Born in November 30, 1919, Jane Cooke Wright was an eminent African – American cancer researcher and surgeon who contributed to chemotherapy.  She is also credited for finding the panacea to treat breast cancer and skin cancer.

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Birth and Education

She was born in Manhattan. Her mother was a public school teacher while her father was an American surgeon and civil rights activist.

In 1964, Jane Cooke Wright became one of seven founders of the American Society of Clinical Oncology

Wright did her schooling from the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, then the “Ethical Culture” school and the “Fieldston School” from which she graduated in 1938. She completed her graduation in arts from Smith College in 1942. She also pursued a medical degree graduating with honors in 1945 from the New York Medical College.

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She did residencies at Bellevue Hospital (1945–46) and Harlem Hospital (1947–48). She completed her stint at Harlem Hospital as chief resident.

In 1949, she joined her father in research at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Center which he had founded. She succeeded him as director after his death in 1952.

In 1955, she worked as New York University Bellevue Medical Center as Associate Professor of Surgical Research and Director of Cancer Research.

As part of her research work, Wright would study the effects of various drugs on tumors. Infact, she was the first to identify methotrexate which was one of the foundational chemotherapy drugs.


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Leadership roles

In 1964, she became one of seven founders of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. In 1971, she was the first woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society.

Wright also headed the Cancer Chemotherapy Department at New York Medical College in 1967. With this, she became the highest ranked African American physician at a prominent medical college at the time, and certainly the highest ranked African American woman physician of her times. From 1973 to 1984 she served as vice president of the African Research and Medical Foundation.

She also worked in Ghana in 1957 and in Kenya in 1961, treating cancer patients.

Death and Legacy

She passed away on February 19, 2013. Her stellar work has brought about a revolution in both cancer research and the way physicians treat cancer. Dr. Wright is one of those brilliant women who contributed to humanity in gigantic ways through her empathetic nature and academic acumen.

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