Congratulations to 40 Under 40 Awards 2017 Honorees – Gemma Thomas & Heidi Pottinger!

Sonoran UCEDD Update
Fall 2017

Every year, the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Arizona Daily Star host the 40 Under 40 Awards to recognize 40 individuals under the age of 40 making significant achievements and contributions to their profession and the community. Two of this year’s honorees are part of the Sonoran UCEDD family and we could not be more proud of these deserving recipients!

Gemma Thomas (headshot)Gemma Thomas

Gemma is a native Tucsonan and an accomplished health and human services leader. A graduate of the University of Arizona with a Bachelor of Science degree in Molecular/Cellular Biology, she went on to complete her Master’s in Social Work. Her professional journey began as an office manager of a local physician practice. Joining Children’s Clinics in 2015, Gemma has served in various leadership positions and is currently the Director of Innovation. She has developed specific pediatric programs, including family medicine and palliative care; authored and received numerous grants; published annual reports and led initiatives that have enhanced the lives of children and families in southern Arizona.

Gemma is passionate about giving back to our community. While in graduate school, she completed the Sonoran UCEDD Interdisciplinary Training program, followed by the Arizona Leadership

Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (LEND) Fellowship. Now, Gemma gives back to the community as a member of the Care Fund Tucson Advisory Council, Children’s Action Alliance Southern Arizona Advisory Council, Ronald McDonald House Charities Red Shoe Society, the YWCA Advocacy Committee, and the Sonoran UCEDD Community Advisory Council. 

Heidi Pottinger (headshot)Heidi Pottinger

Heidi is originally from the U.S.-Mexico border town of Nogales, AZ. Over her career she has focused on pre-clinical development of vaccines, small molecule drugs and immunomodulators, and various clinical research efforts related to human biomechanics, neuromuscular diseases, and children with developmental disabilities and/or who have been hospitalized. 

Past leadership roles include research, advocacy, and policy efforts as national director of clinical research for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. She previously served on the Executive Board of Directors for LUCHA, a nonprofit providing service learning opportunities along the U.S.-Mexico border. Currently, she works at the University of Arizona with Sonoran UCEDD faculty, Dr. Duke Duncan, helping to lead a multi-site clinical trial to improve motor function and language skills in children with cerebral palsy, as well as other interventions to support families of children with special health or medical needs. Heidi is the Chair of the Research & Evaluation Committee for Integrative Touch for Kids (ITK), and also focused her doctoral dissertation work on evaluating the impact of ITK’s Hospital Heroes program at Banner Children’s Hospital at Diamond Children’s Medical Center, for which she recently received an award from the American Public Health Association’s Disability Section. Heidi is also an executive member of the Arizona Sonora Border Projects for Inclusion (ARSOBO) Board of Directors. ARSOBO is a bi-national nonprofit organization which empowers individuals with disabilities to assist others in their community who have their same type of disability; it was incubated at the Sonoran UCEDD’s first Border Conference on Disabilities.