Photo of the two 2023 diane lynn anderson memorial award recipients

Two Community Leaders Awarded 2023 Diane Lynn Anderson Memorial Award

The Community Foundation for Southern Arizona is pleased to announce that Dr. Gabrielle Ficchi and Dr. Sydney Rice have been awarded the Diane Lynn Anderson Memorial Award for 2023.

Established in 1990, the Diane Lynn Anderson Memorial Award honors individuals in Southern Arizona who exemplify the same qualities that Diane Lynn Anderson possessed: active acceptance, respect, compassion, devotion, and caring for people with disabilities. One of the original contributors to the Diane Lynn Anderson Memorial Award shared, “Because Diane knew firsthand the difficulties that people with physical disabilities are confronted with, she made herself available directly to those facing problems; she never wanted anyone to feel lost. Diane was also involved in helping to get systems set up that would continue to provide help.”

Dr. Gabrielle Ficchi identifies as a disabled woman and is a passionate advocate for equality and justice for the disability community. She is a licensed therapist, as well as a certified rehabilitation counselor.

Dr. Ficchi currently works to bring mental health services to the disability community and their families as the CEO & Therapist at her therapy practice, New Perspectives, LLC. She holds a full-time faculty position at the University of Phoenix as a professor in counseling and disability studies, where her research focuses on disability pride both for individuals and families, independent living, resilience, and disability identity.

Dr. Ficchi also works as a consultant and advocate for families on disability issues to help raise awareness about bettering the lives of disabled individuals in our community.

Upon learning that she was receiving the Diane Lynn Anderson Memorial Award, Dr. Ficchi shared, “I think one of the really important messages here is that representation matters and that when we are talking about individuals with disabilities, the fact that they are also served by other individuals with disabilities is really important. I think there are a lot of messages that get fed to us in one way or another through our society that say the individual with a disability needs to be serviced, but we don’t often flip that around to say that the disabled individual can be an active participant in their community, just like everybody else. We are valued members of our community, and I think it’s really important for the people working with them to recognize their value and value their voices and perspective. So this is a full-circle moment for me.”

Dr. Ficchi continued, “I am super honored to be a recipient this year. I think we are really lucky to be able to spread disability awareness and positive messages about representation. This award is a great way to do it!”

Dr. Sydney Rice is a Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrician and has spent her career focused on caring for children in Arizona with disabilities. She is an active clinician caring for children with disabilities, including seeing children with autism, spina bifida, cerebral palsy, brain injury, preterm birth, and early drug exposure. She participates in multiple research teams investigating each of these conditions as a researcher at the University of Arizona Steele Research Center. She also participates in clinical teams that provide outreach services to children across the state, on the border, and with native populations.  She is the Chief Medical Officer at Children’s Clinics in Tucson, a center for children with disabilities, and she advocates for children and families throughout the state in this role.  As a native Arizonan, her career has been dedicated to improving the lives of children with disabilities in Arizona.

“I am beyond honored by this award,” shared Dr. Rice. “I love my relationships with children who have very medically complex conditions and their families. I am invited into the most intimate details of family life, and I guard this gift that I am given.  As a physician, I am intrigued by the most complicated and challenging medical situations, and I try to disentangle, advocate for, and interpret for my patients and their families. I truly love what I do.”