Mary Woodard Lasker

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Mary Woodard Lasker (1900-1994) "was one of the first citizen champions of medical science and because of her extremely persuasive advocacy for medical research funding, she is often referred to as the "First Lady of Medical Research" With her husband, Albert Davis Lasker (1880-1952), a pioneer advertising executive, Mrs. Lasker established a tradition of philanthropy, in the private and public sectors, for the support of medical science to improve health and to reduce suffering from disease and disability throughout the world.

"Mrs. Lasker was one of the country's most celebrated and successful advocates to increase public funding for medical research. She made the case for federal funding by warning, "If you think health is expensive, try disease!" Her early efforts focused on developing public support to advance basic research in cancer. She founded the Citizens Committee for the Conquest of Cancer and took her cause to the Congress and the American public as a leading proponent of the National Cancer Act, signed by President Nixon in 1971. Her ardent advocacy for greater government funding of all the medical sciences contributed to increased appropriations for the National Institutes of Health and the creation of several new NIH institutes, including the Heart, Lung, and the Blood Institute. The NIH budget increased from barely $3 million in 1945 to $28 billion in 2003. She was a visionary who also embraced the activities of advocacy groups aimed at supporting programs and research in health, including, among others, Planned Parenthood, the High Blood Pressure Campaign, Research to Prevent Blindness, and the National Committee for Mental Health." [1]

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  1. History, Lasker Foundation, accessed November 11, 2007.