Over a 40-year career, Jimmie C. Holland, M.D., focused on how patients feel about their treatment and how people responded emotionally and psychologically to life-threatening illnesses. She called this focus “psychological care of the medically ill,” and encouraged oncologists who were conducting clinical trials to include questions about patients’ quality of life in their data collection and research.
She worked to create objective scales to evaluate and measure aspects of the patient experience and validate whether psychological treatments were working. This work was foundational for today’s research in cancer and treatment symptom management, quality of life, and the incorporation of patient reported outcomes in the NCI’s Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events.
Dr. Holland founded the subspecialty of psycho-oncology, a combination of oncology and psychiatry. She established a full-time psychiatry service at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (the first of its kind in the world); founded the American Psychosocial Oncology Society; and cofounded the International Psycho-Oncology Society. With her husband, James F. Holland, M.D., who was chair of medicine at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, she conducted the first quality-of-life studies with cancer clinical trial participants. Later, she conducted some of the first epidemiologic studies of the psychological impact of cancer on patients and their families.
She was one of just three women accepted into the class of 90 men at Baylor Medical School in the mid-20th century. The polio epidemic during her residency in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital cinched her resolve to learn how people dealt with catastrophic illness.
To learn more about Dr. Holland, see this article at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.