Each Wednesday throughout March, in honor of Women’s History Month, Bright Pink will be highlighting a different woman who has made incredible strides for women’s health and wellbeing. #WomenCrushWednesdays are intended to elevate heroic stories of women’s health advocates with the goal of inspiring and motivating that same heroism in you!
Wednesday, March 7th
This week’s crush: Mary Claire King, Ph.D.
“At a time when most scientists believed that cancer was caused by viruses, she relentlessly pursued her hunch that certain cancers were linked to inherited genetic mutations. This self-described ‘stubborn’ scientist kept going until she proved herself right.” – Former President Barack Obama, upon awarding King with the National Medal of Science
How she’s a hero: Mary Claire King is recognized as a pioneer in the field of genetics. In 1990, after years of research and motivated by the passing of a childhood friend, she made a revolutionary link between genetics and cancer through her discovery of the BRCA1 gene–or chromosome 17–that we now consider a main identifier of breast and ovarian cancer. Her discovery came at a time when many scientists believed that cancer was viral and that genes played no role in cancer diagnosis. Her discovery of the BRCA1 gene was revolutionary in not only identifying breast and ovarian cancer, but in diagnosing and treating these cancers as well.
We are also crushing on Mary Claire King because apart from being an amazing researcher and geneticist, she is also an advocate for women’s health and was awarded the National Medal of Science for her commitment to applying her skills in the service of others around the world.
Mary Claire King currently serves as an advisor to Color, a health service that helps individuals understand their genetic risk for hereditary cancers, and is a faculty member at the University of Washington.
Wednesday, March 14th
This week’s crush: Jane C. Wright
“She recognized the value of placing patients on clinical trials. It was not exactly accepted by the medical public…She looked at it as an opportunity to open the gates to new possibilities in treatment of cancer. In that way she was a trailblazer.” – Dr. Robert E. Madden, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at New York Medical College
How she’s a hero: Jane C. Wright is an acclaimed oncologist and cancer researcher from U.S. history who changed how we approach chemotherapy today. Following in the footsteps of her father (who was also a doctor), Jane challenged the status quo when it came to chemotherapy and pushed the medical field to consider chemo as a viable option for cancer patients, as opposed to a last resort strategy. She was also the first doctor to use clinical trials to make cancer treatment more effective.
We also consider Jane C. Wright a hero for her contributions beyond the medical field. Jane was tenacious and fearless when it came to breaking down gender and racial barriers. Not only was she the founder of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, but she was also the first woman elected president of the New York Cancer Society AND the first black woman to hold the position of associate dean at New York Medical College–all at a time when the medical field was dominated by white men.
Jane C. Wright died at the age of 93 in 2013 at her home in New Jersey.
Wednesday, March 21st
This week’s crush: Angelina Jolie
“It is not easy to make these decisions. But it is possible to take control and tackle head-on any health issue. You can seek advice, learn about the options and make choices that are right for you. Knowledge is power.” – Angelina Jolie
How she’s a hero: Angelina Jolie is a household name for her amazing skills on screen, her humanitarian efforts off screen, and her vocal experience with breast and ovarian cancer. In 2013, impacted by the loss of her grandmother, aunt, and mother to breast cancer, Angelina tested positive for the BRCA1 gene mutation–meaning she had an increased risk of developing breast and ovarian cancer over time. This discovery led Angelina to get both a preventive double mastectomy (surgery removing both breasts) and, later, a laparoscopic bilateral salpingo-oophorectomy (surgery removing ovaries and fallopian tubes).
Angelina’s decision was her own, but she did not keep her story private. Instead, she chose to give a voice to her experience and discuss her personal history with breast and ovarian cancer with the world with the hopes of making a positive impact on other women. In any of her personal storytelling about her experience (such as various op-eds she wrote for the New York Times), she always encourages women to be knowledgeable and proactive about their health, have conversations with their doctors, and be empowered to make personalized health decisions. Angelina’s openness has even been attributed to an increased number of women engaging in genetic testing and preventive surgeries. In short, Angelia Jolie made breast and ovarian cancer an open conversation, not a diagnosis to be afraid of–and for that, we give her a hero’s badge.
If you are feeling inspired by this week’s #WomenCrushWednesday, don’t stop here! Join our growing community of women who are becoming their own best breast and ovarian health advocates. Start your hero’s journey right now. #WomensHistoryMonth #SelfCareandShare