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WoW Blog (Woman of the Week) Blog

WoW Blog (Woman of the Week)

Each week this blog will feature a prominent woman who made significant contributions to engineering or science. If you have any women you'd like us to feature please let us know and we'll do our best to include them.

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Woman of the Week – Jane Cooke Wright

Posted April 24, 2017 4:40 PM by lmno24

Jane Cooke Wright (also known as "Jane Jones”) was a pioneering cancer researcher and surgeon. She is most known for her contributions to chemotherapy, specifically with developing the technique of using human tissue culture rather than laboratory mice to test the effects of potential drugs on cancer cells. She also pioneered the use of the drug methotrexate to treat breast and skin cancers.

She was born in New York City. Her mother was a public school teacher while her father, Louis T. Wright, was a graduate of Meharry Medical College and one of the first African American graduates from Harvard Medical School. Her extended family also had many members in the medical field . Wright's uncle, Harold Dadford West, was a physician, ultimately president of Meharry Medical College. In becoming physicians, Jane and her sister Barbara Wright Pierce both followed in their father's and grandfathers' footsteps, overcoming gender and racial bias succeeded in a largely white male profession.

Credit: Smith College

As a child, Wright attended the Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx. She graduated with an art degree from Smith College in 1942 and then earned a medical degree, graduating with honors in 1945 from the New York Medical College.

After medical school, she completed residencies at Bellevue Hospital (1945–46) and Harlem Hospital (1947–48). She completed her tenure at Harlem Hospital as chief resident, a high ranking position.

Then, in 1949, she joined her father in research at the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Center. Her father was the founder and director of the center ; when he died in 1952, she took over as leader.

In 1955, Wright began her work at the New York University Medical Center as the director of cancer chemotherapy research. She was also an instructor of research surgery in the Medical Center's Department of Surgery. In July 1967, Dr. Wright became a professor of surgery at New York Medical College, where at the time she was the highest ranking African American woman in an American medical institution.

Outside of her many roles, she conducted significant research. Wright's research work involved studying the effects of various drugs on tumors ; she was the first to identify methotrexate, one of the foundational chemotherapy drugs, as an effective tool against cancerous tumors.

Her early work took chemotherapy from an untested and experimental procedure and turned it into a reputable and proven-to-be-effective cancer treatment.

Wright later pioneered combinatorial work in chemotherapeutics, focusing not simply on administering multiple drugs, but sequential and dosage variations to increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy and minimize side effects. She was successful in identifying treatments for both breast and skin cancer, developing chemotherapy protocol that increased skin cancer patient lifespans up to ten years.

Credit: connection.asco.org

By little surprise, she has received numerous citations and awards. Honors include the Merit Award from Mademoiselle Magazine in 1952, the Spirit of Achievement Award of the Women’s Division of Albert Einstein College of Medicine in 1961, and the Hadassah Myrtle Wreath Award in 1967. The following year her alma mater, Smith College, presented her with the Smith Medal, its most notable award. In 1971, Dr. Wright became the first woman to serve as president of the New York Cancer Society.

In addition to her research and practice, she also served on numerous boards and frequently volunteered in the community Dr. Wright worked in Ghana in 1957 and in Kenya in 1961, helping to treat cancer patients.

In 1987, after a forty-four year career, Dr. Jane Cooke Wright retired as an emerita professor at New York Medical College. Her work has helped change the lives of millions and has left a significant impact on the medical field.

Sources:

http://www.aacr.org/Research/Awards/Pages/jane-cooke-wright.aspx#.WPkFWWcpBEY

https://cfmedicine.nlm.nih.gov/physicians/biography_336.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jane_C._Wright

http://www.blackpast.org/aah/wright-jane-cooke-1919

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Re: Woman of the Week – Jane Cooke Wright

04/25/2017 2:02 PM

I see nothing in there about her cooking skills. Too bad. Just kidding. Way to go. I see there are commercials about class action suits for victims of methotrexate now.

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Re: Woman of the Week – Jane Cooke Wright

04/25/2017 4:41 PM

I see there are commercials about class action suits for victims of methotrexate now.

I think it helped a lot of people. However, we are a very litigous society.

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