Honoring Black Leaders in Public Health, Government, and IT: Dr. Jane Cooke Wright

DLH is celebrating Black History Month by honoring the legacy of African-American leaders in public health, government, and information technology. Click here to view more entries in our series.

Dr. Jane Cooke Wright was a pioneer in clinical cancer chemotherapy research. The daughter of one of the first African American graduates of Harvard Medical School, Jane followed in her father’s footsteps. She graduated with honors from New York Medical College in 1945. Wright went on to serve as professor of surgery, the head of the cancer chemotherapy department, and associate dean, making her the highest ranking African American woman at a nationally recognized medical institution.

Dr. Wright and her father worked together at Harlem Hospital’s Cancer Research Foundation. There, they experimented with a wide range of anti-cancer agents and explored innovative techniques for administering cancer chemotherapy. Chemotherapy was largely experimental at the time, and Dr. Wright performed patient trials to test new chemicals on human leukemias and cancers of the lymphatic system. This work would continue throughout her career.

Wright was appointed head of the Cancer Research Foundation at the age of 33. In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Wright to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. The Commission’s findings were used to help establish a national network of treatment centers.

Dr. Wright became the first female president of the New York Cancer Society in 1971. She was a founding member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, which today represents over 40,000 oncology professionals.

Learn more about the life and legacy of Dr. Jane Cooke Wright from the American Association of Cancer Research.


Dr. Jane Cooke Wright,’ U.S. National Library of Medicine

Jane Cooke Wright, M.D. ’45 (1919-2013),’ New York Medical College

Jane Cooke Wright, MD,’ American Association of Cancer Research

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