Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative

Kristen Wiig Receives The Inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award 

At this year’s Variety TV FYC Fest, Variety teamed up with the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative to present the inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award to Oscar-nominated writer, actor and producer Kristen Wiig. Kristen was recognized for her extensive and groundbreaking achievements in storytelling, matching Mary’s continuing extraordinary impact on the entertainment industry.

“Kristen is indeed a true Mary. A multi-hyphenate, critically acclaimed creator of moments of joy and occasions of reflection that move and make us better,” said Dr. S. Robert Levine, founder and CEO of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. “Kristen also shares a creative driver with Mary, what Kristen has called ‘the need to be a little uncomfortable.’ Or as Mary once put it, ‘Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.’”

“I’m a little speechless,” Wiig said upon receiving the award. “I grew up watching Mary, and she was such an unbelievable performer in person, and this business is weird. It can be hard to navigate, especially as a woman, especially back then, and she just did it so full of grace. So this just means so much to me.”

Read more here.

Dr. S. Robert Levine Presents Variety Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award to Kristen Wiig

In her heart, Mary was a dancer. 

She worshipped Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Ginger Rogers, and Cyd Charisse and wished she could       dance like them. 

Mary had a dancer’s discipline, work ethic, drive to perfection, and willingness to take risks — literal leaps of faith — with a clear understanding of what every ballerina knows… that to create something that will move people and bring audiences to their feet, your toes were going to get bloody.

But most of all… it was in dance that Mary found her true joy…. 

Diabetes stole this joy from her…  because it stole her vision

Over time, it became a great challenge for her to walk across a room and avoid obstacles, judge changes in grades, walk down stairs, or be physically active in low light… making a once fiercely independent woman, unable to get around on her own, unable to read, and unable to sustain her autonomy…

As International Chairman of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, now Breakthrough T1D, Mary voiced the fears and hopes of people and families affected by diabetes.  She helped raise awareness of it’s devastating consequences and the promise of research.  

Sadly though, diabetes remains the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, with tens of millions of people, globally, suffering vision stealing diabetic retinal disease and with every one of the hundreds of millions of people with diabetes being at risk of vision loss and blindness….

Despite her challenges, Mary believed the best way to heal ourselves was to do what we could to help others. 

Her wish was that future generations with diabetes would not have to experience the challenges she had, and she dreamed that one day there would be a world without vision loss and blindness from diabetes. 

The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative was launched to honor Mary’s contributions to diabetes awareness and research – and our mission is straightforward: To accelerate the development of new treatments to prevent and cure diabetic retinal disease.

When Dea Lawrence, the amazing COO of Variety, came to me with the BIG IDEA of partnering with the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative to create an award in Mary’s name to recognize a new generation of entertainment industry leaders, I, of course, said “yes.” But then my thoughts turned quickly to the question, “Who would be worthy?” One thing was sure, though: they had to be “a Mary.” 

So, I wrote down a list of Mary attributes to share with Dea to inform our selection process…  that list included:

Brilliant, Beautiful, Accessible;  

Generous, Kind, Compassionate;

Honest, Brave, Real;

Innovator, Role Model, Risk-taker;

Actor, Comedian, Dancer, Singer, Writer;

Or as James L. Brooks, who with Allan Burns, created the Mary Tyler Moore Show put it only a few nights after Mary’s passing upon his receiving the Producer’s Guild’s Norman Lear Achievement Award:  

“I promise you as a woman, she was everything you sensed. She had dignity, worth, wit, she was intrinsically valiant, she was the woman who was at the center of the work and who never complained. She made grace contagious”

Well, Dea, Michelle, and the Variety team came through big time in selecting Kristen Wiig for the Inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award. 

All it took for me to know that Kristen was truly “the one” was watching her evocative dance with Maddie Ziegler for Sia’s performance of “Chandelier” at the 2015 Grammy Awards, and witnessing the perfectionist detail in her brilliant Ann-Margaret impersonation, the joyfulness of Target Lady, the physicality of her Gloria Swanson, Katherine Hepburn, Aunt Sue, and Gilly…and the creative genius of so many more of her other sketch characters.  

But then there was also her “can’t take your eyes off her” performance as Alice Klieg, a lottery winner with borderline personality disorder in Welcome to Me and her multi-layered performance as Annie joined with her honking, laugh-out-loud funny, Oscar nominated writing for Bridesmaids.  

And then, finally, there is this quote from comedy icon and “friend of Mary”, Carol Burnett about her co-star, Kristen’s performance in the Season 1 finale of Palm Royale: “That scene is one of the greatest pieces of acting I have ever seen in my life,… it was a masterclass in acting, with being funny, with being in tears, with losing it.” Reading this quote gave me chills, as it flashed fond memories of Mary’s comedy breakout scene in the “My Blonde Haired Brunette” episode of the Dick Van Dyke Show’s first season.

So Kristen is, indeed, a true Mary – a multi-hyphenate, award winning creator of moments of joy and occasions of reflection that move us and make us better. 

Kristen also shares a creative driver with Mary — what Kristen has called “the need to be a little uncomfortable” or as Mary once put it:

 “Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”

So let me please share my gratitude to Dea, Michelle, and Variety for making this moment possible, and introduce to you, the recipient of Variety’s Inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award – the singularly talented, remarkably funny, truly brave, Kristen Wiig.

-Dr. S. Robert Levine

TODAY Show: Dr. S. Robert Levine Speaks with Jenna Bush on the Life of Mary Tyler Moore

By Liz Calvario and Erin Farley

Mary Tyler Moore and her husband, Dr. Robert Levine, were married for more than 30 years before her death in 2017. 

The beloved comedian revolutionized the role of the modern American woman, breaking barriers with her performances on “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

But to Dr. Levine, as he told TODAY’s Jenna Bush Hager, his Mary was “someone who had (an) enormous heart, great grace… extraordinarily generous and kind.”

The former couple got married in 1983. They met by coincidence after Moore’s mother, Marjorie Hackett Moore, was sick and needed a doctor. Dr. Levine was on call. 

“When I was about to leave, I said what you would expect a doctor to say, ‘Mary, if you have concerns or any further questions, just give me a call,’” he recalled. “And she turns to me and says, ‘Is acute loneliness a good enough reason to call?’”

“And I said, ‘I can’t think of a better reason to be calling at 3 a.m. And so in fact, a couple of days later, at 3 a.m., she called me,” Dr. Levine said, adding that he was “absolutely” shocked. 

Mary Tyler Moore and husband Dr. Robert Levine attend the 13th Annual Television Academy Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony in 1997.Ron Galella, Ltd. / Ron Galella Collection via Getty

The doctor revealed that he had no idea Moore was such a huge star, but knew their relationship was special. 

“In that first moment, I recognized it was different and certainly our first date… it was so easy,” he said. “Because I didn’t really know Mary as a star, so there wasn’t (a) fan-star thing going on.”
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Dr. Levine had barely seen any episodes of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” explaining how he was busy with college and medical school. “(It) really wasn’t what I was doing, watching TV on Saturday nights.”
Moore was previously married to Richard Carleton Meeker from 1955 to 1961, and Grant Tinker from 1962 to 1981. However, Moore previously said Dr. Levine was her first true love. 

“You must feel really lucky and blessed that that was you,” Hager Bush said, with Dr. Levine replying, “Yeah, yeah I was. Absolutely.”

In a new documentary, “Being Mary Tyler Moore,” fans will get to see never-before-seen pictures and archival footage found in Moore’s own basement that shows more of the woman behind the smile. 
“I suggested we call the film, ‘Being Mary Tyler Moore,’” Dr. Levine, who serves as an executive producer, said. “The thing about it was, being Mary, because everything Mary did, she was authentic. She was being herself.”

Dr. Levine is now carrying on his late wife’s legacy, working to find a way to cure complications from diabetes with the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. 

Moore was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in her early 30s and faced other challenges throughout her life. The television icon struggled with alcoholism and suffered the death of her only son, Richie Meeker, who died at the age of 24. 

“If you look at her from physical challenges, from health challenges, but also from emotional, she never shied,” Dr. Levine said. “I wanted to reflect on what Mary’s life was, remind people of her importance and her impact, and encourage them to be a Mary too. To stand up for what you believe and to always present the world with a smile, but to not be shy from the battle.” Read more.

Chris German

Meet Christopher German, PhD, a passionate advocate for diabetes awareness and a lay advisory committee member for the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. Chris has been living with Type 1 diabetes for over 35 years since he was diagnosed at just six years old.  For the past 15 years, he’s faced bi-annual assessments, which, while helpful for tracking the disease’s progression, often fall short of offering guidance for prevention of future complications. 

Chris explains that having diabetes is a constant balancing act that affects every aspect of life. The financial strain, the looming risks to eyes, kidneys, and heart, and the daily management can be overwhelming. Yet, Chris remains steadfast and deeply invested in finding better ways to support those like him.

To learn more about Chris and his story, please visit the link below. To help achieve Mary’s dream of a world without vision loss and blindness from diabetes, please visit the link below.

Spring 2024 Workshop

We’re pleased to share that The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative held a “Workshop on Data” in Seattle, WA on May 7.  The workshop was entitled:  “Data Harmonization, Standardization, and Collaboration for Diabetic Retinal Disease: accelerating the Development of New Indications, Therapies, and Regulatory Pathways.” We are grateful for the contributions of our 60 attendees who represented research expertise from industry, academia, government, and non-profit organizations. We all need to work together to bring us closer to finding a cure for vision loss and blindness caused by diabetes and how we handle and manage our research and real-world patient data is key to accomplishing this goal.

Mary Tyler Moore: Diabetes Educator and Advocate

“Who can turn the world on with her smile?” So began the theme song for the popular The Mary Tyler Moore Show, which aired on the CBS television network from 1970 to 1977. With the passing of Mary Tyler Moore, the show’s star, on 25 January 2017, the diabetes community lost an individual who for decades not only brought smiles to her audiences, but also changed the world for people living with diabetes, researchers seeking its cure, and health care providers for those with the disease.

Read More Here.

Dr. Jennifer K. Sun Promoted to Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School 

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Dr. Jennifer K. Sun, MD, MPH has been promoted to Professor of Ophthalmology at Harvard Medical School.

Any promotion within the Harvard academic system is a major achievement directly dependent on excellence in research, teaching and clinical care.  Promotion to full Professor is one of the greatest recognitions available at Harvard and widely considered one of the most prestigious achievements in all of academia.

Dr. Sun’s promotion recognizes the entirety of the global impact of her work through her publication record, teaching, invited presentations, research funding, and numerous honors and awards.  Dr. Sun’s accomplishments to date in diabetes ophthalmic research and clinical care are highly deserving of this remarkable recognition.  She is widely respected as one of the world’s most experienced and knowledgeable investigators in the design, implementation and analyses of diabetic retinopathy clinical trials.  Dr. Sun’s efforts have already had a major international impact on the field of diabetic eye care through her leadership of studies that have dramatically changed the standard of clinical care for diabetic retinal disease.  As Chair of Diabetes Initiatives for the DRCR Retina Network and Scientific Co-Director of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, she currently leads two of the premier organizations undertaking clinical research efforts in diabetic retinal disease.

Dr. Sun becomes the third Harvard Professor of the Beetham Eye Institute, joining Lloyd M. Aiello and LPA.  Her promotion to Professor is also a recognition of the Joslin environment that has nurtured her career.  Upon joining the Joslin faculty in 2005, she became the first participant in the Harvard Clinician Scientist K12 program with Dr. Lloyd Paul Aiello as her primary mentor and she has also collaborated closely over the last 2 decades with Dr. George King in his groundbreaking Joslin 50-Year Medalist Study.  Her achievements reflect the excellence of the research program and clinical care at the Beetham Eye Institute/Joslin and the incredible dedication of our staff, faculty and fellows to improving visual outcomes in people with diabetes around the world. 

Please join us in wishing Dr. Jennifer Sun well-deserved congratulations on this wonderful achievement!  There will be a more formal recognition at Joslin sometime in the fall.

LPA & George L. King, MD

See more on our social media here.

Kristen Wiig to Receive Inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award at Variety TV FYC Fest

By: William Earl

Variety will present actor, producer and writer Kristen Wiig with the inaugural Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award on June 6 in Los Angeles at the Variety TV FYC Fest.

Wiig is being recognized for her extensive and groundbreaking achievements in storytelling, in honor of Moore’s extraordinary impact on the entertainment industry.

Following the award presentation, Wiig will sit down for a conversation with Variety deputy features editor Jenelle Riley to discuss her current work in Apple TV+’s “Palm Royale.”

As previously announced, to support the Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award, Variety launched the “Be a Mary” advertising campaign in partnership with the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, a nonprofit fighting against Diabetic Retinal Disease (DRD) by enabling major research breakthroughs and supporting global collaboration. This campaign aims to galvanize support for research directed at efforts to pioneer new therapies to prevent and cure vision loss and blindness caused by diabetes. “Be a Mary” implores audiences to embrace the ethos epitomized by Moore herself: a spirit characterized by boundless generosity, unwavering kindness, profound compassion, resilience in the face of life’s challenges and fearless risk-taking.

“Kristen Wiig’s iconic characters and quick wit mirror what made Mary Tyler Moore a bright light in the industry and an inspiration to women,” said Dea Lawrence, COO and CMO of Variety. “Like Moore, Wiig’s prolific career has brought laughter to households around the world, making her the ideal choice for this award.”

“Kristen is the perfect choice for Variety’s first Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award,” said Moore’s husband, Dr. S. Robert Levine, founder and CEO of the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. “Like Mary, Kristen is a rare, multi-talented creator and innovator whose journey began in ballet. This foundation taught them both the significance of timing, grace, diligence, physical confidence and the necessity of trusting those around you and collaborating with the best. It’s an honor to see Mary’s legacy flourish through Kristen’s support of MTM Vision to advance research to preserve and restore vision in people with diabetes.”

Wiig will join previously announced Variety TV FYC Fest speakers Jennifer Jason Leigh, Kelsey Grammer, Greta Lee, Dakota Fanning, Ricky Martin, Lisa Ann Walter, Jane Lynch, Drew Carey and Joel McHale, among others. Tickets to Variety’s TV FYC Fest are available at variety.com/tvfest.

Read more here

Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative Physician-Scientist Award

Research to Prevent Blindness Opens Applications for Vision Research Grants

The awards offered cover a wide variety of topics in vision science, including glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, retinal diseases, and many more.

NEW YORK – May 6, 2024 – Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is pleased to announce that it has opened a new round of grant funding for high-impact vision research. With a focus on scientific excellence, RPB funds research across all sight-threatening conditions, including glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, inherited retinal diseases, amblyopia, low vision and many more. In this award cycle (one of two award cycles per year), RPB is offering a variety of grants for individual researchers, as well as Unrestricted Grants and Challenge Grants to high-performing departments of ophthalmology. RPB provides a total of approximately $11 million in grant funding annually.

Read more about the Grant. 

All award applications for this funding cycle are due July 1, 2024, with nomination forms due no later than June 15. 

“We’re thrilled to offer these prestigious vision research awards that will help to move the needle in terms of supporting the development of treatments, preventives and cures for all conditions that damage and destroy sight,” said Brian F. Hofland, PhD, President of Research to Prevent Blindness. “We recognize that research is a ‘long game’ and it is only through continued, sustained investment that we will continue to make the kind of game-changing progress that we’ve made over the past 64 years.” 

The list of individual researcher grants that are currently open is listed below. 

RPB Career Development Award

The RPB Career Development Award helps RPB-supported ophthalmology chairs support promising early-career ophthalmology faculty who have demonstrated their potential for independent research (but have not yet received an NIH R01 or equivalent award) with significant research projects. The $350,000 grant is payable for up to four years.

There are two types of CDAs available in this award cycle: 

  • The RPB / Tom Wertheimer Career Development Award in Data Science focuses on vision research that uses artificial intelligence and/or data science to gain new knowledge related to sight-threatening conditions.  Where applicable, we strongly encourage inclusion of diverse populations in proposed studies.
  • The RPB Career Development Award will not have a specific focus and is open to any topic within vision research.

RPB Career Advancement Award

The RPB Career Advancement Award (CAA) assists outstanding early-career vision scientists in pursuit of ongoing research of unusual significance and promise. This one-time award of $150,000 is available to candidates who have already received their first NIH R01 and are collecting new data to apply for a second R01. This award is open to researchers at any institution of higher education in the U.S. 

There are two types of CAAs available in this award cycle:

  • The RPB / David Epstein Career Advancement Award in Glaucoma Research sponsored by Alcon will focus on a research project in glaucoma.
  • The RPB Career Advancement Award will not have a specific scientific focus and is open to any topic within vision research.

RPB Physician-Scientist Award

Recognizing the unique contributions of clinician-scientists and their deep commitment to patient care, the RPB Physician-Scientist Award promotes the clinical and/or basic science research of clinicians. This $300,000 award is open to MDs or MD/PhDs at RPB-supported departments of ophthalmology.

There are three types of Physician-Scientist Awards available in this award cycle:

  • The RPB / Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative Physician-Scientist Award will focus on cutting-edge retinal research to expand relevant knowledge and to develop methods to preserve and restore visual function in diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, and diabetic retinal neurodegeneration (collectively Diabetic Retinal Disease (DRD)). Relevant areas include but are not limited to research related to DRD clinical endpoints and biomarkers, assessments of visual function and patient quality of life, retinal non-perfusion and vascular integrity, neuroprotection, regeneration, as well as related stem-cell research and gene therapy. Innovative proposals that address gaps in research, or address restoration of vision in advanced DRD are encouraged and prioritized.
  • The RPB Physician-Scientist Award in Myopia Research will focus on research that seeks to provide a better understanding of the development of myopia and/or how it can be prevented or decelerated. The number of people affected by myopia is now increasing around the world and is projected to affect 50% of the world population by 2050.
  • The RPB Physician-Scientist Award will not have a specific scientific focus and is open to any topic within vision research.

RPB Catalyst Award for Innovative Research Approaches for Age-Related Macular Degeneration

The RPB Catalyst Awards will provide funds to researchers who are working on novel approaches to understanding or treating age-related macular degeneration (AMD).  RPB is partnering with:

  • American Macular Degeneration Foundation (AMDF)
  • Dr. H. James and Carole Free
  • International Retinal Research Foundation (IRRF)

to co-fund up to three Catalyst Awards (one award with each partner) in the amount of $300,000 each. Translational projects – clinically relevant research that could lead to therapeutics or treatment for AMD that is not yet in clinical trials – are encouraged. This award is open to researchers at any institution of higher education in the U.S. 

RPB International Research Collaborators Award

The RPB International Research Collaborators Award promotes international collaborations through which researchers in the U.S. and outside the U.S. gain new knowledge and skills. Under a reciprocal arrangement, supported by this $75,000 grant, a U.S.-based researcher or team will be funded to go for a period of time to an institution outside the U.S. to deepen collaborative relationships with researchers there. In turn, the institution outside the U.S. will send a researcher or team members for a period of time to the U.S. institution. This award is open to researchers at any institution of higher education in the U.S.

RPB Stein Innovation Award – Outside Ophthalmology

The RPB Stein Innovation Award provides $300,000 to two groups of researchers (those inside ophthalmology departments and those outside ophthalmology departments), both with a common goal of understanding the visual system and the diseases that compromise its function. During this award cycle, RPB is accepting applications from researchers outside ophthalmology departments. These awards are intended to provide seed money to proposed high-risk / high-gain vision research that is innovative and cutting-edge. This award is open to researchers at any institution of higher education in the U.S. 

RPB Medical Student Eye Research Fellowship

The RPB Medical Student Eye Research Fellowship allows gifted students to take a year off from allopathic or osteopathic medical school and devote time to the pursuit of a research project within an RPB-supported department of ophthalmology. RPB encourages medical students who are under-represented in medicine and women to apply to these awards to help bring needed diversity to the field of ophthalmology. 

Three types of Medical Student Eye Research Fellowships are available in this award cycle:

  • The RPB / AOCOO-HNS Foundation Medical Student Eye Research Fellowship for a Student of Osteopathic Medicine will offer one award to a student of osteopathic medicine focusing on any topic in vision research within an RPB-supported department of ophthalmology. Open to students of osteopathic medicine (SOM) only.
  • The RPB / Johnson & Johnson Medical Student Eye Research Fellowship will not have a specific scientific focus and is open to any topic in vision research within an RPB-supported department of ophthalmology. Open to students of allopathic medicine (MD) only.
  • The RPB Medical Student Eye Research Fellowship will not have a specific scientific focus and is open to any topic in vision research within an RPB-supported department of ophthalmology. Open to students of allopathic medicine (MD) only.

To review more information on any of these grants, including eligibility criteria and application guidelines, please visit the RPB website (bit.ly/RPBgrants2024).

If you have questions regarding the RPB Grants Program, please contact a member of RPB’s Grants Administration team, MariaClaudia Lora-Montano (646-892-9564; mlora@rpbusa.org) or Pattie Moran (646-892-9566; pmoran@rpbusa.org). 

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About Research to Prevent Blindness 

Research to Prevent Blindness (RPB) is the leading nonprofit organization supporting eye research directed at the prevention, treatment or eradication of all diseases that damage and destroy sight. As part of this purview, RPB also supports efforts to grow and sustain a robust and diverse vision research community. Since it was founded in 1960 by Dr. Jules Stein, RPB has awarded more than $413 million in research grants to the most talented vision scientists at the nation’s leading medical schools. As a result, RPB has been associated with nearly every major breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of vision loss in the past 64 years. Learn more at www.rpbusa.org.

Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative and Variety Partner for Award and ‘Be A Mary’ Campaign

Be a Mary Campaign

Variety launches “Be A Mary” campaign in partnership with

the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative

Read the Variety article.

Variety has created the Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award, an annual honor that recognizes extensive and groundbreaking achievements in storytelling, matching Mary’s continuing extraordinary impact on the entertainment industry.

To support the Mary Tyler Moore Visionary Award, Variety has launched an advertising and social media campaign, “Be A Mary,” in partnership with the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative. This campaign aims to galvanize support for research directed at efforts to pioneer new therapies to prevent and cure vision loss from diabetes. “Be A Mary” implores audiences to embrace the ethos epitomized by Mary herself: a spirit characterized by boundless generosity, unwavering kindness, profound compassion, resilience in the face of life’s challenges, and fearless risk-taking.

Please visit us on Instagram @MTMVISION_ to tell us what makes you or someone you know, a “Mary.” The sight you help save may be your own or that of someone you love.

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