Dr. Audrey Evans is a founding member of the National Wilms Tumor Study and the inspiration for the first Ronald McDonald House. She was born and educated in England and came to the United States as a Fulbright Fellow in 1953. For her entire career she has worked hard to provide each of her patients with the best treatment possible while steadily and consistently advancing the cause of all children with cancer. During her years of patient care she noticed that the patients’ parents often also needed help, and Dr. Evans dreamed of providing temporary housing for families while their children received treatment.
In 1969 the three-year-old daughter of a professional athlete was treated for leukemia. Her parents camped out on hospital chairs and ate makeshift meals from vending machines. They noticed that other families did the same, and many who had traveled from great distances to seek treatment could not afford hotel rooms. They rallied support from teammates and, working with Dr. Evans and the local McDonalds restaurant chain, they established the first Ronald McDonald House in 1974 in Philadelphia. By 1979, ten more Houses had been opened, and today there are 212 Ronald McDonald Houses in 20 countries around the world. We are proud to have been long associated with an NWTS Committee member responsible for bringing such a significant contribution to the families of children with cancer.
Dr. Evans has dedicated her career to helping treat children with cancer. In the early years of clinical research, while living in Boston, Dr. Evans was responsible for some of the first trials of what are today’s leading chemotherapy agents such as dactinomycin and vincristine. In addition, she developed the Evans Staging System that describes a system for staging neuroblastoma and helps design appropriate treatment based upon the stage. In 1969 Dr. Evans became the head of Pediatric Oncology at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and founded the now world-renowned Children’s Cancer Research Center for patient care and research.
Because of her excellent and compassionate care of sick children and their families and her significant contributions to pediatric cancer research, Dr. Audrey Evans has been recognized with many awards. In 1976 she was presented the prestigious Janeway Medal of the American Radium Society. In 1989 her many admirers initiated a drive that established the Audrey E. Evans Chair in Pediatric Oncology at CHOP. In 1994 Dr. Evans shared the National Humanitarian Award with former First Lady Barbara Bush. Dr. Evans was also presented with the Sara Lee Foundation Frontrunner Award in the Humanities in 1995.
But, in the end, of all her many honors Dr. Evans has received, she is most rewarded by being able to help her many patients and their parents.