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Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Jimmie Holland, a Pioneer in Psychosocial Oncology

By Dr. Dianne Shumay

Those of us who work in the field of psychosocial oncology are privileged to care for the emotional and social well-being of cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers. When we talk about mentors in our field, one luminary stands at the very top of the list: Dr. Jimmie Holland.

Honoring the Legacy of Dr. Jimmie Holland, a Pioneer in Psychosocial Oncology

A true pioneer, Dr. Holland established the practical and ethical framework for all of us who followed in her footsteps. Dr. Holland introduced psychosocial oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the late 1970s and went on to become the founding president of the American Psychosocial Oncology Society (APOS). Sadly, Dr. Holland passed away in 2017. She is fondly remembered as someone who led with intelligence, integrity, and kindness. 

With this background in mind, it should come as no surprise that I was elated to hear that Blue Note Therapeutics will co-sponsor the 2022 Jimmie Holland Lifetime Achievement Award, along with Moffitt Cancer Center.

The award will be presented at the APOS Annual Conference taking place this week from March 9 through March 11. I’m excited to join my colleagues from around the country in this virtual event. 

It makes perfect sense for Blue Note to sponsor this prestigious award, as Dr. Holland’s legacy is reflected in everything the company is building.

Her research taught us that the psychological well-being of cancer patients goes hand in hand with their physical well-being, and should be treated with the same level of care and respect. This understanding is the foundation upon which Blue Note was built. 

In short, Dr. Holland saw that oncologists were good at addressing the physical aspects of cancer treatment, such as surgery and chemotherapy, but the emotional and social aspects of cancer were rarely considered. This is the gap in care that became Dr. Holland’s lifetime work, and it is the same gap that Blue Note aims to fill.

Of course, the tools of the trade are changing. Psychosocial oncology used to be practiced only in person, and usually only at major cancer centers.

With the emergence of telemedicine, clients can now meet virtually with providers anywhere through their computers and mobile devices. Blue Note takes technology a step further, allowing patients to access effective psycho-oncology interventions on digital apps. 

Tech may change the way we deliver care, but the underlying principles remain. Our mission, as Dr. Holland taught us, is to provide the highest quality evidence-based psychosocial interventions for people impacted by cancer. We hope to make her proud. 

Dr. Dianne Shumay is head of behavioral science for Blue Note Therapeutics, and director of psycho-oncology at UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center.