Mary Lasker, president of the Lasker Foundation, fostered medical advancements in several major fields by providing research grants to innovative physicians and persuading the government to follow suit.
Through the Lasker Foundation and citizens’ groups such as the Citizens Committee for the Conquest of Cancer, Lasker lobbied legislators to provide funds for medical research on life-threatening diseases. She also worked to persuade U.S. Congress to increase appropriations for the National Institutes of Health and to set up additional research centers concentrating on specific diseases, including the heart, lung and blood institutes.
In addition to her duties at the Foundation, Lasker served as chair of the American Cancer Society; president of the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Educational Foundation; chair of the National Health Education Committee; and director of the National Committee for Mental Hygiene.
A dedicated humanitarian, Lasker also lent her support to beautification projects in both New York and Washington, donating thousands of flowers, shrubs and trees. Among her distinguished awards and decorations were the Alfred Sloan Award of the American Cancer Society; the John H. Finley Medal from City College of New York, the U.S. Medal of Freedom; and the Gold Heart from the American Heart Association.
Lasker died in 1994.