By Nancy Sabin Wexler, October 14, 2017
On Friday, October 13, 2017, my very good friend Michael David Rawlins was invested at Buckingham Palace by Her Majesty the Queen, with the accolade of a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. He is only the fourth physician in 100 years to be granted this very prestigious award. Most awardees are either senior military figures or men and women who have rendered very substantial public service.
The formal citation for Sir Michael, as read out at the ceremony in Buckingham Palace stated that his award has been given “For services to the Safety of Medicines, to Healthcare and to Innovation.” The longer citation, published by the Cabinet Office, reads: “Sir Michael Rawlins, currently chair of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and UK Biobank was also the founding chair of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence. Under his leadership NICE became an internationally recognised organisation, pioneering processes which have been copied world over. It has facilitated faster NHS uptakes of new technologies and procedures, offering opportunities to patients in a way not experienced before. He has previously served as chair of the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs and President of the Royal Society of Medicine.”
Sir Michael has been a good friend to the Hereditary Disease Foundation for many years. He has travelled to Venezuela on many occasions. On his first visit, he came to investigate prospects for doing clinical trials in the Lake Maracaibo region, but later arranged visits through the good offices of the UK Ambassador in Caracas. Sir Michael also visited the Casa Hogar, in Maracaibo, and helped promote its work to a global audience.
In the UK, he is also instrumental – with Charles Sabine – in establishing an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Huntington’s Disease in the UK parliament. The APPG provides an opportunity for parliamentarians from across the political divide, and with members from both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, to draw attention to the critical needs of Huntington’s families. It was originally chaired by a very distinguished neurologist, Lord (John) Walton of Detchant. The former Health Secretary, the Right Honorable Frank Dobson, later took on the chairmanship of the APPG.
Charles Sabine, a former NBC journalist and a member of an HD family, has recently been instrumental in forming an organization known as “HDdennomore” (pronounced “Hidden No More). Charles and Elena Cattaneo (the Director of the University of Milan’s Centre for Stem Cell Research and also a Senator for Life in the Italian Parliament) were responsible for organizing the Papal Audience for HD families on May 18, 2017. This was attended by representative families from nearly 30 different countries, including many from South America. Of these, 20 families came from Venezuela. The Pope, in his address, encouraged the Church to embrace those with HD and their families and afterwards hugged them all. He also encouraged HD scientists to increase their efforts in finding treatments and cures. The Papal audience in May also reminded us that the burden of the political crisis in Venezuela is being heavily born by the HD families who have very limited access to food, water and medicines.
I look forward to encouraging this momentum. It has been created by the energy of so many talented and innovative people who together will change the world for the better.