Vale epidemiologist Mary-Louise McLaws

Professor Mary-Louise McLaws, a giant of Australian epidemiology, has died aged 70.

While McLaws rose to  prominence during the COVID-19 pandemic, her work in infection control began decades before that, spanning HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, SARS, swine flu, and many other public health interventions.

Born in 1953, McLaws spent much of her career at the University of New South Wales, where she completed her PhD and where worked as an epidemiologist since 1992.

She also worked with the New South Wales Clinical Excellence Commission, spearheading a variety of infection control measures like hand cleaning, and served on the the COVID-19 Taskforce.

McLaws served as an advisor to the World Health Organization on multiple occasions since the 2000s, most notably when COVID-19 broke out.

She became a household name during the pandemic, when her clear and valuable opinions were sought by media outlets across the country. She spoke with Cosmos on multiple topics, from when to reopen Australia, to the advent of rapid antigen tests.

McLaws was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in June 2022, “for distinguished service to medical research, particularly to epidemiology and infection prevention, to tertiary education, and to health administration”. She was also added to the COVID-19 Honour Roll.

McLaws was diagnosed with a brain tumour in January 2022. After a long illness, she died in her sleep on Saturday night.

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