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Jane Cooke Wright, M.D. ’45 (1919-2013)

First African American women to be named associate dean of a medical school

Class of 1945, School of Medicine

Jane Cooke Wright, M.D. '45, was the first African American woman to be named associate dean of a nationally recognized medical institution in 1967, and at the time, she was the highest ranking African American woman at a U.S. medical school. She earned her medical degree, with honors, from New York Medical College in 1945 after an accelerated three-year program.

She completed her residency at Harlem Hospital where she would later join her father, Dr. Louis Wright, at the Cancer Research Foundation at Harlem Hospital. Following Dr. Louis Wright's death in 1952, Dr. Wright was appointed head of the Cancer Research Foundation, at the age of 33.

In 1955, Dr. Wright became an associate professor of surgical research at New York University and director of Cancer Chemotherapy Research at New York University Medical Center and its affiliated Bellevue and University hospitals. Her work analyzed a wide range of anti-cancer agents, explored the relationship between patient and tissue culture response, and developed new techniques for administering cancer chemotherapy.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Wright to the President's Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke.

While pursuing private research at New York Medical College, she implemented a new comprehensive program to study stroke, heart disease, and cancer, and created another program to instruct doctors in chemotherapy. In 1971, Dr. Jane Wright became the first woman president of the New York Cancer Society.  She was a founding member of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, (ASCO). Today, ASCO represents 40,000 oncology professionals and is the largest organization of its kind in the world.