2016 Regions Riding Forward® Winning Essay by Samantha C.

At a very young age, I decided that I wanted to become a Pediatric Oncologist and help young families trying to overcome cancer. I know that this will not be an easy career choice, and I will find many challenges during my pursuit. Currently, women make up thirty percent of all oncologists. This seems like a low number, but has in fact grown tremendously over the years. When I am temporarily intimidated by this task, I simply remember learning about Jane Wright. 

Jane Wright became a physician in the 1940s, overcoming not only gender biases, but also racial ones to succeed in a profession dominated by white males. Her father was probably her biggest influence, as he was one of the first African American graduates from Harvard Medical School. She started her career working along side of him in oncology research. She was the first to discover methotrexate as a cancer fighting agent in chemotherapy. She also took hypothetical treatments that were only tested on animals and proved their success on human tissue. In fact, her specific cancer research has saved literally millions of lives.

She was one of the founders of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the first woman elected as President of the New York Cancer Society, and was a member of various other medical boards in New York. She had worked extensively on making chemotherapy better with less side effects, and she published over seventy-five papers on the subject. Most everyone has been affected by cancer either in his/her own family, or he/she knows someone who has suffered from the disease. Everyone should be inspired by this woman who did not let fear of racial or gender discrimination deter her work in this field. Imagine how many lives would have been lost if not for the work of Jane Wright.

She was quoted during an interview by the New York Post, “I know I’m a member of two minority groups, but I don’t think of myself that way.” She only saw herself as a physician, a researcher, a mother, a wife, and a woman. Not only was she an African American woman who changed the lives of many cancer patients, but she was also considered a visionary for the whole science of oncology. Her legacy continues to grow, and she continues to inspire a new generation of doctors and researches looking to improve upon the work she started.

In the last year, I have personally been impacted by Dr. Wright’s work with chemotherapy. My grandmother is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments to battle cancer. Over the years chemotherapy treatments have evolved, but there is still much work to be done. I am inspired by the fearless Dr. Jane Wright and her contributions for the entire human race. She was 93 years old when she died, but her legacy will live on in the minds of future researchers and cancer patients.


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