In a beautiful reception at Emanuel Synagogue on June 22, renowned epidemiologist Emeritus Professor Mary-Louise McLaws was personally thanked for her lifetime of achievement and service, and particularly her impactful work during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The reception, hosted by the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies (JBD), occurred a day after Vaucluse MP Kellie Sloane acknowledged McLaws – who was diagnosed with brain cancer in February 2022 – in a speech in NSW Parliament, describing her as “a true hero of our community”.
Sloane said, “I thank Professor McLaws for her incredible work keeping us all safe … at the height of the pandemic, she provided comforting, important and lifesaving health advice in Australia and across the globe.”
Made an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) last year, McLaws joined the University of NSW in 1992, wrote more than 180 research papers and supervised and supported many PhD students for decades.
Recently, UNSW’s new clinical education centre was named in her honour.
During the pandemic, McLaws was a member of two World Health Organisation infection prevention and control committees on COVID-19 and expertly advised government agencies, health departments, the NSW Clinical Excellence Commission and the public, regularly appearing on news programs.
At Emanuel Shule, JBD vice-president and Wolper Jewish Hospital president Richard Glass said that when he was chairing the medical committee convened to provide pandemic guidance to the NSW Jewish community, McLaws’ “accessibility, clarity of thought and insightful, calm and wise counsel was of significant assistance to the community”.
“You were a beacon of light during those dark days,” Glass said.
Thanking McLaws, Professor George Rubin said, “During the recent pandemic, I believe that Mary-Louise was the most trusted voice in Australia,” while Professor Robyn Richmond said McLaws’ evidence-based advice proved vital, and “made us feel safe”.
When presenting McLaws with a certificate of appreciation, JBD president David Ossip said, “We, as a Jewish community, are so proud that a member of our community played such a key role on the world stage, at such a critical moment.”
Emanuel Synagogue’s Rabbi Jacqueline Ninio said to McLaws, “[Your] indomitable spirit shines through everything you do.”
McLaws’ daughter, Zia Flook, said, “It is very fitting we’re here at Emanuel Shule, because Mum has always been very passionate about her religion, and a proud Jew.
“My mother would like to thank you – those who organised this, who have joined us here, and who have shared her journey.”