Mary Woodard Lasker Award
for Public Service
John Edward Porter, Jr.
Science Times of The New York Times
For using her leadership and prestige to bring about lasting progress in research, medicine and health aimed at alcohol and drug addiction.
In 1974, Betty Ford became First Lady when her husband Gerald was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States. During her years in the White House, Mrs. Ford used her prominence and enormous prestige to focus the country's awareness on health issues. Her personal experience with breast cancer in 1974 led to her advocacy for education about breast cancer and other women's health problems.
Mrs. Ford's years in the White House also were witness to a courageous struggle to recover from her dependence on drugs and alcohol. In 1978, with her recovery completed, Mrs. Ford actively campaigned and became a forceful spokesperson for improved awareness, education and treatment for alcohol and other drug dependencies. Recounting her journey toward personal health in her autobiography, Betty: A Glad Awakening, published in 1987, Mrs. Ford said, "I've had to educate myself in order to educate others. I've spoken to the insurance field, to doctors, to religious groups. I started a whole new career when I was 60 years old, a career of recovery."
Mrs. Ford's open, honest approach helped to raise the nation's conscience with regard to the kinds of terrible health problems that, in particular, can afflict women and children. Her poignant revelation about her own vulnerabilities in respect to substance dependency inspired millions of people to face and to battle their own health problems. She leveraged her powerful national position, and her important relationships with the country's leaders, to bring attention to the need for research and treatment for those diseases that devastate human life. By putting a human face on addiction, Mrs. Ford delivered the inspiring message that the ravages of disease and abuse spare none. By sharing her private demons with the American people, Mrs. Ford encouraged others to seek help and have hope in the face of health problems rather than feel defeated by them. For the American people as well as people around the world, Mrs. Ford has become a model of personal courage and integrity, and a living testament to the will to survive that can give life a new beginning. Her service to the nation for helping to mobilize resources, talent and political will to provide caring and effective treatment to the addicted stands among her greatest achievements.
Along with Leonard Firestone, Mrs. Ford co-founded and co-chaired the Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage, California, which opened in October 1982. The Center's treatment program assists women, men, and their families in starting the process of recovery from alcoholism and other drug dependency. It is regarded as the outstanding treatment facility in the nation. Today Mrs. Ford serves as an involved, hands-on chairperson of the Betty Ford Center Board of Directors. She remains active in the fundraising and planning for the Center. She continues to be involved with women's health issues, including early detection of breast cancer, arthritis and AIDS.
For enlightening scientists and the public about the relationship between race, poverty, and cancer.
When Harold Freeman began his medical career in the 1970s, bias and discrimination against minorities were especially common in health care where basic primary care was severely lacking for people of color and generally unavailable in the poorest communities. Medical research on the health problems of African-Americans, particularly African-American women, lagged significantly behind that of white Americans. African-Americans experienced higher morbidity and mortality rates than their white counterparts in nearly every category of disease.
Dr. Freeman's life work has been to address these injustices and to ensure that all people receive the best possible care, regardless of their color or income. Born and educated in Washington, D.C., he recognized early in his career that African-Americans are more frequently diagnosed with cancer and have higher mortality rates than whites. He accepted these realities as a personal challenge, waging a lifelong war on cancer among our poorest citizens.
Throughout an illustrious career filled with important leadership positions, many coveted awards and the recognition of the National Academy of Sciences and the Institute of Medicine, Dr. Freeman never deterred from his mission or his commitment to people in need in at-risk communities. As director of surgery at Harlem Hospital Center, he was one of the first medical professionals to talk to his patients about cancer prevention, stressing the importance of diet, regular exercise, and non-smoking. He introduced screening exams for breast and colon cancer into the Harlem community, and in 1979 opened a free breast cancer center in Harlem. As president of the American Cancer Society, he became the nation's leading educator and authority on the interrelationship between race, poverty and cancer. He was the principal architect of the Society's initiative on cancer among the poor. He traveled the country teaching cancer prevention in impoverished neighborhoods. He lectured the medical community on the consequences of limited access to health care and the lack of health insurance as barriers to screening and treatment. Dr. Freeman carried his vision and message to the highest levels, advising and enlightening the members of the President's Cancer Panel in his role as chairman since 1991.
In his current position as president and chief executive officer of North General Hospital, Dr. Freeman continues to challenge leaders in health care and medical research to broaden their understanding and their approach to human disease by considering factors other than biology. His research has repeatedly identified socioeconomic factors, cultural practices, environmental exposures and the manner in which blacks are treated in predominantly white institutions as contributing factors to incidence of disease and premature death. In an explosive report in 1990, Dr. Freeman starkly portrayed the disparity in life expectancy between African-American and white men.
Dr. Freeman has shifted the paradigm for understanding disease in poor communities and among minority populations. Caring for the voiceless in our society, Dr. Freeman's humanitarian efforts have increased survival rates for thousands of people. Uncommon zeal in the pursuit of his goal, devotion to patients, and a diplomatic, sensitive approach to change characterize his advocacy. Dr. Freeman exemplifies the highest qualities of a public servant on behalf of the underserved.
For visionary leadership in educating the public and the donor community about the importance of brain research, and for directing funds for the support of neuroscience.
"Mahoney is the Mary Lasker of this generation," said Nobel Laureate James Watson, referring to the activist leadership Mrs. Lasker provided in the field of medical research. David Mahoney, as chairman and chief executive officer of the Charles A. Dana Foundation and the Eleanor and Naylor Dana Charitable Trust, is an incredible philanthropic activist. He is a unique foundation leader combining a lay knowledge of neuroscience with genius for marketing (gained from more than four decades as one of America's premier business leaders). With passionate commitment and indefatigable energy, Mr. Mahoney has inspired others to follow his foundation's lead in funding brain research through generous giving.
Mr. Mahoney had developed a growing interest in the study of the brain during his involvement as a founding trustee of the American Health Foundation and as chairman of the Phoenix House Foundation, a private, non-profit drug abuse agency. In 1983, he became a benefactor of neuroscience, contributing $1.7 million to fund the David Mahoney Institute of Neurological Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1990, he established the Harvard Mahoney Neuroscience Institute at Harvard Medical School. In 1999, Columbia University honored his many contributions to medical research with the creation of the David Mahoney Center for Brain and Behavior Research.
Since 1977, as chairman of the Board of the Dana Foundation, Mr. Mahoney has had substantial influence on the progress of brain research. Under his leadership, the Foundation has committed more than $34 million in grants for brain research. In 1992, after President Bush declared the 1990s to be the Decade of the Brain, Mr. Mahoney challenged the neuroscience community to publicly declare the scientific accomplishments that could be reached by the end of the decade. He then provided the resources to help the neuroscience community educate the public about the promise of brain research. He was directly responsible for founding, in 1992, the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives, a non-profit organization of more than 185 neuroscientists committed to advancing public understanding of the progress and promise of brain research. In 1995, he created the concept of Brain Awareness Week, bringing neuroscientists, government agencies, and patient advocacy groups together to illustrate the advances of brain research to the public. In 1997, the European Dana Alliance for the Brain was launched with a similar commitment and a membership of 67 European neuroscientists. Currently, Brain Awareness Week is observed by 850 partner organizations in 27 countries. In 1998, with the establishment of the Dana Brain-Body Institute, Mr. Mahoney turned the Foundation's attention to the relationship between the brain and the three leading killers in the United States: cancer, stroke and heart disease, supporting research on the interrelationship between the brain and these terrible diseases.
Mr. Mahoney has had a lifelong commitment to health and medical research. As a benefactor and leader of a major philanthropy, he has not only continually challenged the science community to conquer brain-related disabilities and diseases, but he has dedicated philanthropy to support research. Mr. Mahoney's determination and generosity have made if possible to learn more about the brain in the last ten years than in all previous history.
John Edward Porter, Jr.
For wise and perceptive leadership on behalf of medical research funding and a deep commitment to strengthening the science enterprise.
When the political history of medical research is written, it will highlight John Porter's role as the leading champion of American medicine and biomedical research during outstanding years of service, since 1980, in the United States House of Representatives. Congressman Porter's commitment, hard work, and passion on behalf of medical research have successfully garnered and sustained the largest funding increases in the history of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
As chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, John Porter has been one of the most articulate and untiring spokespersons for increasing federal support of biomedical research. In 1995, when many lawmakers were voting to reduce the budget of most government agencies, Congressman Porter fought for increased funding for medical research. Instead of cutting the NIH budget by 5 percent, Congress increased the agency's budget by 5 percent. In September, 1997, Congressman Porter was the first lawmaker to endorse the concept of doubling the NIH budget by 2003. In 1999, despite intense partisanship, budgetary constraints, and a year-long debate over different priorities, Congress increased the NIH budget by $2.3 billion for fiscal year 2000it's second consecutive $2 billion-plus boostbringing the agency's current total budget to nearly $18 billion.
Congressman Porter's success lies in impassioned, informed advocacy. He possesses a masterful ability to translate medical research, science, and technological advances into a language that leaders can understand, apply to their own lives and relate to the economic future of our country. He has worked skillfully behind the scenes to educate his colleagues about obstacles to science progress and to the promises of research in terms of prevention, treatment and cure for mankind's most dreaded diseases. He initiated day trips to NIH for members of Congress to see firsthand the research underway and to better understand the potential of this research to improve human life. His inclusive, intelligent appeal has earned him the deepest respect of congressional colleagues and the medical research community.
John Porter's enlightened approach to the need for American's long-term investment in fundamental biomedical research has set a superb standard for all elected officials. With his announced intention to retire from Congress at the end of this yearafter 20 years of service representing Chicago's north and northwest suburbsCongressman Porter's legacy will be increased hope for millions who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases, that they will be spared by advances in medical science.
This Lasker Award honors John Porter for his dedicated support of policy initiatives that have strengthened the biomedical research enterprise and have secured its immediate future.
Science Times of The New York Times
For sustained, comprehensive and high-quality coverage about science, disease and human health.
The New York Times, the nation's acknowledged "newspaper of record," has been a leader in reporting on science since the 1920s. In the mid-1970s, The Times began the process of expanding the daily edition of the newspaper into four sections that each weekday would be focused on a different theme. In 1978, A.M. Rosenthal, as managing editor, saw an opportunity for a "hard news" section devoted to science. He conceived of the Science Times and led the effort to implement his vision. As importantly, Arthur Sulzberger, the newspaper's owner, agreed to the science section without the necessary advertising revenues in place to finance it. Assigning reporters with outstanding writing skills, intelligence, and belief in the value and importance of the section, the leadership launched the Science Times with the support of the assistant managing editor Arthur Gelb and its first editor, John Noble Wilford.
Over the past twenty years, the section has succeeded beyond expectation. In fact, Science Times has become one of the newspaper's most popular weekly sections. Journalists and scientists respect it for reporting that is accurate, balanced, and informative. It has gained a loyal readership among the general public by providing science news articles that are educational, inspiring, and entertaining. In effect, it has made medical research accessible to the person without a working knowledge of science, allowing one to grasp the complexity of science and the extraordinary accomplishments of those leading efforts to understand human biology and conquer disease.
The enduring success of the Science Times can be attributed to a combination of vision, talent, hard work, and commitment. Deservedly, its writers and editors have won several Pulitzer Prizes. The section continues to serve as a benchmark of excellence for science coverage in other major newspapers and magazines. It has effectively challenged the mainstream media to enlarge their coverage of science, to be more serious in their reporting and to significantly improve the quality of their writing.
While the Science Times is dedicated broadly to science, articles related to medical research and the health sciences are a constant. They range across all the medical sciences from the most fundamental research to breakthroughs in clinical applications and across all medically related disciplines. As a consequence, the public and its leaders are better educated about the process of medical research, areas of science progress, the role of public and private finding, and the meaning of biomedical research to human health.
This Lasker Award honors The New York Times, its editorial leadership, and its many reporters for its sustained, comprehensive and high-quality coverage of science, disease and human health that has led to greater public awareness and a deeper understanding of the medical sciences.
by Evelyn Strauss, Ph.D.