September 21, 2009

Alumni Bloomberg and Sawyers receive Lasker Awards

Two Johns Hopkins alumni last week received prestigious awards from the Lasker Foundation.

Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York and former chair of the Johns Hopkins University board of trustees, received the Mary Woodard Lasker Award for public service. The honor recognized Bloomberg “for employing sound science in political decision making, setting a world standard for the public’s health as an impetus for government action, leading the way to reduce the scourge of tobacco use and advancing public health through enlightened philanthropy.”

Charles L. Sawyers, a graduate of the School of Medicine, was one of three recipients of the Lasker-DeBakey Clinical Medical Research Award. The scientists were recognized for “the development of molecularly targeted treatments for chronic myeloid leukemia, converting a fatal cancer into a manageable chronic condition.”

First given in 1945, the Lasker Awards, often dubbed the “American Nobels,” are considered by many the nation’s most prestigious honor for basic and clinical medical research, and for public service.

In an e-mail announcing the selection of Bloomberg, a 1964 graduate of the School of Engineering, President Ronald J. Daniels said, “The Mary Lasker Award … recognizes those who either support research or who lead public health and advocacy programs ‘of major importance.’ Mayor Bloomberg, as those of us at Johns Hopkins fully appreciate, richly deserves this honor on both accounts,” he said, pointing out that Bloomberg’s advocacy for smoking bans has become a model for governments around the world, and that he has “elevated the removal of illegal guns from the street to the status of a public health as well as a law enforcement priority.”

As a private citizen, Daniels noted, he created the Bloomberg Initiative to Reduce Tobacco Use, funding effective anti-smoking programs in developing nations.

At Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg has supported critical research, including the work of the Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, and “has been deeply committed to the education and training of public health professionals for service around the world,” Daniels said. “His passion for and dedication to the cause of a healthier future for all the world’s citizens led to the renaming of what is now the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Few of us can say we have been responsible for saving thousands, even hundreds of thousands or millions of lives. Mike Bloomberg is one of those few.”

Sawyers, a 1985 graduate of the School of Medicine, is chair of Human Oncology and Pathogenesis at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. He is past president of the American Society of Clinical Investigation and serves on the board of the American Association of Cancer Research and on the National Cancer Institute’s Board of Scientific Councilors. He is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator and was elected to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

In an e-mail announcing the award to the Johns Hopkins Medicine community, Edward Miller, dean of the medical faculty and chief executive officer of JHM, wrote of Sawyers, “He is an exemplar of the school, the physician-teacher-scholar whose work not only contributes to human health but also advances the science that will bring new treatments in the future.”

These recent Lasker Awards bring to 42 the number of men and women associated with Johns Hopkins who have been so honored, among them, faculty members Carol Greider, Al Sommer, Victor McKusick, Sol Snyder and Arnall Patz.