Doctor Recognized for Lifetime Commitment to Women and Children

Nov. 30, 2009
Ruth A. Lawrence Awarded 2009 Martha May Eliot Award

Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), has been awarded the 2009 Martha May Eliot Award by the American Public Health Association (APHA). Lawrence accepted her award at the 137th APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition, which took place Nov. 7, through Nov. 11, in Philadelphia.
APHA, an international organization of public health professionals that has been in operation since 1872, recognized Lawrence for her tireless efforts to improve the health of women and their children. For nearly six decades, Lawrence has inspired her colleagues and young people in the field to be advocates for women and children from all walks of life. She has readily shared her research and clinical work about infant nutrition and clinical toxicology with the public and medical professionals.
Lawrence is a pediatrician and neonatologist at Golisano Children’s Hospital at URMC. She is also medical director of the Ruth A. Lawrence Poison and Drug Information Center.
“To say that Dr. Lawrence is a remarkable woman is a gross understatement,” said Ann Dozier, RN, PhD, associate professor for Community and Preventive Medicine at URMC, in a letter nominating Lawrence for the award. “Through her deeds, advocacy, teaching, research and writing she has had a profound and enduring impact on professionals, the lay public and ultimately the health of innumerable children nationally and internationally.”
Lawrence is admired as one of the presiding medical experts on breastfeeding. She is currently working on the seventh edition of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession, which serves as the gold-standard for the scientific understanding of human lactation and clinical breastfeeding practices. She organized and chaired the U.S. Surgeon General’s Workshop on Breastfeeding and Human Lactation in 1984 and was one of the eight doctors who helped draft the American Academy of Pediatrics’ official policy statement supporting breastfeeding in 1997. In 2005, Lawrence founded and became editor of a Breastfeeding Medicine, a scientific journal that published quarterly.
Lawrence has provided readily available information to the public about toxicology since the 1950s. In 1954, she founded the Finger Lakes Regional Poison Control Center, an index card reference system with information on toxicology. This grew into Lifeline in the 1970s, which provided a single number for community to call for information about poisons, medical service information and referrals before 911’s inception. Lifeline was integrated into the 911 emergency system when it emerged in the 1970s. The center continues to serve the Finger Lakes Region and now bears Lawrence’s name as the Ruth A. Lawrence Drug and Poison Information Center.
Lawrence has received a number of awards in addition to the Martha May Eliot Award, including recognition as one of America’s Top Pediatricians by the Consumers’ Research Council of America, a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Clinical Toxicology, the Albert David Kaiser Medal from the Rochester Academy of Medicine and the 2008 ATHENA Award from the Women’s Council of the Rochester Business Alliance, Inc. She has also been elected a fellow of the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine. For more information about Lawrence’s Martha May Eliot Award, visit