2020 Winner

Dame Laura Lee


Driving force behind Maggie’s, the ground-breaking Scottish charity that is transforming cancer care across the globe.

When 17-year-old Laura Lee left home in Peterhead to train as a nurse, she wanted to work with cancer patients so she could offer them help and support over a sustained period. Today, 37 years later, Laura’s compassionate, caring ethos forms the DNA of the world-leading cancer charity that she brought to life in the grounds of her Edinburgh hospital.

Maggie’s Centres help cancer sufferers with everything from emotional support and dealing with the effects of treatment to advice on money worries. The original idea came from one of Laura’s patients, Maggie Jencks. It was her dream to provide a homely environment for patients, unlike the windowless corridor where she had been left to process the news her breast cancer was terminal.

She would often talk about her vision with Laura. The two became close friends and worked on the initial plans together, pouring over designs at Maggie’s hospital bedside. After Maggie died in 1995, Laura, along with Maggie’s husband Charles, made sure that vision became a reality.

The following year the first Maggie’s Centre was opened in Edinburgh, in a beautiful new building designed by leading architect Richard Murphy. Since then, as CEO of the charity, Laura, 54, has overseen the opening of 24 centres across the UK and internationally, all designed by leading and award-winning architects, with 280,000 visitors every year.