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Discovering the causes of cancer and the means of prevention

Mary Fraser, Pioneering Research Nurse, Retires

November 2011 - Linkage Newsletter

Mary FraserMary C. Fraser, R.N., M.A., a research nurse specialist in the Genetic Epidemiology Branch (GEB), recently retired after 34 years at NCI. Ms. Fraser earned her R.N. from the Western Pennsylvania Hospital in Pittsburgh, a B.S.N. from Pennsylvania State University, and her master's in nursing from New York University. She joined the NIH Clinical Center as a nurse in 1977, and in 1979, she transferred to the cancer epidemiology and genetics research program to focus on studies of individuals and families at high risk of cancer. Ms. Fraser also served as a commissioned officer in the U.S. Public Health Service from 1979 to 2007, earning numerous awards, including the prestigious Chief Nurse Officer Award for her service and achievements during this time.

Ms. Fraser has been a pioneer in developing the role of oncology nurses in the care and education of members of cancer-prone families and other high-risk individuals. She is internationally known for her expertise in familial cancer, particularly melanoma. She has been a leader in educating nurses and the medical community about the risks of multiple primary cancers, including treatment-induced cancers. She was awarded the Oncology Nursing Society (ONS) Excellence in Publication Award for Clinical Practice for her work in this area. She has also served as an important liaison between the leadership of ONS and the Dermatology Nurses' Association. In this role, she has advocated for more clinical responsibility for dermatology nurses, similar to the important roles that oncology nurses serve. She was a member of the National Council on Skin Cancer Prevention for almost a decade and of the American Academy of Dermatology Melanoma/Skin Cancer Committee.

For many years, Ms. Fraser was the primary nurse for all clinical studies in DCEG's epidemiology and genetics program. As the range and number of families increased over time, she focused mainly on melanoma-prone families while still overseeing all family studies. She spent many years counseling and educating members of melanoma-prone families that were participating in GEB's research studies. In addition to assisting with clinical examinations, she counseled participants on ways to reduce their risk of melanoma and how to recognize dysplastic nevi and other warning signs of early-stage melanoma. "It was truly gratifying to be involved with these families over many years," she remarked.

With the recent DCEG advances in understanding the susceptibility genes for melanoma, Ms. Fraser has incorporated that information into her counseling efforts and has emphasized to patients and their families the great contributions they have made in helping to advance knowledge about the causes and control of melanoma.