Sylvia Lawry Makes a Difference for Multiple Sclerosis

Vicki Health Guide
  • Today I am going to talk about Sylvia Lawry.

    Sylvia Lawry (1915 - 2001) is my favorite hero, at least so far. I started this series with Dr. Martin Charcot he named this disease, unidentified until then.  His beginnings led to his designation as the father of MS research. He facilitated the future of research, advancements, and hope. Today I choose to talk about another pioneer.

    My hero's story was told Thursday this week on MS Central. Lisa Emrich chose to begin a series of articles about MS organizations worldwide by starting with Sylvia Lawry who created the first MS organization. I wrote an essay in May last year about ways the Internet is important to me, and that
    included Ms. Lawry and Lisa's Brass and Ivory.

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    Sylvia Lawry was studying law (a woman in law school in 1945!) when her brother Bernard experienced vision and balance problems and was diagnosed with MS. After years of his ineffective treatments and cure attempts, Ms. Lawry placed a classified ad in the New York Times asking anyone who had been cured to share the treatment method with her brother. She received many replies and searched letter after letter, then continued paging through letter after letter, hoping for positive news that would help her brother.

    There was no good news - no cure. Instead, there were questions and pleas that any good news she received be shared. Sylvia Lawry saw a need for desperate people to receive positive news because they and their families were feeling as helpless as she was concerning her brother. There was no place to go for answers, no source, no organization to help. People could only ask each other, but there was no central list of people searching. Each frustrated person could find the next frustrated person only by chance. In 1946, Ms. Lawry found research scientists and established an organization that could spearhead research and provide a central place for people struggling with the same monstrous disease that attacked her brother. She started the ball rolling.

    Ms. Lawry's new organization later became the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and local chapters began to be chartered across the country. She had started something, but did not stop there. Sylvia Lowery lobbied Congress and established the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). When she saw research funds were being requested and awarded, not only in the Us, but around the world, she founded the Multiple Sclerosis International Federation (MSIF).

    Sylvia Lawry is my hero because when she cared about her brother she did the only thing she could think of that might help. She placed one small classified ad. The result of that small ad inspired her to take steps that made a difference and continues to make a difference touched by MS throughout years and the world.

    When you wonder what you can do because you are only one person, think about Sylvia Lawry. She was one person whose small act led to a significant difference that is still stimulating more research and more communication and even more hope.


  • Bernard Lawry died in 1973 of complications, but she continued actively working against MS as Executive officers in MSIF, then the home office, then she worked from her home until hospitalized with
    respiratory illness in 2000.  She died in 2001, but her work continues.  My MS Hero is Sylvia Lawry, one woman who made a difference.

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    I'll retire when MS retires. ~ Sylvia Lawry




    Notes and Links:
    I was in awe of Sylvia Lawry when I first read her story and the significant impact she has had on so many lives touched by MS.
    One person, touched by her brother's plight, influenced research, disease management, and public policy in her country and the world. Here are some articles I wrote about Sylvia Lawry followed by some organizations she founded or was responsible for founding:

    What Can One Person Do? 2006
    What can One Person Do?
    2008 

    5 Ways the Internet Is Important to Me
    Lisa's article
    National MS Center
    National Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeMS International Federation
    Multiple Sclerosis International Federation
    Sylvia Lawry MS Centre for Research

Published On: December 14, 2009