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Trailblazer Edith Mitchell, oncologist and Brigadier general, dies at 84

Edith Mitchell's legacy lives on in cancer research and military service

The medical and military communities mourn the loss of a distinguished figure, Edith Mitchell, who left a profound legacy as a retired Brigadier general of the United States Air Force and a respected oncologist. On January 15, 2024, Edith Mitchell’s passing at the age of 84 marked the end of a remarkable journey dedicated to the fight against cancer and the pursuit of equality in healthcare.

In her professional life, Edith Mitchell was known for her tenure as a clinical professor of medicine and medical oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. She was also at the helm of the National Medical Association as its president, contributing significantly to the field of medical oncology. Her commitment to cancer research was evident in her role as the director of the Center to Eliminate Cancer Disparities at Jefferson Health’s Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center. There, she focused her efforts on studying gastrointestinal malignancies, including pancreatic and colorectal cancers. Her research encompassed a range of areas from new drug assessments to the development of innovative therapeutic regimens and chemoradiation strategies.

A staunch advocate for equitable healthcare, Mitchell worked tirelessly to address and eliminate disparities in cancer treatment experienced by racial and ethnic minorities, rural communities, and other underserved groups. Her contributions to oncology were not only through research but also through her participation in the President’s Cancer Panel, which advises the President of the United States on issues related to cancer.

The family and community felt a deep sense of loss with her passing. A memorial service to celebrate her life and achievements was held at the First Baptist Church of Brownsville on January 22, 2024. In remembrance, the family requested that donations be directed to the Edith P. Mitchell Cancer Research Fund at Thomas Jefferson University, continuing her legacy in advancing cancer research.

Edith Mitchell, who was born in 1948 in Brownsville, Tennessee, grew up during a period of racial segregation. Despite these challenges, she pursued her dream of becoming a doctor, earning her Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from Tennessee State University. Breaking barriers, she was the sole black female student at VCU School of Medicine during her time there. Her military career began in the United States Air Force and included an internship and residency in internal medicine at Meharry Medical College, followed by a role as a hematologist at Andrews Air Force Base.

Mitchell’s military career was as impressive as her medical one. She served as the Missouri Surgeon General, initiated a women’s health program within the military, and was pivotal in establishing guidelines for the transport of sick or wounded soldiers. In 2001, she became the first African-American woman to be promoted to Brigadier general in the Missouri Air National Guard, retiring in 2005 after three decades of distinguished service.

Her contributions extended to the academic realm, where she held a position on the faculty of medicine and medical oncology at Thomas Jefferson University. There, she also served as the associate director of Diversity Programs for the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Edith Mitchell’s life came to an unexpected end when she suddenly collapsed at her home in Philadelphia. Up until her health declined in late 2023, she remained active in her work and teaching. Surrounded by her family, she passed away, leaving behind her husband Delmar, whom she married in 1968, two children, four grandchildren, and seven siblings. Her parents and four siblings predeceased her.

The impact of Edith Mitchell’s work was widely recognized, with accolades such as the American Cancer Society Cancer Control Award and the National Medical Association Council on Concerns of Women Physicians Pfizer Research Award among others. Her pioneering spirit and unwavering dedication to medicine and service have left an indelible mark, inspiring many to follow in her footsteps.

Arya Pratama

Arya Pratama adalah seorang jurnalis senior yang fokus pada berita politik. Ia telah bekerja untuk beberapa media terkemuka di Indonesia. Selama kariernya, Arya telah meliput berbagai peristiwa penting di dunia politik Indonesia, termasuk pemilihan umum, sidang parlemen, serta peristiwa-peristiwa penting di tingkat nasional dan internasional.