Vale Professor Mary-Louise McLaws

It is with great sadness I commemorate the passing of a friend, not only to PTA but to every Australian who valued her calm, clear and logical communications during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mary-Louise passed away on Saturday with her husband, Richard, and children, Zia and Zachary, by her side.

As many of you will know, Mary-Louise has been battling brain cancer for the past 18 months. During that time, I had the privilege of spending time with Mary-Louise and her family, and I know she was extremely realistic about her expectations. In the first place, she was uncertain about having treatment; she had seen her brother succumb to the same afflictions a few years earlier. And when surgery and the first rounds of chemo and radiation showed promising results, Mary-Louise was clear-eyed. She said to me she knew there were no certainties for her future and just wanted to spend as much time as possible with Richard, her kids, and close friends. And that is what she did.

There is already much written about the contribution Mary-Louise made to public health and infection control, both here and around the world. But most of us know her for the calm and reassuring messages given while sitting in front of that vivid blue wall and eclectic collection on her bookshelf. At the same time, Mary-Louise did not hold back on what her decades of experience told her was right; start vaccinations sooner (as it turns out it was a race), vaccinate the ones spreading the virus (20- to 40-year-olds), test frequently and isolated sooner. Mary-Louise strongly advocated for rapid antigen tests (I think she was the first one to call them RAT tests) to compliment PCR. In the end, she was right on all counts.

Heart-felt condolences to Richard, Zia and Zachary. We will all miss Mary-Louise very much, friends, students and colleagues alike. None of us want it to be so, but your work here is done, your contribution and legacy are immense, and you can rest in peace.

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