A Lasting Legacy: Dr. Jimmie C. Holland, MD

Our Founding President

Dr. Jimmie Holland, MD
The Cancer Letter

The Mother of Psychosocial Oncology

The late Dr. Jimmie C. Holland has been central to the establishment of psychosocial oncology as a subspecialty within oncology dealing with the psychological, social, and behavioral aspects of cancer. In the 1970s, she recognized the need to treat the emotional trauma experienced by many cancer patients and their families, and ultimately became the founder of the field of psychosocial oncology.

Founding the Largest Psychiatric Oncology Research Program

With two Fellows, Dr. Holland started the Psychiatry Service at New York’s Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in 1977, developing the methods for diagnosing and treating psychiatric in people with cancer. The Service achieved departmental status in 1996 and Dr. Holland became Chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The Center’s psychiatry program has become the country’s largest training and research program in psychiatric oncology.

Dr. Holland conducted some of the first epidemiological studies of the psychological impact of cancer on individuals and their families, studying how cancer affects patients, their families and care givers, and how psychological and behavioral factors affect risk of cancer and survival.

Dr. Holland is credited with putting psychosocial and behavioral research on the agenda of the American Cancer Society in the early 1980s, leading to the creation of the Society’s scientific advisory committee on psychosocial and behavioral research. The Society awarded her its Medal of Honor in 1993. She also is the founding President of the American Society of Psychosocial Oncology (APOS) and the International Psycho-oncology Society (IPOS), which provide international and national networks for clinicians and researchers in psychosocial oncology.

About Dr. Holland's Life & Work

A graduate of Baylor University in Waco, TX, Dr. Holland earned her medical degree from the Baylor Medical School in Houston. She interned at St. Louis City Hospital and had residency training at Malcolm Bliss Psychiatric Hospital, Washington University and Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Holland held appointments in the Department of Psychiatry at the State University of New York at Buffalo between 1956 and 1973 and at the major teaching hospital where she served as Director of Psychiatry.

In 1972-1973, Dr. Holland served as a Special Consultant in the Soviet Union on a National Institute of Mental Health Joint Schizophrenia Research Study. In 1974, she became Assistant Chief of the Psychiatric Consultation Services, Montefiore Hospital, Albert Einstein College of Medicine. In 1977, she became Chief of the Psychiatry Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Professor of Psychiatry at Cornell University Medical College, becoming Vice-Chairman of the Cornell Department of Psychiatry in 1996. In 1989, Dr. Holland was appointed to the first endowed chair for psychosocial oncology, the Wayne E. Chapman Chair in Psychiatric Oncology. In the same year, she published, as senior editor, the first text on psychosocial oncology, The Handbook of Psychooncology, Oxford University Press. In 1998, her new Textbook of Psycho-Oncology was published by Oxford University Press. In the fall of 2000, Dr. Holland published, with medical journalist Sheldon Lewis, The Human Side of Cancer, HarperCollins. She is co-founder of the Psycho-Oncology journal and serves on several editorial boards, including Cancer.

A Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American College of Psychiatrists, and a former President, as well, of the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine, Dr. Holland has served on national committees for the National Cancer Institute and the National Institute of Mental Health. She was elected as a Fellow in the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Science in 1995. The American Psychiatric Association awarded her its Presidential Commendation in 2000.