Pathways Pioneer Awards

Pathways.org honors outstanding individuals with the Pathways Pioneer Award for their extraordinary commitment to assuring the best for all babies’ development.

2013 Recipients – Dr. Deborah Gaebler-Spira MD, FAAP, FAACPDM and Dr. Michael Nelson PhD

Both Dr. Deborah Gaebler-Spira and Dr. Michael Nelson have been founding members of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable and have touched the lives of many children and their families  through their leadership and expertise.

Dr. Deborah Gaebler-Spira has served as the Director of the Cerebral Palsy Program and Early Intervention Program at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, and a Professor of Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. She helped create the partnership between Pathways.org and the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) through the Corbett Ryan Pathways.org Pioneer Award. Dr. Gaebler-Spira was the former President of the AACPDM and received the Goldenson Technology and Rehabilitation Award from the United Cerebral Palsy Foundation in 2005.

Dr. Michael Nelson has served as the Director of the Section of Pediatric Psychology at Rush Children’s Hospital, and an Associate Professor of Child Psychology at Rush University Medical Center. As a founding member of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable, he was instrumental in the development of our first brochure, Assure Baby’s Physical Development. He was also the former President of the Illinois Neonatal Development Follow-up Association, and has been a member of the Illinois Premature Infant Health Network Continuity of Care Committee.
2012 Recipient — Dr. Michael Msall, MD, FAAP, FAACPDM

Dr. Michael Msall has been an active member of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable since 2004. He has held positions as Professor of Pediatrics and the Section Chief of Neurodevelopmental and Behavioral Pediatrics at the University of Chicago Comer Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Msall initiated autism intervention and family support collaborative networks at Advocate Illinois Masonic, NorthShore University Health System, and the Illinois Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. He has authored multiple publications regarding infant and child health including 129 scientific papers, 18 book chapters, and 167 presentations. His work includes howto address parents’ fears and stress and how to enhance the development and economic well-being of children with issues in low-income countries.


2011 Recipient — Dr. A. Jean Ayres, PhD, OTR

Dr. A. Jean Ayres (1920-1989) was a brilliant and visionary occupational therapist and psychologist who developed sensory integration theory, assessment, and intervention. She coined the term “sensory integration” in the 1960s. One of the most forward-thinking scientists of her time, Dr. Ayres has impacted thousands of children, helping them become more confident in their everyday lives. She wrote several books about sensory integration and created multiple test batteries to help identify sensory integration issues. Her work inspired the Pediatric Therapy Network, which currently provides over 100,000 hours of therapy each year to children in need.

Her compassion and love for her work was evident in letters she wrote to her nephew Philip who had sensory integration issues. Separated by hundreds of miles, Jean guided Philip through therapy to help with his sensory integration development. Philip overcame most of his issues with his aunt’s guidance.


2010 Recipient — Felicia Kurkowski

Since joining Pathways.org in 1989, Felicia Kurkowski has worn a myriad of hats from accountant to day care manager to videographer and historian. She was instrumental in distributing our brochure to every library in the country, our video to libraries across four Midwest states, and organizing our Pathways.org Center Family Fest. Felicia also created our parent-answered 1-800-number for parents nationwide. She has spread the Pathways.org mission through hundreds of presentations in 25 cities over 15+ years at professional and parent conferences, including national meetings of the AAP, AAFP, APTA, and NDTA.

2009 Recipient — Pathways Children Worldwide

Every day, children worldwide work as hard as Olympians to achieve what many of us take for granted. And achieve they do – with courage, self-discipline, self-esteem and dignity. Like Olympians, they mobilize their inner and outer resources to achieve their goals. The power of their spirit inspires us all

2009 Pathways Pioneer Winner

2009 Dinner Video


2008 Recipient — Dr. Suzanne Campbell, PhD, FAPTA

Dr. Suzanne Campbell, who retired from her position as Professor and Head of the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Illinois at Chicago, was appointed Professor Emeritus for her contributions to the department and to the university.

Dr. Campbell has taught in three research universities, and conducted research on development of children with cerebral palsy, intervention for infants at risk for movement dysfunction, and measurement of motor development in infants and young children. In addition to her teaching and research commitments, clinical practice has remained a life-long interest for Dr. Campbell.

Dr. Campbell is the founding editor of Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics and a past member of the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research’s National Advisory Board. She has been a member of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, and of the American Physical Therapy Association. She has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Mary McMillan Lecture Award of the APTA, and was the recipient of the Catherine Worthingham Fellowship  given by the APTA. She has also received the Gold Pen Award, the Davis Award for Research, the Distinguished Educator Award and the Pediatric Section Research Award.

2008 Dinner Video


2007 Recipient — Dr. H. Garry Gardner MD, FAAP

A founding member of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable, Dr. Garry Gardner is considered a pioneer in pediatric medicine.  He held positions as professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and on the medical staff of Hinsdale Hospital and Children’s Memorial Hospital.

In addition to being a valued member of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable, Garry served on the Executive Committee of the Illinois Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He was chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention, and a member of the AAP Institutional Review Board. Garry also was co-chairman of the Medical Advisory Board of the DuPage Easter Seals Center, was on the Editorial Board of Pediatric News, was on the Board of Illinois Maternal and Child Health Coalition, and was an active participant on the Head Start Health Advisory Committee and the DuPage Interagency Council on Early Prevention.

2007 Dinner Video


2006 Recipient — Gay Girolami, PT, MS, PhD, FACPDM

Gay Girolami has been the heart and soul of Pathways.org Center since its inception in 1985. Under Gay’s leadership, Pathways.org Center was transformed from a small clinic to a state-of-the-art therapy center. After earning her master’s degree in pediatric physical therapy from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Gay worked alongside esteemed physical therapist Mary Quinton and pediatrician Dr. Elsbeth Köng for five years in Berne, Switzerland.

Gay has been certified in Neuro-Developmental Treatment (NDT) and pursued her doctorate in motor control and motor learning at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition to being a gifted therapist, Gay has been an extraordinary leader and teacher. She has shared her expertise with thousands of other therapists and medical professionals, and has led professional development courses both at home and abroad. Over 500 pediatric therapists in the Chicago area have been taught by Gay.

2006 Dinner Video


2005 Recipient — Dr. Elsbeth Köng, MD

Dr. Elsbeth Köng is an internationally recognized authority on early detection and early intervention for infants and children with early motor delays. Her work has resulted in the extensive training of medical professionals around the world, as well as the development of therapy centers to meet the needs of these children. Because of Dr. Köng’s revolutionary vision of beginning therapy at the critical age of three months, which allows for the most optimal development in a child’s movement abilities, Pathways.org began educating medical professionals and parents about the power of observation.

A graduate of Zurich University in Pediatric Medicine, Dr. Köng completed her residency at the University Children’s Hospital in Zurich under Professor G. Fanconi. In 1952, she developed an out-patient clinic for children with cerebral palsy and their parents. Because of the high demand for her expertise, she became a traveling doctor, training physicians and building centers in various parts of the country. In 1963, Dr. Köng became medical director for the Center for Cerebral Motor Disturbances in Berne, Switzerland, during which time she served as head of postgraduate training in cerebral palsy.

Dr. Köng, along with Mary B. Quinton, another well-respected pioneer in the field, helped spread the teachings of Neuro-Developmental Treatement (NDT) to therapists around the world. Today, over 5,000 therapists practice the NDT method. Throughout her career, Dr. Köng has lectured to medical professionals, including pediatricians, neurologists, orthopaedic surgeons, rehabilitation officers, and therapists in the United States, Canada, Spain, Mexico, Brazil, Poland, South Africa, Japan, and South Korea, on early detection and early treatment of cerebral palsy.

2005 Dinner Video


2004 Recipient — Dr. John F. Sarwark, MD

Dr. John Sarwark has been Head of the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedic Surgery at Ann & Robert H. Lurie  Children’s Hospital, Chicago, and a Professor in the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. He completed training as a clinical fellow in pediatric orthopaedics at the Alfred I. duPont Institute in Wilmington, Delaware. He has held positions as President of the Nathan Smith Davis Club of Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.

Dr. Sarwark serves as Co-chair of the Pathways.org Medical Roundtable. He has served as Chairman of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Executive Committee/Section of Orthopaedics. Dr. Sarwark has twice served on the Board of Directors of the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America. He has been editor of Caring for the Child with Spina Bifida, co-editor of The 2003 Body Almanac, section editor of Essentials of Musculoskeletal Imaging (American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons publishers), contributor to The Care of the Pediatric Athlete (AAOS/AAP joint publishers), and on the Review Board for Musculoskeletal Medicine (AAOS/AAFP/AAP joint publishers). He has served as Associate Editor for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons’ new online web program, Orthopaedic Knowledge Online.

2004 Dinner Video