, including TBI and PTSD.  EPGL developed dozens of online educational seminars for physicians and allied health care professionals, and also made these accessible to families.  He helped create the World Congress & Exposition on Disabilities, bringing together education and exhibitions of technology and medical equipment from around the world. He also was instrumental in developing and implementing Disability Awareness Nights, with Major League Baseball clubs, honoring top advocates across the country.

Mr. Valenzano is the recipient of several honors and awards from the disability community, including those from the Arc of Massachusetts, the Colleen Giblin Foundation, and the Arc of New Jersey. He received the Theresa Award, and the 2005 Distinguished Service Award for work on behalf of people with Fragile X. He is past Chair of the Executive Advisory Board to the Child Neurology Foundation, and past Chair of the Executive Advisory Board to the American Academy of Developmental Medicine and Dentistry. 

Believing in giving back to the community, Mr. Valenzano has been an educator since 1972.  He has taught business, finance, and publishing courses at various universities, including: Northwestern, Kean, as well as Bergen Community College; Passaic County Community College, Ocean County Community College and Atlantic Cape Community College, NYU’s Graduate School of Business, and NYU Gallatin School’s Advanced Publishing program. He also held various senior executive positions with communications companies, such as The Thomson Corporation and McGraw Hill, Inc. He received has an MBA in Finance from Fairleigh Dickinson University, has an Advanced Professional Certificate in Accounting (APC), and is a Certified Management Accountant (CMA).

A native New Yorker, Mr. Valenzano has been married for 50 years to Patricia Valenzano and is the father of five boys and grandfather of 10 grandchildren.

SHERYL WHITE-SCOTT, MD, FACP

“The last year has made crystal clear the need to address health disparities for people with disabilities. I am thankful that over the last 34 years, I have been able to assist by providing medical services. I continue to advocate for people with disabilities as we all fight for health equity.”

Sheryl White-Scott MD, FACP, is a Medical Consultant for the Medically Frail residential program at AHRC/New York City and Medical Specialist for the Metro Developmental Disabilities Services in New York, New York. AHRC/New York City is a not for profit, family governed organization, dedicated to enhancing the lives of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families. The Metro Developmental Disabilities Services Office of the New York State Office for People with Developmental Disabilities is the state government office responsible for helping people with developmental disabilities live richer and healthier lives in Manhattan and The Bronx.

Dr. White-Scott specializes in clinical services for adults with developmental disabilities. She has worked extensively with this population and has a special interest in health care delivery for women with developmental disabilities and individuals with developmental disabilities from minority populations. She has done numerous presentations on primary health care, prevention, aging, women’s health and training medical professionals in the delivery of health services for individuals with developmental disabilities. The clinical response to the COVID-19 pandemic has become a new area of expertise for her, as for many clinicians, working through this challenging time. Dr. White-Scott resides in New York City with her husband and two daughters. 

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