TUCSON, Ariz. — The Muscular Dystrophy Association is pleased to announce that MDA Board Member Christopher Rosa, Ph.D., assistant dean for student affairs at City University of New York, has been awarded the New York Post Liberty Medal in the education category. Rosa received the award today in a special ceremony in New York City.
As a nine-year-old New Yorker, Rosa’s head was filled with dreams of the day when he would become shortstop for his beloved New York Mets. But that was not to be, as he was diagnosed with Becker muscular dystrophy (BMD).
Today, Rosa is an inspiration to young people living with neuromuscular disease, advocating for them on campus at CUNY and as a volunteer leader of MDA’s National Transitions Program. As a result of advances in research and clinical care, individuals diagnosed with “pediatric” muscle diseases now are living well into adulthood, sometimes for decades. Rosa is helping MDA pave the path for this new generation through mentorship and policy efforts aimed at making the vision of “transitional freedom” a reality.
“We at MDA are very pleased for Chris. He loves New York, and we know that he is thrilled to be honored as an academic leader for disabled students in his hometown,” said MDA Medical Director and Executive Vice President of Research Valerie Cwik, M.D. “We view Chris as a national role model who devotes countless hours as a mentor for young people living with neuromuscular diseases as they become adults. Chris has made that transition, and graciously shares his experiences and lessons learned with others.”
The Liberty Medal that Rosa will receive today is given to an educator who excels in preparing the next generation for future challenges. While Rosa is passionate about ensuring that young people with disabilities are encouraged to fulfill their potential, he is characteristically self-effacing about his own achievements.
“I'm so humbled to receive this honor, largely because over the course of my career as an educator, I honestly feel as though I've learned so much more from those I've served at CUNY, and through MDA, than I've been able to teach,” said Rosa. “For those who perceive my ‘challenges’ as ‘extraordinary,’ I hope that this recognition demonstrates that access and opportunity for people with disabilities is built through simple, ordinary acts of advocacy that empower people each and every day.”
Rosa frequently travels to Washington, D.C., to advocate at the national level for the MDA community. He also has served as chairman of the Subcommittee on Employee Disability Concerns of the President’s Committee on Employment of People with Disabilities.
“Chris is a leader within MDA’s Becker muscular dystrophy community and a role model for young people transitioning into adulthood,” said MDA Senior Vice President of Advocacy Annie Kennedy. “To see him honored in New York City for his efforts makes us even more appreciative of the many hours he dedicates to our national MDA community.”
In 1997, Rosa was named an MDA national vice president and was the recipient of MDA’s National Personal Achievement Award.
Each year in the United States, nearly half a million youngsters with disabilities and chronic health conditions cross into adulthood — and the numbers are growing. However, barriers continue to exist for young people seeking higher education, employment and independent living.
MDA’s Transitions program is aimed at working with youth and families to identify the multifaceted needs of MDA’s young adult community, and then identifying the necessary support and services needed to navigate the existing systemic barriers.
MDA also is working to change “the system,” and through its national advocacy program, the Association is working to create a social and political environment that supports independent living, and encourages young people to pursue their hopes and dreams for the future.
MDA is the nonprofit health agency dedicated to finding treatments and cures for muscular dystrophy, ALS and related diseases by funding worldwide research. The Association also provides comprehensive health care and support services, advocacy and education.
In addition to funding some 300 research teams worldwide, MDA maintains a national network of 200 medical clinics; facilitates support groups for families affected by neuromuscular diseases; and provides local summer camp opportunities for thousands of youngsters fighting progressive muscle diseases.