Feb. 19, 2009 -- Editor's note: Prominent cancer researcher Dr. Eugenia Calle was found dead Tuesday night in her Atlanta condominium after an apparent struggle in her apartment, and police have arrested and charged a man with murder in connection to her death. Calle was vice president of the epidemiology department at the American Cancer Society before she retired last month.
The start of our day here at the American Cancer Society was quickly punctuated by the rumor -- and then the confirmation -- that one of our friends, a valued colleague and mentor, lost her life in a horrific crime sometime Tuesday in Atlanta.
Jeanne Calle was a member our society family since 1989. She was vice president of epidemiology here at our national home office in Atlanta. She was feted by her co-workers two weeks ago as she began the next journey in her life, which was marked by her retirement from the society at the age of 57. She lost her husband to cancer several years ago and recently became engaged to a local attorney.
As noted by Dr. John Seffrin, the society's chief executive officer, "Jeanne brought a formidable intellect and passion for finding answers to cancer through her research. We are shocked and deeply saddened by the senseless loss of this tremendously talented friend and colleague."
Those words can only be a small reflection of what Jeanne meant to those of us who knew her and worked with her.
You probably didn't know Jeanne by her name, but you did know her by her work. She was an epidemiologist who worked incessantly to unlock the secrets of what population-based information can tell us about the causes and risk factors that lead to cancer. There are few researchers in this country who have labored so hard and been so successful at bridging the gap between what we learn from epidemiology research and how we apply that information to our everyday lives.
Jeanne was widely known in her professional community for the outstanding research that she accomplished and published during her too-short life on this earth. She was one of the lead researchers on a report published several years ago that made the case for the link between obesity and cancer. But that was one of only many, many articles that she published in collaboration with her colleagues here at the American Cancer Society and elsewhere.
Jeanne was instrumental in developing data from our CPS II study, which has monitored more than 1 million healthy people since 1982 to look for those elusive clues that help us understand what increases our risk of cancer. She was a guiding light in developing and initiating our successor CPS 3 study, which is continuing to recruit volunteers to take these studies forward into the 21st century.
Eugenia Calle Was More Than a Scientist
Jeanne was more than a scientist. She was a friend to many, a valued colleague, and a committed mentor. She constantly challenged those she worked with to get to the truth, to refine and define their arguments, and always put science first and opinion second. There was never any question about her motivation: She was devoted to the pursuit of excellence in her work and those around her. Her goals were always much loftier than her personal concerns.
We have lost someone very special. Her death was tragic and needless, and defies explanation.
Jeanne Calle was a star in our sky, a sky that tonight and forever more will be missing the brightness of a life so tragically ended.
Len Lichtenfeld is deputy chief medical officer of the American Cancer Society. You can view the full blog by clicking here.