Dr. Maureen McGrath HENDERSON,
a world-famous epidemiologist and expert on cancer prevention, died on December 4th 2012 at age 86. Born May 11, 1926, in Tynemouth, England, the daughter of Dr. Leo E. Henderson, a general practice physician, and Helen (McGrath) Henderson, Maureen grew up in northern England. She first attended a convent school, then went on to earn degrees in medicine and public health at the University of Durham. After completing a fellowship under the guidance of leading British epidemiologist Richard Doll, in 1960 she emigrated to the United States and held faculty positions at the University of Maryland and at Johns Hopkins University. Maureen became department chair at the University of Maryland and then relocated to the University of Washington in 1975 as Professor of Epidemiology and Medicine and Associate Vice President for Health Affairs. In 1983, Maureen founded the Cancer Prevention Research Program at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and worked tirelessly as its director for 11 years. Her research focused on prevention of several common and important diseases: particularly cancer, but also cardiac disease, adverse pregnancy outcomes, hypertension, and stroke. Maureen co-directed two major cancer prevention trials, including the very large Women's Health Initiative. This research evaluated the risks and benefits of hormone therapy after menopause and whether a low-fat diet could prevent cancer. She served on many federal advisory panels, was president of the Society for Epidemiologic Research and the American Epidemiological Society, and was elected to the Institute of Medicine. Among many other honors, in 1997 she was awarded the Order of the British Empire, which is among the highest civilian honors bestowed by the British government, for her work in cancer prevention. The O.B.E. was presented to her by Her Majesty The Queen in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
Maureen retired in 1998. Her non-professional interests included sailing, golf, and American baseball, as a fan of the Baltimore Orioles and especially the Seattle Mariners. She spent many hours playing duplicate bridge, which was her favorite pastime.
She is survived by two brothers, Michael Henderson, a retired headmaster, of Kelowna, BC, Canada, and Dr. Kevin Henderson of Guisborough, England, and their families. Maureen was a greatly loved aunt who will be very much missed by nephews and nieces (and their children) all over the world.
Memorial donations in her name may be sent to St. James Cathedral, 804 Ninth Avenue, Seattle, WA 98104 or made on-line at http://stjames-cathedral.org. There will be a memorial service at St. James Cathedral, Seattle on December 14th at 2pm.
Written by Thomas Koepsell, MD, MPH Professor Emeritus Epidemiology and Health Services, University of Washington