Mary’s Story

Honoring Mary Tyler Moore by creating a world without vision loss from diabetes

Mary Tyler Moore was a brilliantly talented, intelligent, independent woman. A beloved and renowned actress, dancer, and savvy media executive, Mary was a trailblazer and door-opener for women. Her professional persona was one of grace, determination, and unbreakable optimism (she had “spunk”).

She also lived with Type 1 diabetes (T1D), and suffered its burdens.

For 30+ years, Mary was a voice to the fears and hopes of people with diabetes and helped JDRF raise billions of dollars for research to cure it and its complications.

As she worked tirelessly to relieve the burdens of diabetes for others, the disease impacted her own life, eventually resulting in near-blindness from Diabetic Retinal Disease, and ultimately, stealing her independence and joy.

Honoring Mary Tyler Moore by creating a world without vision loss from diabetes

Most people who know Mary Tyler Moore know her by her work as an actress and diabetes research advocate. But there is something they may not know about her – 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 risk (literal leaps of faith), with the clear understanding that in order to innovate, to create something beautiful, 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. Remarkably, Mary was able to manage through the numbness and loss of position sense due to her diabetic neuropathy. She was even able to train herself to overcome the exertional pain of her peripheral vascular disease, and, ultimately was able to gain further relief from vascular surgery.

But what she was never able to overcome was the vision stealing impact of her diabetic retinal disease and the severe narrowing of her visual fields and diminished night vision that accompanied her laser therapy for it.

Indeed, over time, it became a great challenge for her to simply walk across a room and avoid obstacles, or judge changes in grades, or walk down stairs, or be physically active in low light. making this once fiercely independent woman – this joyful dancer – unable to get around on her own, unable to sustain her autonomy.

Sadly, Mary’s story is not unique.

Diabetic Retinal Disease (DRD) is the number one cause of blindness in working-age adults worldwide.

Globally, more than 50 million people suffer from vision-threatening retinal disease due to their diabetes.

While Mary did not make it to see a cure, The Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative, which seeks to PRESERVE and RESTORE vision in people with diabetes, continues Mary’s vital work as it honors her legacy.

Capitalizing on today’s highly-advanced biomedical technologies and unique resources and tools, Mary’s Vision Initiative seeks to create a world without vision loss from diabetes by innovating along the entire journey from laboratory discovery, to new treatment development, to validating new ways to diagnose retina disease, early, so it can be stopped before threatening vision, to the delivery of new therapies to people who can benefit.

Our efforts include:

Understanding the full spectrum of the disease’s impact on those who live with it—at 40+ years old, the existing severity scale for DRD is outdated and incorrectly focuses only on the vascular component, ignoring nerve, visual function, quality-of-life, and other components of the disease.

Establishing a cutting-edge human eye tissue biobank exclusively for DRD research. The biobank will have impeccably preserved and stored samples that can be shared with collaborating researchers around the world, and are suitable for advanced analysis to give insights into the cellular and molecular basis of DRD.

Organizing a public-private consortium to use the data generated by research undertaken by biobank collaborating scientists to identify new molecular targets for therapeutics development. This will accelerate design, testing, and delivery of new treatments to preserve and restore vision in people with diabetes.

Creating and sustaining a comprehensive digital image library with millions of retinal images matched with health records that can help support research, improve criteria for diagnosis, and identify new opportunities for therapy development and improved clinical care.

Fostering real-time information sharing and collaboration among top global experts in academia, pharma, and clinical care.

Improving prospects for regulatory approval of new therapies.

Advancing the standard of care for people with diabetes through new methods to PRESERVE and RESTORE visual function.

The Initiative is a joint effort of JDRF, The Mary Tyler Moore and S. Robert Levine, MD Charitable Foundation, and the Elizabeth Weiser Caswell Diabetes Institute (CDI) at the University of Michigan.

Mary believed anything was possible.

Help realize her dream of a world without vision loss from diabetes.

Take Action

Support our work by donating today to the Mary Tyler Moore Vision Initiative fund to PRESERVE and RESTORE vision for people with diabetes.

Remembering Mary

…and her work for people with diabetes

JDRF- Moore Forever

JDRF’s Tribute to Mary