“I decided that I really wanted to make an impact in life and make sure that people remembered I existed. My illness motivated me to think about ways to prevent cancer and diagnose it early.”
Nancy L. Johnson
“WOMEN'S CANCER CRUSADER”
As a breast cancer survivor - and a leader in the battle against breast and cervical cancer -- Carolyn D. Runowicz, M.D. knows a lot about this devastating disease. When she received her diagnosis, it turned her life as a physician upside down.
"Suddenly, not only was I an oncologist giving chemotherapy to my patients, but I was a 41-year-old oncologist having cancer and getting chemotherapy myself," she recalls. It was difficult to spring back into action after treatment. "You pick up the pieces like Humpty Dumpty. It's a process of regaining control; regaining your head and moving forward.
"I didn't understand that you don't just jump up and down for joy on the day chemo is finished. I expected to, but I didn't feel well. I was exhausted." Despite this, Runowicz continued working nine-to-five every day throughout her chemotherapy.
As an advocate testifying for women's health issues before the United States Senate, and as director of the Neag Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Connecticut Health Center, she has played a major role in raising awareness of cancer in women.
Prior to her appointment at the Health Center, she served as professor of Clinical Obstetrics and Gynecology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, and was vice-chairman of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, New York City.
She was the first breast cancer survivor to serve as president of the American Cancer Society, and the first female president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists. In 2004, President George W. Bush appointed her to serve on the National Cancer Advisory Board.
Nominated as a Local Legend of Medicine by former Rep. Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT-5), Runowicz vowed that after battling and beating her disease, she would work to make advances in the treatment and prevention of cancer. "For me cancer was probably the worst experience of my life, and anything I can do to prevent cancer, I have put my arms around," she declares.
She is widely published in scholarly journals, including the "American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology" and the "Journal of Clinical Oncology and Cancer" and has contributed more than 100 papers to the medical literature.
In 2004, Runowicz co-authored a book about advances in cancer prevention titled, The Answer to Cancer, with her physician husband Dr. Sheldon Cherry. Her other books include To Be Alive: A Woman's Guide to a Full Life After Cancer; The Menopause Book: A Guide to Women's Health After 40, also co-authored with Dr. Cherry; and Women and Cancer: A Thorough and Compassionate Resource for Patients and Their Families, with Jeanne Petrek.
Her experience as a breast cancer survivor continues to guide her life. "When you're first diagnosed, you have to put one foot in front of the other. You get a calendar and just start checking off the days, living each day as it comes."
First female president of the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists
Elected chair of the Gynecologic Committee of the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP)
Receives University of Connecticut's Distinguished Alumni Award
Appointed by President George W. Bush to serve as a member of the National Cancer Advisory Board (2004); appointed Chair in 2006
Elected President of the American Cancer Society
Thomas Jefferson Medical College
Obstetrics and Gynecology