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Research Activist

On November 30, 1900, medical philanthropist Mary Woodward Lasker was born in Wisconsin. Several formative influences helped shape her future direction. Her father was a banker; her mother, a community activist. Lasker suffered childhood ear infections that prompted her growing interests in medical research. She studied at Radcliffe College and Oxford and built an art collection.

She founded the Lasker Foundation with her husband, one of the world’s most successful advertising executives, to support medical research and major health programs. Combining experience and commitment, the Laskers guided their Foundation to search out and award recognition to scientists, physicians, and public servants who make major advances in the diagnoses, prevention, and treatments of human disease. Their foundation continues today. The Lasker Award winners often receive future recognition from other international bodies.

Following her husband’s death, Lasker continued as a citizen lobbyist who worked with government officials at every level to help fund medical research on major diseases. She worked with others to push for the National Institute of Health to become a system of institutes focused on major diseases and then helped lobby government bodies to fund the institutes, particularly their research. She lobbied for regional medical centres, for education and preventative campaigns in the treatment of high blood pressure, as well as for coordinating glaucoma screening and education programs. In her late 80s and early 90s, Lasker helped raise money for research on AIDS, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, and growth disorders.

USPO commemorative of Mary Lasker
USPO commemorative of Mary Lasker

She served as a member, trustee, and executive of many research, health, and arts organizations. Among many honours, Lasker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honour, recognizing exceptional meritorious service; Ordre national de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest decoration bestowed by the nation; and the Congressional Gold Medal, authorized by an Act of Congress to award highest national appreciation for distinguished achievement.

B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage