Debra R. Lappin, Esq.
Chair, Arthritis Foundation
Debra R. Lappin, Esq., has given nearly 20 years advocating on behalf of people with arthritis and a lifetime advancing the position of women in society. She currently serves as the national Chair of the Arthritis Foundation, devoting countless hours and thousands of miles to advance knowledge about the serious impact of arthritis and related conditions on the nation's health and what can be done to make greater strides in arthritis research or improve quality of life for people coping with this debilitating disease.
Since graduating sixth in her law school class as one of only a handful of women in a class of 188, Debra has been a trailblazer for others. Not long after Debra Lappin passed the bar exam and began practicing law in 1977, her hips started hurting. It was painful, but nothing she couldn't handle. She kept working and at 28 she was a high powered lawyer working on multi- million dollar deals. Then the pain struck with vengeance. One year, nine doctors and three misdiagnosis later--including bone cancer-Debra learned she had a form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis which was thought to rarely affect women. Finally, after years of unspeakable pain, she retired from law in 1988 because of her arthritis.
During her personal struggle, she sought information from the Arthritis Foundation and immediately became a volunteer for the organization. After just her first meeting with the Foundation, she initiated a series of governmental advocacy efforts that changed state law in Colorado to allow people with arthritis and others to qualify for handicapped parking permits.
Since then, Debra has fought tirelessly on behalf of more than 40 million Americans with arthritis. She has focused the views of more than 400,000 Arthritis Foundation volunteers on the need to elevate arthritis on the national agenda, the importance of issues such as funding for arthritis research, government advocacy for people with arthritis, the nature of chronic disease in a managed care health systems; and the critical need for collaboration among health agencies, the government and corporate America.
She has sounded her call to action on the national stage with testimony before Congress and keynote speeches to groups such as the National Academy of Sciences and the National Society of the Advancement of Women's Health research. In all her many efforts, Debra Lappin, Esq. has made a crtical contribution to the health of the nation and has created a legacy of achievement she continues to build upon. By 2020 it is estimated that 60 million people will suffer from some form of arthritis.
Women's International Center is indeed proud to acknowledge Debra Lappin with the 1998 Living Legacy Award. We honor of her ceaseless effort to make life better for millions, now and in the future.