Dr Evans begins the show by talking about her personalized Philadelphia Eagles jersey which she was wearing to celebrate the team’s recent Super Bowl win.
MS: How did you come to get the jersey?
Audrey Evans (AE): Forty-eight years ago, I went to the Philadelphia Eagles to pick up a check for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and told them that I also needed money for a house. Thirty-five thousand dollars. I wanted to buy a house in west Philadelphia for the families of my patients. It was the first ever Ronald McDonald house.
MS: whose idea was it?
AE: Whose do you think?! I needed a home away from home for my families. There are 350 some odd ones now. In the old Children’s hospital, I could send the dads to the armed forces place and moms went to stay at the YWCA. I needed a house where I could send the moms and dads together, so that’s how that happened. They did give me the money for the house. It was such a nice place with a nice connotation. McDonalds is nice warm place and the house was near the hospital.
MS: What is the first thing that stands out about all of your accomplishments?
AE: We set up a program to treat kids with cancer. The cure rate went from 25% to 85%. We put it on the map. My husband, Dan, and I were a team. It was Dan’s idea. A sick child creates a sick family. You have to treat the whole family. One of the first person who said you need a team to treat the child was Dr. Sidney Farber. He started the total care of children with care concept. It involved everything from how to understand test results to
MS: Why children?
AE: I think pediatricians are much easier going. They aren’t like some doctors who know what needs to be done and feel they are the big cheese. Pediatric physicians are more likely to do studies to see if what they think is right.
MS: You have to listen to more as a pediatrician because your patients don’t say much.
Who were your mentors?
AE: I went to medical school at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh and Children’s Hospital of Boston. Clergy were allowed to visit the families where I worked. I was a surgical resident where you took one day/week to deal with all of the casualties. I worked in the ER. I saw priests and their affect in the ER and realized that we need different ways to help people get through experiences like this. When I became a doctor, everyone had a role in treating the whole family as a unit.
One day in church I got a message to work with kids who were dying. I felt you should be able to discuss this with children. We had wonderful conversations about heaven. Talking about death if you think it’s going to happen – and you believe in it – creates something that’s OK. Heaven is a good place.
MS: Did you always have this feeling about heaven?
AE: I was brought up in a Christian home. I believe in Jesus. I said my prayers. One time I remember my Mum saying that I should wear something different to church. I told her that it didn’t matter. God saw me in the bathtub naked, so why would he care what I wore to church?
MS: I love your whole being!
Here is a question from the chat about using the body’s immune system to fight cancer.
AE: It’s so perfect! Anything we use affects malignant and healthy cells. If you use the body to kill the bad cells, it’s wonderful! There are no side effects. If you could tell your body to do this, and use pin pointed treatment, it is just great.
MS: Tell us about the Evans Staging System?
AE: I was studying neuroblastoma. When we had a specific tumor, we were able to get it. If it was widespread, we’d have to use systemic chemotherapy. This system helped us answer the question: Can I do more with less or do I have to do more?
I was a woman who cared.
I partnered with others who did good jobs, too.
My husband, Dan, was a pediatric radiation therapist. We all worked to limit the bad and maximize the good.
MS: You were a great mediator of resources.
AE: Our goal was to take care of children past chemotherapy.
AE: I co-founded St. James School here in Philadelphia. It is a Christian school located in the section of the city that has seen the worst gun violence in the US. Most of the children at the school live with their adoptive grandmothers. It is a total care concept. WE address their health, their exercise, everything. No school system can do what we do.
MS: What was it like to be a female doctor in the 1950s?
AE: My parents thought I should be a nurse. I had TB as a child and they thought being a nurse would be easier on me. My sister was a doctor and at one point, one of her teachers said: If she wants to be a doctor, let her be a doctor.
AE relates more in the following article except:
In 1953, a Fulbright fellowship brought her to Boston Children’s Hospital for her residency, where she spent two years, followed by one year in pediatrics at Johns Hopkins.
Upon returning to England, she knew she wanted to stay in pediatrics, but met discouragement. At the time, it was purely a hospital specialty – “and they explained of course it would be a man, so you wouldn’t have an opportunity to do pediatrics.”
Evans was no stranger to sexism. Serving three six-month residencies at the Royal Infirmary teaching hospital, she was barred from sharing her male colleagues’ conveniently located quarters: Evans couldn’t eat with the men, and had to fight for a place to sleep.
She was finally placed in a little two-bedroom “tower” at the top of a circular staircase in the residency – without a bathroom.
“So I had to go down in my dressing gown,” she says with a chuckle. “They took the locks off the doors, so I had to sing in the bath. So it was crazy. And it was wonderful too.”