Meet Dr. Jane Wright, one of the pioneers who treated cancer patients with chemotherapy in the early 50s

Stephen Nartey June 01, 2023
Aside from being the first woman to assume office at the New York Cancer Society, Dr. jane pioneered new ways of treating cancer patients through chemotherapy. Photo credit: The Cancer History Project

In the mid-1960s, Dr. Jane Wright was regarded as the highest-ranked African American in the medical field. Aside from being the first woman to assume office at the New York Cancer Society, she pioneered new ways of treating cancer patients through chemotherapy. This was at a time when many specialists were still experimenting with the concept of the treatment.

This feat, however, did not surprise her colleagues, as her father always set high standards for her since growing up. Understandably, her father, Dr. Louis Wright, was one of the early African Americans who graduated from Harvard Medical School.

Her father had already laid the foundation for Dr. Jane as New York City’s first African American police surgeon in 1929. He also established a Cancer Research Center at Harlem Hospital. After graduating from the New York Medical College in 1945, she turned her attention to extensive research and anti-cancer agents, as well as the relationship between patients and the tissue culture response.

These notable contributions to the body of research on cancer made Dr. Jane an influential figure in the field of cancer research and treatment. She made significant contributions to the understanding of cancer and played a crucial role in the development of chemotherapy, according to changing the face of medicine.

Dr. Jane was born in New York City in 1919 to Louis Tompkins Wright and Corrine Cooke. Her father, Louis Tompkins Wright, was a prominent African-American physician and an advocate for civil rights in healthcare. She graduated from New York Medical College with honors in 1945 and completed her internship at Bellevue Hospital. In 1949, she joined her father at Harlem Hospital as a visiting physician and also became a staff physician at New York City Public Schools.

Working alongside her father, Dr. Jane focused on advancing research on anti-cancer chemicals. At a time when chemotherapy was still in its experimental stages, she achieved several cases of cancer remission in patients using chemotherapy treatments. While her father worked in the labs, she performed trials on cancer patients.

In 1949, she and her father began treating patients with leukemia and cancer. After her father’s death, Dr. Jane took over as the director of the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital. Her expertise and groundbreaking research led to her appointment as the head of the Cancer Research Foundation at the young age of 33. Additionally, she became the first African American woman to be named associate dean of a medical school.

Dr. Jane’s accomplishments in cancer research and her efforts to study chronic diseases have left a lasting impact on the field of medicine. She paved the way for future generations of researchers and clinicians, and her work continues to contribute to the understanding and treatment of cancer today.

Last Edited by:Editor Updated: June 11, 2023


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