The Laurie Savage Lifetime Achievement Award was created in 2017 to honor the contributions of individuals with exceptional contributions to the field of Spondyloarthritis. The award is named for Laurie M. Savage, M.S. FLE., long-time Executive Director of the Spondylitis Association of America (SAA). Laurie was instrumental in organizing the professional community to further the cause of Spondyloarthritis through SPARTAN, first as a program of the SAA, and later, as an independently incorporated organization. In the words of SPARTAN Board of Director members, “She has been an amazing force for these patients,” “the SAA was the parent organization for SPARTAN and Laurie in a sense, our parent figure,” “Laurie gave a lifetime of work to spondyloarthritis, both in support of patients but also research. She was a visionary for the field and given spondyloarthritis a face in North America, when organizations representing more broad rheumatic diseases did not.”
SAA announced that Laurie passed away on Sunday, December 30, 2018, surrounded by her loving family, after her three-year-long battle with cancer. She fought cancer like she did everything else – with optimism and fearlessness – and a determination to not allow it to interfere with her life and passions.
Laurie was diagnosed with breast and bone cancer in 2015, and though her initial prognosis was less than hopeful, she made it clear she was going to fight hard and do it her way. And she did. Her doctors referred to her as a “Super Responder” to treatment, surpassing all expectations and spending her remaining time leading a full and productive life. Laurie retired from her beloved SAA in 2017, though remained close by and involved as a research consultant.
Laurie’s impact on the spondyloarthritis landscape is vast, and will be long lived. She is co-author of multiple peer-reviewed journal articles and white papers, including an article in the October 2007 issue of Nature Genetics, which announced two new genes identified in the genetic susceptibility toward ankylosing spondylitis. From 2005 to 2010 she served as co-principle investigator for the administrative core of the NIH funded, multimillion dollar “TASC” genetic study in spondyloarthritis, and in that capacity was responsible for the oversight of one of the multi-center national patient recruitment and enrollment centers under the auspices of the University of Texas in Houston. In 2016 she co-authored, along with the former president of the Ankylosing Spondylitis International Federation, a chapter in Oxford University Press’ Oxford Textbook of Axial Spondyloarthritis, titled, “Patient support and advocacy in Axial Spondyloarthritis.”
Prior recipients of the Lauri Savage Lifetime Achievement Award:
2017 Laurie Savage