2017 conference of champions

Special Guests

andrea avery - bio

Andrea Avery

Now an author and high school English teacher in Phoenix, Andrea Avery was already a promising and ambitious classical pianist at age 12. That’s when she was diagnosed with a severe case of rheumatoid arthritis, threatening not only her musical aspirations, but also her ability to live a ‘normal’ life. Andrea’s debut book was published this year. “Sonata: A Memoir of Pain and the Piano” is a riveting account of what was going through her mind as her body betrayed her. Despite numerous surgeries and adjustments, she has learned to live with RA while keeping her wit, humor and determination, as well as the raw artistry of a true performer.


mark boutin - bio

Marc M. Boutin, JD

A leading voice for greater patient involvement at every stage of the health care continuum, Marc Boutin is the Chief Executive Officer of the National Health Council (NHC). Under his leadership, the NHC has convened a broad range of stakeholders to create and effectively implement pragmatic strategies and public policy that address diverse issues. Boutin has been actively involved in patient advocacy organization management, health advocacy, and both federal and state policy throughout his career.


brianna drevlow - bio

Brianna Drevlow

This summer, Brianna Drevlow was crowned Miss Minnesota and went on to represent her state in the 2018 Miss America Pageant in September. The oldest of 11 children, Brianna holds a bachelor of music degree from Concordia College and recently finished her first year of graduate studies at Bowling Green. She began her musical studies at age 4 in piano and cello; has performed on tour in Italy and France; and her film, “Twenty-Three Words,” has received critical acclaim for its scoring. Brianna’s platform is on behalf of her 8-year-old sister, Brenna, who struggles with juvenile arthritis. Together, they want to bring more attention to JA and create a network of support for those who battle it.


matt iseman - bio

Matt Iseman

In 2017, comedian, TV host and Daytime Emmy winner Matt Iseman outlasted 15 competitors and was named “The New Celebrity Apprentice,” raising almost $1 million for the Arthritis Foundation along the way. Since 2010, Matt has hosted the wildly popular “American Ninja Warrior,” in addition to a five-year run as the ‘Go-to Guy’ on “Clean House.” Long before that, he earned his medical degree, but quickly realized comedy was more in his DNA. He has headlined clubs nationwide and entertained troops around the globe. Matt’s ongoing battle with rheumatoid arthritis has made him a strong supporter of our work, and we’re thrilled he’s hosting our Evening of Honors for the third straight year.


byron janis - bio

Byron Janis

Turning 89 last March, Maestro Byron Janis is a musical legend whose career has flourished in the face of adversity. Learning to play piano at age 4, he studied under some of the greatest instructors and was the first student of Vladimir Horowitz. At 19, Byron began touring internationally and was the youngest artist to be signed by RCA Victor Records. Despite developing severe psoriatic arthritis in both hands and wrists, he has continued playing concerts, proving his will to make music is greater than his pain. Byron has three new albums, including his own compositions and featuring paintings of him by his wife, Maria, daughter of famous actor Gary Cooper. A biopic of his life, produced by Martin Scorsese, is underway.


ross family - bio

The Ross Family

Joy Ross is resilience personified. At age 3, she was diagnosed with juvenile arthritis and the associated eye disease, uveitis. Joy became completely blind around the time her young daughters, Isabella and Georgiana, were also diagnosed with JA and uveitis. Along with her husband George (who Joy met on a “blind date,” which still makes her laugh) and faithful guide dog, Antonia, the whole Ross family is deeply committed to raising awareness about JA. They speak out about advancing arthritis research, breaking down barriers to care and curing this debilitating disease. As a trio, Joy and her girls harmonize in songs about turning their journey of darkness into a gift of light.