Dr. Jane C. Wright
Dr. Jane Cook Wright 1919 - 2013
Jane Cooke Wright is one of the world’s foremost cancer research physicians. Wright’s oncology background helped her propel chemotherapy from afterthought to reputable option for cancer patients. Wright is the daughter of a physician. She was fortunate to learn under the tutelage of her father, Dr. Louis Tompkins Wright who was one of the first Black graduates of Harvard Medical School. Medicine was in Wright’s blood. Her grandfather Dr. Ceah Ketcham Wright devoted his life to medicine as well.
Jane was an elite student. She earned a scholarship to attend Smith College in Massachusetts. After graduating in 1942 she earned another scholarship to New York Medical College, where she graduated with honors in 1945.
Once Jane completed her residency and worked in various medical capacities in the New York area, Jane joined her father in Harlem. Dr. Louis T. Wright founded the Harlem Hospital Cancer Research Foundation. The aim of the foundation was to discover the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs as a treatment for cancer. Upon Dr. Louis Wright’s death, Jane took over the foundation and continued the chemotherapy research, including: the effects of a variety of drugs on tumors, chemotherapeutic agents on leukemia in mice, eventually advancing to treating patients with new anticancer drugs like triethylene melamine.
When a group of seven doctors founded the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), Jane was the only woman. Jane’s expertise in the field had received national recognition by this point. So much so, that President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Jane to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer and Stroke. From the recommendations of this commission, a national network of treatment centers was established. This treatment center network improved communications between doctors, hospitals, and research institutions.
Dr. Jane C. Wright became head of the chemotherapy department and associate dean at her alma mater New York Medical College in 1967.