Highlights from the 2021 Davis Phinney Foundation Leadership Conference


A shift in planning for the 2021 Leadership Conference, born out of necessity but also creativity, inspired a month-long event that was more engaging, rewarding, and energizing than ever. Here, we’ll take a look at some of the highlights from the annual Davis Phinney Foundation event, which came to a close at the end of September.  

Another pandemic pivot

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic made clear the need to hold this year’s Leadership Conference in a virtual setting, the outreach team at the Davis Phinney Foundation took the opportunity to get creative.  

“This group of amazing leaders has had more than their fair share of virtual events, interactions, and online meetings over the past year and a half,” said Ambassador Leadership Program Manager Sara Linn. “We really wanted to be mindful in creating a meaningful and worthwhile Virtual Leadership Conference until we could meet in person again.” 

The idea for dividing the conference into four weekly sessions was born from a conversation with an event sponsor, who described the recent success shown through a conference planned this way. “As they described how they felt after the event, I knew that this was the inspiration we needed to create a special opportunity for our Ambassadors,” Sara said.  

Weekly Gatherings

During kick-off week, the Ambassador Leadership team focused on introducing the event, inspiring connection among the group, and exploring the power of the collective. Attendees connected through one-on-one breakout rooms to discuss challenges they face as advocates and leaders in the Parkinson’s community and shared ideas to solve these issues.  

The second week was a celebration of Parkinson’s resources, big and small, within the Ambassadors’ communities. Each Ambassador shared their opinion about the “best Parkinson’s resources no one knows about” in order to build the group’s collective toolkits.  

Centering around big questions, the third week encouraged deeper discussion on challenges that local Parkinson’s organizations often face. Alongside Foundation staff and sponsors, the Ambassadors broke into smaller groups to discuss provocative questions.  

Our final gathering wrapped up the month-long event on a celebratory and grateful notes. Alongside Davis and Connie Carpenter Phinney, the group reflected on the past year and explored tools and tactics for resilience. “Our final session with Davis and Connie really brought a sense of shared purpose and community to our group,” Sara said.  

Educational and Invigorating

“It was no surprise that the event led to amazing ideas around sharing resources, discussing challenges, and celebrating victories,” Sara said. “But what was unexpected was just how energized we would feel after each week.” 

One of the highlights from the conference, she added, was witnessing “the collective realization of the support and resilience we have within our group. Being so geographically separated from one another, we sometimes look up from our work and realize it’s been months since we shared our victories or reached out for feedback from one another. Seeing each Ambassador connect during the virtual gathering as well as outside of the scheduled meeting times was invaluable.” 

“It can be really easy to focus on how much the pandemic has taken away from our social interactions. It’s so valid to feel a loss for the way we used to connect, but there are solutions if you’re willing to be creative and take chances. Now more than ever, we need to be reminded of the humanity behind our screens.”
-Sara Linn, Ambassador Leadership Program Manager

Highlights and takeaways

Here’s what some of the Ambassadors had to say about the aspect of the conference that resonated with them most:

“Davis and Connie leading the final session and allowing for discussion really helped seal the impact of the conference.”

“Our discussion about resilience.”

“The conversation around expanding equity topics within Parkinson’s support, education, and advocacy.”

“The dancing at the end of session 3, led by Amy Carlson.”

“How each meeting was meaningful in its own way.”

“Hearing from folks all over the country.”

“I liked the honesty that was expressed.”

“How positive people living with a health challenge can be.”

“I was able to connect with a new Ambassador who was having some of the same challenges I was having. We subsequently had a very nice phone conversation.”

“How very gifted our Ambassadors are.”

“The value of the collective.” 

“There’s so much to say, but I will say this much: I love the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s and all those involved. It has saved my life.”

“How much we need each other.”

“We’ve got each other’s backs.”

Learn more about the Ambassador Program 

We recognize that often the work to live well happens on a more intimate level. It happens in phone calls and on walks and over coffee, when we most need to connect with someone who really understands what we’re going through. Visit our Ambassadors page to connect with someone in your area or anyone you think you would connect well with, regardless of location.

Thank You To Our Sponsors

leadership conference event sponsors

Ambassador program sponsors

healthy parkinson’s communities sponsor


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