Bone Disease Program of Texas Receives National Recognition

National Osteoporosis Foundation Honors Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence for Innovation in Bone Health Awareness and Osteoporosis Prevention

MD Anderson Cancer Center 06/04/10

Berdon Lawrence's trademark unrelenting drive and determination fueled his lifetime 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 and his wife, Rolanette, have been recognized for this characteristic grit by the National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) as champions for bone disease research.

Osteoporosis is less common in men than women, but it can be equally debilitating. On the advice of a friend, Lawrence contacted Robert F. Gagel, M.D., head of the Division of Internal Medicine at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, to determine his options. Over time, Gagel was able to increase Lawrence's bone density and lower his risk of spinal fractures.

"I am extremely grateful for the passionate care I received at MD Anderson," said Lawrence. "And I want more men to know they too are at risk, but that there is hope when it comes to reversing the crippling effects of osteoporosis."

Bone Disease Program of Texas
During one appointment, Gagel shared with Lawrence the serious health threats of bone disease and that little had been done to develop effective therapies to prevent and treat this disorder. He envisioned a bone disease program located in the Texas Medical Center and that collaboration between two of its internationally recognized research centers, MD Anderson and Baylor College of Medicine, would generate the critical treatments necessary to prevent spine and hip fractures in those affected by bone disease.

As a patient living with osteoporosis, Lawrence along with his wife, Rolanette, decided to make Gagel's vision a reality. They generously provided the first of two endowments, and in 2002, The Bone Disease Program of Texas was established. The program is now named in honor of the Lawrences and their total donations have reached $6 million.

"Bone disease, specifically osteoporosis causing spine and hip fractures, is a large and unrecognized medical problem," said Gagel, who serves as co-director of the Bone Disease Program of Texas. "The Rolanette and Berdon Lawrence Bone Disease Program of Texas has been established to develop new therapies to prevent fractures. The MD Anderson component is focused on the optimization of bone health for patients with cancer. We are indebted to the Lawrences for their pivotal role in the development of this unique program."

Now entering its eighth year, the Lawrence Bone Disease Program has brought together veteran and new basic and clinical researchers and provided them with state-of-the-art tools to study bone diseases. In addition, the program has provided a forum for scientists and physicians from all institutions to meet and share scientific ideas and results.

The Silhouette Awards
The Silhouette Awards Dinner, held each May during National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, is sponsored by the National Osteoporosis Foundation. This year's dinner was held on May 19 at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

The event increases awareness of osteoporosis and bone health among women and men of all ages and backgrounds. It promotes NOF's hope that, one day, every silhouette will stand tall and osteoporosis will no longer impact the health and well-being of the 10 million Americans with the disease and the 34 million more at risk.

"Osteoporosis and broken bones affect one in two women and up to one in four men in the U.S. today," said Robert Recker, M.D., president of NOF. "Our initiatives are dedicated to diminishing the scope and burden of the disease and helping people maintain active, healthy and independent lives."

Each year, NOF is proud to honor the accomplishments of leaders around the country dedicated to osteoporosis prevention and the promotion of strong bones for life. NOF's Innovation Award, which was presented to the Lawrences this year, honors the forward-thinking contributions of an individual or group in the field of osteoporosis. The Lawrence's encouragement of young investigators and philanthropic leadership has supported innovative approaches to bone disease research and prevention.

"Not only have the Lawrences been great benefactors of the Bone Disease Program, they have also been true partners in the vision and strategic planning that led to our achievements and successes recognized by the NOF," said Brendan H. Lee, M.D., Ph.D., professor at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Baylor College of Medicine and director of the Bone Disease Program of Texas.

Other award honorees this year were Academy Award-winning actress and former Dancing With The Stars contestant, Cloris Leachman; congressional champion for NOF, Senator Blanche L. Lincoln; and Lawrence G. Raisz, M.D., bone researcher at the University of Connecticut Center for Osteoporosis. Past honorees include former astronaut, Buzz Aldrin; actress and bone health advocate, Sally Field; and CBS News anchor, Katie Couric. 06/04/10