Melvin R. Laird's career in government spanned nearly thirty years, as a member of the Wisconsin State Senate, as a Congressman and as a Cabinet Officer. As a legislator, he took a special interest in medical research, and his work in that area has been of historic importance.
Throughout the United States, facilities for medical research are a legacy of his skill and foresight as a legislator. He co-authored legislation to finance the construction of the National Library of Medicine, and important centers for medical research on many university campuses, (Among them the McArdle Laboratory for Cancer Research and the University of Wisconsin Cancer Center in Madison, Wisconsin) and the major institutes of the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. With Congressman John Fogarty (D - Rhode Island) and Senator Lister Hill (D - Alabama) he also provided for the building of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia.
Between 1956 and 1967, Congressman Laird was appointed a member of the U.S. Delegation to the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland by three U.S. Presidents - Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Lyndon Johnson.
Melvin R. Laird's commitment to medicine did not end with his congressional career. As Secretary of Defense, he innovated Project MAST which utilizes one of the logistical lessons he learned in Vietnam: use of helicopters to evacuate the wounded. He also instituted MEDIHC, Military Experience Directed in Health Careers, a program to help medically-trained servicemen to find meaningful civilian careers in health professions. He gave his full support to the establishment of the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, Bethesda, Maryland.
As Marshfield Clinic Health System and Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation grew in researchers and resources, Melvin Laird was instrumental in helping secure many research grants from both the federal government and private sector.
Mr. Laird has received many awards in honor of his long-standing and effective service in support of health-related issues and objectives. Including the medical profession's highest recognition for the promotion of medical research, the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award and the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian award.