In the darkest days of the pandemic, when people wondered whether to wash the canned food they brought home from the supermarket or buy gas masks so they could exercise safely for an hour a day, an epidemiologist and infection control expert , Professor Mary Louise MacLaws has become the most trusted, compassionate and calming voice of reason in the lives of many Australians.
Signed by Professor McLaws, or Mary Lou, or herself, ML was a nationally beloved and undisputed hero of those dark times. In countless television interviews, sitting in front of funky-colored bookshelves, her hair in a sleek bob, her eyes sharply rimmed, she always spoke in a reassuringly soft tone, which many It became the only word that people wanted to hear. As public debate boils over confusion and dissent in the public health response to COVID-19, the public again asks on shows like mine, “But what about Mary-Louise McLaws?”
Renowned epidemiologist and professor at the University of New South Wales, Mary-Louise McLaws, died peacefully in her sleep Saturday night, 18 months after being diagnosed with a brain tumor and undergoing treatment. she was 70 years old. The public outpouring of grief was real and visceral when she announced her diagnosis. The painful injustice of this disease, which never discriminates against this beloved person, hits hard. She felt like a dear friend to many.
What many people didn’t know is that before Professor McLaws became a pandemic celebrity, she was already a respected international figure in the world of disease control and infection prevention, and the reason SARS became a global pandemic. It was said that it was cooperating with the Chinese government to prevent She became a key figure in the World Health Organization, responsible for identifying and solving hospital-led infectious disease problems. She has trained dozens of public health students and mentored countless PhD candidates. One student wrote a letter supporting the professor’s nomination for the Graduate Teaching Award, and Mary Louise said she was loved more than she thought.
Mary-Louise McLaws was born on March 17, 1953 in Tasmania to Louise and Barry Vinnie. Mary Louise’s younger brother, Barry, was born two years earlier.
She was raised Jewish by her mother, who left Tasmania and took her two children to Bondi, Sydney. Mary-Louise completed her schooling at Gosford High School on the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Young Mary Louise was both rebellious and scholarly by nature. She campaigned for schoolgirls to wear pants in the winter, first becoming a pilot like her stepfather Bruce McLaws, and eventually she dreamed of becoming an astronaut. After doing well in her school, she entered the University of Sydney to pursue her Bachelor of Science degree, after which she completed a postgraduate degree in Public Health.
Her interest in infectious disease control was extraordinary. In 1984, as a pilot for the New South Wales Department of Health, she developed the first surveillance system for healthcare-associated infections.
She met Dr. Richard Fluck in 1986 through the introduction of her brother Barry, who was negotiating with Richard’s firm to sell the family’s investment. When Mary Louise found out Richard was driving a Volvo, it was almost a deal breaker. Richard later said he was impressed that Mary-Louise had three jobs when they met. They married in 1988 and had two children, Zia and Zachary.
In 1992 Professor McLaws received his PhD in Epidemiology and eventually became Professor of Epidemiology, Hospital Infections and Infectious Disease Control.
Her early research and public health work now makes it seem as though her entire professional life is preparing for the arrival of COVID-19. As Honorary Advisor to the New South Wales Board of Clinical Excellence, she has been instrumental in promoting statewide patient safety interventions, improving hand hygiene among health care workers, reducing central line-related bloodstream infections, and reducing sepsis in emergency department patients. Assisted in early detection and treatment.
She has been appointed Chief of Public Health at the Sydney South West Community Health Department, where she will make a significant contribution to the eradication of HIV, Hepatitis B and C, and to halting the spread of swine flu.
She became a WHO Advisor in China in 2002, worked on the ground in Hong Kong on the SARS response, and then became a member of WHO’s Global Unit for Infection Prevention and Control in Malaysia.
Professor McLaws has authored over 180 research papers and supervised and supported many PhD students over the decades. This was her key passion and this earned her a staunch following among her many candidates. Her colleagues point out that when she walks past an open office, she can often be seen sitting with another PhD candidate pondering their research. there is
The arrival of the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was a glorious moment for Professor McCraw. All of her years of research and evidence-based public policy work seemed to meld into the role she had taken for society.
As a member of several WHO COVID-19 advisory groups, her colleagues noted that she looked “fresh and serious” as she attended a meeting online at 3 a.m. in Geneva. . UNSW colleague Professor Emeritus Robin Richmond describes her as “a central figure of reason and reason”. WHO information in our region of the world. “
Professor McLaws was rarely optimistic, so there was reason for her to be hot and critical. She criticized the federal government’s slow procurement of vaccines at the time and the New South Wales government’s failure to act quickly enough to curb the spread of the disease. She used her own denunciations wisely. Her perspective was more influential than many others.
She may have turned down an interview request or two, but there aren’t many of us in the media who can attest to that. It was amazing how she kindly and reasonably agreed to almost every request, no matter how ridiculously early or late.
I didn’t know her before this pandemic, but in the form of an unexpected encounter in this world, Professor McLaws and I formed a close bond that is almost inexplicable. She became a trusted adviser and counselor when the days of speaking for the city in lockdown became too much to bear.
When her university celebrated her student life in 2022 and named a new clinical education center in her honor, she asked me to emcee for the evening. She lost her trademark sleek bob due to the effects of her chemotherapy and instead emerged with her gray curly hair. I interviewed her on stage and she said that every day is all about one more day and that’s how she sees life.
She has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2022.
Professor George Rubin, Federal Deputy Chief Medical Officer, said he believed Professor McLaws was “Australia’s most trusted voice” in the years of the pandemic, while fellow UNSW Professor Richmond said she was “a It gave us a sense of security,” he said.
Her legacy is not only her major achievements in evidence-based research to control and limit the spread of disease and infectious diseases in this region and around the world, but also her friend, Richmond In the words of the professor, it will be her decades. She has translated the science from her research into education and devoted herself to leading safe public health practices in her community.
For most of us, her legacy will be her everlasting presence as a kind, gentle and wise person who remains steadfast even in the most terrifying storms.
Mary-Louise McLaws is survived by her husband Richard and children Zia and Zachary.