After an exceptional and unparalleled 60-year career dedicated to the care of children with cancer, Audrey Evans, M.D., recently
announced her retirement.
Dr. Evans came to Children’s Hospital in 1969 to be the first director and chief of the Division of Oncology. This was immediately followed by an array of seminal achievements. She was the first to develop a neuroblastoma staging system, and the fundamental aspects of this system remain in clinical use today. She was the first to describe, along with Dr. Giulio D’Angio, the amazing phenomenon of spontaneous regression of widely disseminated neuroblastoma that she dubbed “4S disease.”
Dr. Evans started a series of international meetings on neuroblastoma research, with the first meeting held in the Stokes Auditorium in 1975. This initial meeting was attended by only 40 participants, but it has evolved into what is now the biannual Advances in Neuroblastoma Research (ANR) conference that is regularly attended by more than 400 of the top clinical and laboratory investigators in neuroblastoma research across the world. She oversaw enormous growth of the Division of Oncology at Children’s Hospital, and trained dozens of individuals who have become leaders in the field.
In addition, Dr. Evans played a key role in the formation of the first Childhood Cancer Cooperative Group, and led many of the group’s early studies. These efforts led to dramatically increased cure rates in a variety of childhood cancers, and established the infrastructure for all of the advancements made since.
Dr. Evans was the first to recognize the importance of the nursing, psychology, and social work disciplines to the care of children with cancer. She recruited individuals in these fields well before her peers, and the current rich collaborative oncology programs with these disciplines in oncology at Children’s Hospital and elsewhere are due to her pioneering efforts.
Faced with the unique issues inherent with a rapidly growing cancer program, namely how to care for children who require prolonged hospital stays or treatment, as well as their families, Dr. Evans had the idea for what is now known as the Ronald McDonald House and co-founded the original house on Chestnut Street in 1974. There are now Ronald McDonald Houses across the globe, all enabled by Dr. Evans’s vision. In 2010, the Ronald McDonald House Charities is scheduled to open the 300th such house. Dr. Evans was also instrumental in starting the Ronald McDonald Camps for children with cancer and children who have survived cancer, establishing the program in 1987.
Dr. Evans has received essentially every honor possible in the field of pediatric oncology. These include, but are not limited to, the Janeway Award, the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Distinguished Career Award, an award from the American Cancer Society, the Spectrum Award of the American Red Cross, the Alpha Delta Kappa International Woman of the Year Award, and most recently, the Osler Award from the University of Pennsylvania.
In her retirement, Dr. Evans plans to focus on medical writing, her church, and horse riding. She will remain active in both national and international childhood cancer programs.