Dr. Eric London, co-founder of NAAR, introduced a new NAAR award at this year's Annual Awards Dinner – the Science Service Award for Outstanding Dedication to NAAR and the Autism Community.
Dr. Manny DiCicco Bloom was honored to accept this new award. Dr. DiCicco-Bloom has been associated with NAAR since 1996. He is a pediatric neurologist and Associate Professor of Neuroscience & Cell Biology and Pediatrics at NJ's University of Medicine and Dentistry
at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.
Although his expertise is in the basic mechanisms of brain development, he had not really considered autism to be within the domain of his research. In 1996, he attended a research lecture on the state of the science of autism at Princeton given by Dr. Marie Bristol-Powers, then with the NIH. Discussions that day led him to rethink autism as a disorder of brain development—his area of expertise-- and also led to an invitation to serve on NAAR's Scientific Advisory Board. He served at NAAR's very first Scientific Advisory Board (SAB) meeting in December 1996 when there were only 27 proposals to review (!) and has participated in every meeting since as the number of proposals annually for NAAR funding has reached more than 250. Last year, and again this year, he chaired some of NAAR's review sessions, orchestrating the often impassioned and always stimulating discussion amongst over 30 or so reviewers.
Over the past few years, Dr. DiCicco-Bloom has contributed ever increasing amounts of time to NAAR as his own research interests focused more and more on the developing brain and the impact of environmental factors. In addition to serving on the SAB, he became an ad hoc member of our Scientific Advisory Committee, helping shape NAAR's strategic direction and overseeing the implementation of our scientific initiatives. For the past several years, he has worked with Dr. Eric London to make sure NAAR's grant application process maintains the highest standards of excellence—spending dozens of hours, including many evenings and weekends reading grants and identifying reviewers with the needed expertise. He has attended many neuroscience conferences as NAAR's representative and has recently been appointed to NAAR's seat on the NJ Governor's Council for Autism. In these and countless other ways, he has demonstrated an unsurpassed devotion and commitment to NAAR and its mission.