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Osteoporosis Group Honors Couple for Strengthening Bone Health Awareness

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Berdon and Rolanette Lawrence have given $6 million toward bone disease research. Photo by Anne Lord.

Berdon Lawrence’s drive and determination have fueled numerous career successes, from his start operating a single towboat and barge to recently retiring as chairman of the largest inland tank barge operation in the nation. After a diagnosis of osteoporosis, he applied that same drive and determination to helping create The Bone Disease Program of Texas. The program is a collaboration of MD Anderson and Baylor College of Medicine and was established to generate the critical treatments necessary to prevent spine and hip fractures in those affected by bone disease.

Lawrence and his wife, Rolanette, provided the first of two endowments, and in 2002 the program became a reality. It’s now named in honor of the Lawrences, whose total donations have reached $6 million.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) recently recognized the Lawrences as champions for bone disease research. The couple received an NOF Innovation Award in May at a dinner at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. The annual Innovation Awards honor forward-thinking contributions in the field of osteoporosis.

“I’m extremely grateful for the passionate care I received at MD Anderson,” says Lawrence, who is a patient of Robert F. Gagel, M.D., head of MD Anderson’s Division of Internal Medicine. Over time, Gagel has been able to increase Lawrence’s bone density and lower his risk of spinal fractures.

“I want more people to know that there’s hope when it comes to reversing the crippling effects of osteoporosis,” says Lawrence.

Bone disease, specifically osteoporosis causing spine and hip fractures, is “a large and unrecognized medical problem,” says Gagel, co-director of the program.

“The Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas has been established to develop new therapies to prevent fractures,” he says. “The
MD Anderson component focuses on optimizing bone health for patients with cancer. We’re indebted to the Lawrences for their pivotal role in the development of this unique program.”

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center