Happy 25th Anniversary PCRM!

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Photo: Neal Barnard, MD, President of The Physicians Committee for Responsible  Medicine and Jolia Sidona Allen, Vegetarian Times Associate Editor and Web Editor on the red carpet at PCRM’s 25th anniversary gala, The Art of Compassion. Check out more photos from the event on Vegetarian Times‘ Facebook page, in the album “PCRM’s 25th Anniversary Gala: The Art of Compassion”

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) recently celebrated its 25th anniversary with a gala event and awards ceremony, The Art of Compassion, held in Los Angeles, Calif. In the past quarter-century, PCRM has greatly advanced ethical research and preventative medicine, battling the use of animals in medicine and promoting the health benefits of a plant-based diet.

High-profile attendies included PCRM’s director of public affairs, Elizabeth Kucinich, Congressman Dennis Kucinich; Skinny Bitch author Rory Freedman; retired NBA star John Salley; comedian Carol Leifer; actress Marilu Henner, actress Jane Valez-Mitchell; and Quantum Wellness author, Kathy Freston, and her husband, entertainment industry executive Tom Freston, event chairs.

The celebration kicked off with a silent auction, cocktails and passed hors d’oeures created by Millennium Restaurant, including lip-smacking spicy-tomato “Tartare” cones with vegan cavier and can’t eat just one Gardein sliders. A vibrant poster created by artist Peter Max to commemorate PCRM’s  25th Anniversary and the gala was on display.

The gourmet vegan dinner featured an arugula salad with sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes, and white asparagus with Meyer lemon and tarragon vinaigrette (created by Candle 79); a tomato bisque drizzled with basil oil (created by vegan chef Tal Ronnen); Chanterelle-dusted Gardein with a port reduction served with truffled mashed potatoes and roasted spring vegetables (also created by Ronnen); and a dessert buffet (created by Sublime, Veggie Grill, and Seed Kitchen).

It was inspiring to experience so many fabulous vegan chefs coming together to design a stellar, mouthwatering menu. While I had dined at every restaurant that helped create the menu, it was a truly extraordinary experience to savor their flavors in a single evening. I felt as though I had traveled through space from San Francisco to New York City, from Fort Lauderdale to Los Angeles.

After dinner and a warm welcome from PCRM President Neal Barnard and Kathy and Tom Freston, guests enjoyed live performances from musical artists Leona Lewis,

Drew Broadrick, Gooding, and Vonda Shepard and Leifer.

The first award of the evening was the Benjamin Spock Award for Compassion in Medicine. Spock was a world-renowned pediatrician and best-selling author of The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child. This honor was awarded to Baxter Delworth Montgomery, MD, a clinical assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology a the University of Texas for his work using a nutritional approach to illness. Montgomery created a “nutrition boot camp” for people with people with hypertension, heart disease, and diabetes.

Next came The Henry Heimlich Award for Innovative Medicine, coined for Dr. Henry J. Heimlich, creator of the life-saving Heimlich Maneuver. Heimlich began working with PCRM in 1980 when he took a stand against dog-drowning experiments proposed for testing the Heimlich Maneuver. This year’s award went to Gilman D. Veith, PhD, founder and president of a technology organization that uses innovative computer models to replace the use of animals when studying toxicity of chemicals.

The Voice of Compassion Award—which “honors those who, by word and example, have communicated caring, compassion, and the highest ethical principles”—went to four outstanding women in media and entertainment who have used the spotlight to spread compassion to the masses: Ellen DeGeneres, Portia de Rossi; Marilu Henner; and Alicia Silverstone.

You may remember that DeGeneres and de Rossi’s vegan wedding was catered by the aforementioned Ronnen. The couple continues to share their plant-based diet both on screen and behind the scenes. While Degeneres and de Rossi weren’t in attendance, Degeneres accepted the award for herself and de Rossi earlier in the week by inviting Barnard to the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show where she accepted the award on stage. A video clip was shown to the gala audience. Marilu Henner, a healthy eating advocate and author, has testified before Congress for healthier foods for children; Henner was present to accept her award. Alicia Silverstone, who was not in attendance, recently authored the best-selling The Kind Diet, which has climbed to the top of The New York Times best-seller list.

The Art of Compassion Award—which “recognizes an individual who exemplifies compassion to an extraordinary degree and works to extend this value as broadly as possible”—was presented to Robert L. “Skip” Trimble for a lifetime of advocating compassion, including serving as a board member and legislative chair of the Texas Humane Legislation Network, where he helped make animal cruelty punishable as a felony, passed statewide regulation on ownership of exotic animals, and raised funding for low-cost spay and neuter programs.

While there was much to celebrate—in the past 25 years, for instance, nearly all North American medical schools discontinued the use of animals and adopted cruelty-free and educationally superior training methods due to PCRM’s work— the overall tone of the evening both looked back on the group’s accomplishments and forward to the challenging road ahead. The just-launched PCRM Legislative Fund is currently working on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act and the Great Ape Protection Act. And PCRM is wrestling with the Department of Defense and NASA in effort to stop their use of primates.

To learn more about PCRM, visit pcrm.org.