Jane C. Wright: Pioneer Doctor in Chemotherapy and Anti-Cancer Chemical Research

Written by Jae Jones

Dr. Jane C. Wright was an African-American pioneer in chemotherapy and anti-cancer chemical research. She was appointed the head of the Cancer Research Foundation at the young age of 33. Wright also became an associate professor at NYU, the associate dean at New York Medical College, and the first female president of the New York Cancer Society by the end of her career in the 1980s.

Born in New York City in 1919, Jane Cooke Wright was the first of two daughters born to Corrine Cooke and Louis Tompkins Wright. Her father was one of the first African-American graduates of Harvard Medical School, and he set high standards for his daughters. Dr. Louis Wright was the first African-American doctor appointed to a staff position at a municipal hospital in New York City and, in 1929, became the city’s first African-American police surgeon.


Wright graduated from New York Medical College in 1945 with high honors. She later interned at Bellevue Hospital from 1945 to 1946, at which she served for nine months as an assistant resident in internal medicine. She married in 1947 and welcomed her first child in 1948. After the birth of her child, she returned to complete her training at Harlem Hospital as chief resident. In 1949, she was hired as a staff physician with the New York City Public Schools, but continued as a visiting physician at Harlem Hospital. She remained in the position for six months before joining her father, director of the Cancer Research Foundation, at Harlem Hospital.

After the death of her father, Dr. Jane Wright was appointed the head of the Cancer Research Foundation. In 1955, Dr. Wright became an associate professor of surgical research at New York University as well as director of cancer chemotherapy research at New York University Medical Center and its affiliated Bellevue and University hospitals.

In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed Dr. Wright to the President’s Commission on Heart Disease, Cancer, and Stroke. Based on the Commission’s report, a national network of treatment centers was established for these diseases. By 1967, Dr. Wright was  the highest ranked African-American woman at a nationally recognized institution. She retired in 1987 after a 40-year career.


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About the author

Jae Jones

Jae Jones has been writing professionally for over 10 years. She holds a degree in Business Administration, and enjoys writing on various topics.

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