For creating one of the world’s great foundations devoted to curing breast cancer and dramatically increasing public awareness about this devastating disease.
The 2005 Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service honors an advocate who has created one of the world’s great foundations devoted to curing breast cancer and dramatically increased public awareness about this devastating disease. In fulfilling a promise to her dying sister, Nancy Brinker has improved the plight of breast-cancer patients across the globe. Her work has stripped the cloak of shame and secrecy from an illness that strikes more than a million people annually. The organization she built, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, boasts more than 75,000 volunteers and has raised more than $740 million to support breast-cancer research, education, screening, and treatment. Presidents Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush have recognized Brinker’s acumen and achievements, appointing her to various cancer advisory boards and committees. In 2001, President Bush appointed her to serve as US Ambassador to the Republic of Hungary, where she continued her breast-cancer and women’s health advocacy abroad. By personal example, Brinker has demonstrated a successful encounter with breast cancer and by speaking out in various forums, she has nurtured the grassroots breast-cancer advocacy movement that she launched.
Brinker’s sister, Suzy, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1977, when public knowledge about the illness barely existed, fear ran rampant, and medical options were few. Despite surgery, radiation treatments, and chemotherapy, her disease spread, killing her in 1980 when she was 36 years old. Before she died, she asked her sister to do something so that others would not suffer as she had. After Suzy’s death, Brinker took up the crusade to eradicate breast cancer as a life-threatening disease.
Award presentation by Daniel Koshland, Jr.
It is a pleasure to announce the 2005 winner of the Lasker Public Service Award. The members of the selection committee usually complain to me that the enormous range covered by this award makes it very difficult to select the awardee. In the past few years alone we have given the award to former Congressman John Porter for his great public government role in supporting science and medical research, to Christopher Reeve for his heroic response to a terrible accident and his great advocacy of medical research to help victims like himself, to Robert Foege for his pioneering leadership in eradicating the natural origin of the disease smallpox, and to the New York Times for its journalistic highlights on science and medical research.
Acceptance remarks by Nancy G. Brinker
Acceptance remarks, 2005 Lasker Awards Ceremony
Thank you all for this tremendous honor, which is as gratifying as it is humbling.
Late in her life, Mary Lasker was asked by a reporter — if she had to start all over again, whether she would consider a career as a scientist. “Oh no!” she replied, “I couldn’t cut up a frog! And I certainly couldn’t perform surgery! Nobody would have me in their laboratory for five minutes!”
I am not a scientist. I am not a researcher. I am not a clinician. But for more than two decades, I have been privileged to walk in your company… as an advocate for your work and for the patients whose lives you save. And today, I thank the entire Lasker Foundation, the board, and all you, for the recognition and validation that comes with this honor.
Interview with Nancy Brinker