As I read the book, The Radium Girls, I was struck by the significant role that Dr. Alice Hamilton played in the effort to identify the cause of the illnesses that the women experienced and ways to make workplaces safer for workers. Dr. Hamilton was the first woman to win a Lasker Award. These awards, presented by the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation, recognize the contributions of scientists, physicians, and public servants who have made major advances in the understanding, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of human disease. Each of the women profiled below has won a Lasker Award and has been inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame. Match the woman with her accomplishment:
_____ 1. A woman of many firsts, after retirement, she returned to her native state of Colorado and helped enact reforms in health services.
_____ 2. She founded the Special Olympics to provide athletic programs for individuals with intellectual disabilities.
_____ 3. She discovered “jumping genes” – that genes can move within a genome and turn genetic conditions on and off.
_____ 4. She used her platform as First Lady to bring public awareness to breast cancer and substance abuse.
_____ 5. She developed the field of occupational medicine – examining the effects that industrial metals and chemicals have on the human body.
_____ 6. She developed radioimmunoassay, a tracing technique for substances within the human body for which she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
_____ 7. She established Susan G. Komen, in memory of her sister, and has spent her life working to eradicate breast cancer.
_____ 8. She developed the surgical procedure that fixed “blue baby” syndrome.
A. Alice Hamilton
B. Florence Sabin
C. Helen Brooke Taussig
D. Eunice Kennedy Shriver
E. Rosalyn Yalow
F. Barbara McClintock
G. Betty Ford
H. Nancy Brinker
Recognized as the person who developed the field of occupational medicine, Alice Hamilton received the 1947 Albert Lasker Public Service Award for “leadership in industrial toxicology.” The first woman appointed to the faculty at Harvard Medical School, Hamilton studied medicine and then settled at Hull House in Chicago where she became interested in the illnesses workers experienced due to workplace conditions. She was a pioneer in studying the effects of industrial metals and chemicals on the human body. Her years of experience and exceptional contributions were further recognized in 1995, when she was featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
For her “leadership in public health administration,” Florence Sabin received the 1951 Albert Lasker Public Service Award. Like Hamilton, Sabin was also a medical doctor. A woman of many firsts, she was the first woman elected to the National Academy of Sciences, the first woman appointed to the faculty at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, and the first woman elected president of the American Association of Anatomists. After her retirement, she returned to her native state of Colorado where she was active in state health services. She campaigned for reforms and helped design the Sabin Program – new health laws.
A recipient of the Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award, Helen Brooke Taussig was recognized for the “first successful ‘blue baby’ operation.” Considered the founder of the field of pediatric cardiology, Taussig studied at Harvard and Johns Hopkins, pursuing her interest in heart issues. She discovered that a leaking septum was the cause of “blue baby” syndrome and suggested the surgical procedure that would fix the problem. Today, that procedure is called the Blalock-Taussig operation. Taussig received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Recognized for her “legislative leadership for intellectual disability”, Eunice Kennedy Shriver was presented with the 1966 Albert Lasker Public Service Award. Growing up with a sister who had intellectual disabilities, Shriver knew that options and programs needed to be significantly expanded for people with intellectual disabilities. She believed sports could be an effective program for such people and founded the Special Olympics. She received many other accolades for her work of more than five decades including the Presidential of Freedom.
Rosalyn Yalow was the first woman to receive the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award. In 1976, this award was presented to her for “radioimmunoassay for detecting hormones in blood.” A nuclear physicist, she worked with Solomon Berson to develop radioimmunoassay which is a technique that involves injecting radioisotopies into the human body and tracing various substances including insulin and other fluids. In 1977, she received the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, only the second American woman to do so.
The 1981 Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award was presented to biochemist Barbara McClintock for her work on “mobile genetic elements.” Like Yalow, a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1983), McClintock discovered transposition – that DNA sequences can change within genomes and turn genetic conditions off and on – so-called “jumping genes.” The first woman to receive the National Medal of Science, McClintock has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp.
Former First Lady Betty Ford received the Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award in 2002 for “awareness, education and treatment for substance abuse.” At a time when no one discussed breast cancer in public, Ford turned her diagnosis into a public event that saved the lives of myriads of women. When she went public with her issues with alcohol and drugs, she brought awareness to this issue as well. A brave and courageous woman, Ford received many other awards including the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
In 2005, Nancy Brinker received the Mary Woodard Lasker Public Service Award for “public awareness of cancer.” The founder of what today is called Susan G. Komen, Nancy Brinker made a promise to her sister, dying of breast cancer, that her death would not be in vain. Brinker pioneered new methods of fundraising (races for the cure), brought breast cancer discussions into the public, and raised billions of dollars for breast cancer research. Among her many honors, Brinker has received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These women who each received a Lasker award are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.
(Answers: 1-B, 2-D, 3-F, 4-G, 5-A, 6-E, 7-H, 8-C)