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Jimmie Holland

Psycho-Oncologist Dies at Age 89

We share the sorrow of her family, friends, colleagues and patients at the death of Jimmie Holland a valued Board member of the Chemotherapy Foundation on December 24, 2017. Dr Holland’s enlightened understanding of the uncertainties and confusions that faced cancer patients during a clinical course of treatment was contrary to the prevailing keep a stiff upper lip attitude and expectations of treating physicians. Her guidance in going beyond the traditional parameters of the profession fit well the mission of a not-for-profit organization supporting innovative cancer research. She is best known for the introduction of new concepts in the care of cancer patients. As a bold voice in her field advocating a kinder gentler psychiatric approach, Dr Holland was recognized as the founder of psycho-oncology a new specialty in psychiatry.


Growing up as daughter of a cotton farmer in a backwater town of Texas was an unlikely start for a career that brought her to the pinnacle of academic achievement culminating in the establishment of full time psychiatric services at Memorial Sloan-Kettering, the first woman to head up a clinical department at a major cancer center.


Married to James F. Holland, MD, FAACR, Distinguished Professor of Neoplastic Diseases in the Department of Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York and survived by six children and nine grandchildren, she was an early exemplar of dual roles for women who successfully combined successful careers with family responsibilities.


Initial plans for a nursing career were changed when she learned of the expanding opportunities for women in medicine. She enrolled at Baylor Medical School and from there went on to a life of impressive professional achievements.


Dr Holland practiced and taught psychiatry at the State University of New York at Buffalo. In 1972 she acted as consultant to a joint Soviet-American schizophrenia research study in Moscow returning to teaching and clinical practice at Montefiore Hospital in the Bronx.


In a PBS documentary in 2015 Cancer: The Emperor of All Maladies based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by Siddhartha Mukherjee, Dr. Holland focused on the emotional toll of a catastrophic illness and importance of psychological support.


Becoming a well recognized leader in her field, Dr Holland was Founder and president of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society and the International Psycho-Oncology Society. She was a member of many professional organizations. In 2005, the American Association of Cancer Research honored her with the Joseph H. Burchenal Memorial Award for Outstanding Achievement in Clinical Cancer Research. She served with distinction on AACR committees including the Clinical Cancer Research Committee in 2009, the Annual Meeting Program Committee in 2011, the African Cancer Researchers Travel Award Committee in 2016, and the Biedler Award Review Committee in 2017, and Chaired the AACR Task Force on Survivorship in 2009.


Her presentations at recent Chemotherapy Foundation Symposia emphasized the need for oncologists to recognize and help patients deal with emotional stress during active treatment and thereafter. In supporting the mission of the Foundation, Dr Holland could reach out to patients she had helped and those she worked with on committees of professional organizations during a lifetime career. Her participation as a Board member during the last two years was greatly appreciated. Dr Holland’s lasting influence on trainees who carry on her belief in the importance of comprehensive psychiatric interventions for cancer patients ensures her legacy. Her death is a profound loss to Dr James Holland, her family, friends, colleagues and patients. Jimmie Holland is well remembered for her empathy and warmth by all who knew her.

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