Dear Laskerites,

Dear Laskerites,

I am interested in joining your club. Is there a form? A handshake? Do I need to “rush?”

I am very good at all of those things. I will complete all of the above and more. Just tell me, I’ll do it. I want in.

I have to admit I never knew you existed. I can name every Kardashian right off the top of my head, but yet I cannot name one recipient of the Lasker Award, nor did I know it existed.  I now know is the most prestigious American award in medical research. Most of your recipients go on to win a Nobel prize. Snap.

Oh shit! Did I just disqualify myself for your club? 

I only mentioned my ignorance because I hope to help you change that. I can’t imagine I’m the only one. I can help make scientists celebrities, but poor example. I hear ya. You all are not the Kardashians type. And I agree. Not worth your time. You have bigger things to do like saving the world. I want to help. 

Do you have a button at least I can wear?

I am obsessed, like stalker obsessed, with your founder.

Ugh. Doing it again. Not helping my cause, but since she has passed I feel like stalker can’t be a scary word right?

Let’s start again.

Dear Laskerites,

I would like to become a Laskerite.

Mary Lasker is my hero. 

I’ve had never heard of her “before” (I have a before self) and this upsets me. She should be a household name. If I join your club, I promise to help with that. Maybe we can write a children’s book about her?! I could do that!

While I will one day list her accomplishments, as I want all people to know of her work, I will start by my favorite thing about her. 

She could have done SQUAT with her life, but choose a different path. A harder path. This path didn’t make her richer, it was a path of service.

She was a socialite in the golden age of socialites! She could have spent her time at tea and tugging on her pearls around her neck, but NO, she used her time to push for a better world. 

And speaking of Pearls! I don’t know if this helps me get into this club, but I’ve been to Greenwich. I understand from Wikipedia this is where she passed. That makes sense from her picture. She wears their armor. 

I admire her life story. A divorcee that started her own business. I can imagine being a divorcee during that time was not the easiest, but instead of crawling into a hole or trying to remarry as fast as possible, she started a business. A successful one. By the 1940’s she a rising social star. She did remarry and this time for life.

She found her Steve Brody (that’s my husband). They not only loved each other but together were unstoppable. He was an advertising executive. His skills would play a role in saving the world. You got to know how to sell humanity! Saving the world needs people and I say that seriously. Mary understood that. She knew that you needed an army to fight and an army needs a rallying cry.

And with her prestige, a woman who didn’t have to work, she started an army of people, you, the Laskerites. She choose to make an impact in health care. She was drawn to health care from personal experience. She had a bad illness as a child where people assumed she would die. She overheard people talking about her eventual death. She remembers how scary and isolating it was. And she remembered visiting a family friend who had just had radical mastectomies (which was the norm then). 

And know what she did next?

She planted a flag. 

She declared: “I am opposed to heart attacks and cancer the way one is opposed to sin.”

And she had a plan. “If toothpaste deserves advertising at the rate of two or three or four million a year, then research against diseases maiming and crippling people in the United States and in the rest of the world deserved hundreds of millions of dollars.”

She is as Business Week spoke of her, “the fairy godmother of medical research.”

And the rest of the story I will spare as I know it and you know it, but for those who want to learn more read the Emperor of Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee. It is my favorite text I’ve read thus far. 

And not to name drop, but I know Benno Schmidt junior. I know that Mary sat next to senior when Nixon signed the Cancer Act. So I’m not a complete nobody. I know “people.” Actually…while I have you, do you all know where that pen is? You know the one Nixon gave to Schmidt. He doesn’t seem to know. Maybe you do.

It saddens me that she died most likely feeling beaten by cancer like she lost the war. Her husband died, of course, to cancer and she lived through all of the disappointments in the medical field. All the times when the Laskerites thought they had solved cancer, but were really no closer than before. I know she sought a “universal cure” for cancer. That may not be possible, but her work is an inspiration. She sought to save them all. And as I’ve learned…the march towards progress is slow and full of casualties, but it is advancing. 

Thanks to people like Mary.

So please let me know where I can get a pin?

Abby Brody

OH!!! And I was wondering if Mary’s art collection is still around? I know her first husband owned a gallery where she worked and her education was in art history. I too am a fan of art. I bet her collection will give me an even better idea of what she stood for. 

So basically three questions:

  1. Is there a club? Can I join? Do you have pins?
  2. Do you know where the Pen is?
  3. Is there a place where I can see the Lasker art collection?

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