• "It is remarkable that so many people on these pages --..."
    - Francine Parnes
  • "Dr. Holland had it all: nth-degree intelligence, warmth,..."
    - Rowann Gilman
  • "Jimmie was a mentor, a friend and my inspiration. She..."
    - Maria Costantini-Ferrando
  • "One more!"
    - Bess Heitner
  • "I wrote below how wonderful my sessions with Dr. Holland..."
    - Bess Heitner


Jimmie Holland, our dear colleague and a founder of the field of psycho-oncology, died on December 24 at the age of 89, surrounded by her family. We extend our condolences to her family, colleagues, and countless patients whose lives she changed. Jimmie was a pioneer in the truest sense. With colleagues, she established a full-time Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan Kettering in 1977 - the first of its kind in the field of oncology - and served as its Chief from then until 1996. She then became Chair of the newly formed Department of Psychiatry and served in that role until 2003. Both programs trained generations of psychiatrists and psychologists in the emotional needs of people with cancer. Jimmie's interest in psycho-oncology arose in the early 1970s in part from discussions with her husband, James Holland, an oncologist on the faculty of the Mount Sinai Medical Center and an important figure in the early development of chemotherapy. When she asked how the patients he treated felt about their disease and its treatment, she quickly realized that very little was known about their experiences - and even less was being done to help them manage their feelings. For more than 40 years, Jimmie made an essential question - "How do people with cancer feel?" - the center of her work. During her years at MSK, she created the nation's largest training and research program in psycho-oncology. In 1984, she produced for MSK the first-ever syllabus on psycho-oncology and, in 1989, was senior editor of the first textbook on the subject. Throughout her career, Jimmie conducted important research about how battles with cancer affect the mind. She helped establish important insights on the best way to treat depression during cancer treatment and to treat anxiety in those who have survived. Jimmie also shared her knowledge with the world. She co-founded the International Psycho-Oncology Society in 1984, and founded the American Psychosocial Oncology Society in 1986. She is credited with putting psychosocial and behavioral research on the agenda of the American Cancer Society (ACS) in the early 1980s. She was also a co-editor-in-chief of the journal Psycho-Oncology. She wrote two books for the public: "The Human Side of Cancer" and "Lighter as We Go." The ACS awarded her its Medal of Honor for Clinical Research in 1994. She was elected a Fellow of the Institute of Medicine in 1995, and received the Presidential Commendation from the American Psychiatric Association in 2000, among many other awards. Through her visionary work, Jimmie changed the field of cancer care by shining a light on the inner lives of patients. She will be dearly missed. Craig B. Thompson, President and CEO; Jose Baselga, Physician-in-Chief; William Breitbart, Chair, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

Published in The New York Times on Dec. 28, 2017
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