Honoring a Life Lost Too Soon
Iee ching wu Anderson received her medical degree in 2002 from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, where she met her husband, neurosurgeon William Anderson. She trained as a resident at Johns Hopkins as well, leaving to take a faculty position at Harvard. In 2008, the couple was recruited together to return here. But Wu Anderson’s promising career was cut short. Before she left Harvard, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. By August 2012, the young physician had died, leaving behind her husband and the couple’s young daughter.
“She was one of us. She trained here,” says otolaryngologist–head and neck surgeon Jean Kim. “We needed to find a way to celebrate her life.”
Before Wu Anderson’s death, Kim and her colleague Sandra Lin were already spearheading the planning for a new annual lecture aimed at advancing the leadership of women in otolaryngology–head and neck surgery and acknowledging their contributions to the field. Both Kim and Lin believe that it’s pivotal to attract more women involved in the specialty, especially in leadership roles.
Although medical students are split evenly between men and women, our specialty is only about 20 percent female, they explain. In the leadership positions in otolaryngology–head and neck surgery, women form an even smaller pool. Through this lectureship, the doctors say, they wanted to provide a venue to explore what women, especially leaders, bring to the table for this specialty.
It was only natural, Kim says, to make this a named lectureship to honor Wu Anderson after she died. But getting the endeavor off the ground required funding, she adds. Lectureships, in which speakers are invited each year to deliver talks with common themes, require money to pay for speakers’ travel, accommodations and a stipend.
To raise funds, Kim and Lin, along with colleagues in Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery and Neurosurgery, reached out to anyone who might want to donate. “We were overwhelmed by everyone’s generosity,” Kim says. Wu Anderson’s family, medical school classmates and colleagues from both Johns Hopkins and Harvard were all eager to contribute. Even several visiting faculty and lecturers who had never met Wu Anderson donated to fund the endeavor. Many could relate to losing a loved one to breast cancer, Kim says, or had struggled with the disease themselves.
On October 19, 2012, Carol Bradford, head of the University of Michigan’s Department of Otolaryngology–Head and Neck Surgery, delivered the inaugural Iee Ching Wu Anderson Memorial Lecture, discussing challenges of leadership as well as specific challenges that women in the field face.
Kim and Lin note that it was a fitting tribute to Wu Anderson, well attended by members of the department and others from around Johns Hopkins n
The next Iee Ching Wu Anderson Memorial Lecture is scheduled for October 17, and Nancy Young, a professor of otolaryngology–head and neck surgery at Northwestern, is the speaker.