Carol D’Onofrio, 1936-2020

Tributes paid to a campaigning academic who fought to reduce racial disparities in the treatment of cancer and cardiovascular disease

June 25, 2020
Carol D’Onofrio 1936-2020
Source: UC Berkeley

A researcher who devoted her career to widening access to healthcare has died.

Carol D’Onofrio was born in Conrad, Montana on 24 February 1936 but then moved to Oregon and spent her high school years in Walla Walla, Washington. At the University of Washington, where she graduated summa cum laude in English and education, she was also voted the university’s most outstanding woman.

After a year as a Rotary fellow in Chile and a period working for the Department of Public Health in East Los Angeles, Professor D’Onofrio returned to the academy for a master’s degree (1960) at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health. She would spend the rest of her career there, securing a doctorate in 1973 and a professorship in 1979. She also served as an adjunct research scientist at the Northern California Cancer Center.

Although there were few role models for female academics in her early days, Professor D’Onofrio was spurred on by a lifelong commitment to ensuring that public health initiatives and healthcare reached the most vulnerable and marginalised groups. Her research examined, for example, ways of reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, particularly among rural youth; rolling out screening programmes for breast and cervical cancer; and improving the options available to cancer patients and those in need of hospice care.

“Carol worked tirelessly to improve health and healthcare for vulnerable populations, including racial and ethnic minorities,” said Amani Allen, executive associate dean of the School of Public Health. Even in retirement, she remained “a dedicated advisory board member for the Ethnic Health Institute, where we worked together on various efforts, including education and awareness and other health promotion campaigns for reducing racial and ethnic disparities in cardiovascular disease and raising awareness of the high and disproportionate risk of breast cancer among African American women”.

In 2009, Professor D’Onofrio was selected as the School of Public Health’s Alumna of the Year, an honour given to those who have made “significant contributions in the field of public health” but can also boast “achievements/qualities that can provide inspiration to the graduating class”. Nine years later, she was named one of the school’s 75 most influential alumni as part of the celebrations for “75 years of groundbreaking research and education in the field of public health”. In the official announcement of her death, the university described her as “an unrelenting advocate for the underrepresented”.

Professor D’Onofrio died of cancer on 14 April and is survived by a daughter, a son and four grandchildren.

matthew.reisz@timeshighereducation.com

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