The science, medical, and philanthropic communities around the world were saddened this week to learn that pioneering cancer doctor Audrey Evans – who also co-founded the first Ronald McDonald House for sick children – died at the age of 97, as the Washington Post reported.
Dr. Evans' passing was announced Thursday by Ronald McDonald House Charities, though the organization did not disclose an official cause of death.
Born in the United Kingdom in 1925, Evans took an interest in medicine at an early age as the result of her own childhood hospitalizations for chronic tuberculosis, and she ultimately embarked on a career in the field despite being one of very few females at the time to do so, as Philly Voice profile of the doctor noted.
Evans' medical studies began in Scotland in the early 1950s, and she subsequently earned a Fulbright fellowship to continue her studies and training in Boston, where she worked under the tutelage of renowned cancer doctor Dr. Sidney Farber.
After time spent back in the U.K. and at the University of Chicago, Evans went to Philadelphia to help in the creation of a new pediatric oncology department intended to treat young cancer patients who frequently had little hope of recovery.
Over the course of her career, Evans focused primarily on neuroblastoma, considered among the most common types of tumors in pediatric cancer patients, and she developed a groundbreaking staging system that helped determine optimal treatment plans as well as likely prognoses for those under her care.
In addition to her considerable research and clinical successes, Evans also came to be known for her commitment to what is now commonly referred to as a "total care" approach to pediatric patients and their family members, helping them through not just the physical aspects of their illnesses, but also the emotional and psychological ones.
After continually witnessing the tremendous challenges facing patients and families during their cancer, journeys, Evans was spurred to create a space in Philadelphia for mothers and fathers to receive assistance and respite while overseeing their child's treatment – an initiative that ultimately grew to become the Ronald McDonald House network of over 300 facilities around the world.
Though, over the decades, Evans received countless honors and awards within the field of medical research, it seems clear that the legacy of which she would be most proud is that of a tireless – and hugely successful – advocate for her legions of young patients and their families whose burdens she helped ease in immeasurable ways.