Lawrences' support key to program's success
By Victor Scott
As the visionary who built the nation’s largest inland tank barge operation from the ground up, Berdon Lawrence knows how to face a challenge head-on.
So after being diagnosed with osteoporosis, he turned to one of the nation’s top bone health specialists, Robert Gagel, M.D., professor and head of the Division of Internal Medicine at MD Anderson, for help. Together they formed a partnership that would lead to the creation of a nationally recognized bone disease research and treatment program.
It happened during an appointment. Gagel shared with Lawrence the serious health threats of metabolic and oncologic bone disease and how 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 — with collaboration between two of its internationally recognized research centers,
MD Anderson and Baylor College of Medicine — that would generate the critical treatments necessary to improve the health of 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. Additional gifts from other donors and equipment grants from the Department of Health and Human Services allowed the program to meet its $10 million fundraising goal this year.
“Bone loss is a special concern for cancer patients,” Gagel says. “The outstanding generosity of the Lawrences and their support for the program offers these patients hope for a healthier future. Through their efforts, researchers are actively involved in studies that may one day be translated to therapies that can treat the devastating effects of osteoporosis and even keep it from occurring.”