An Ode to Dr. Brodie
Dr. Angela Brodie’s research is credited with revolutionizing the field of breast cancer treatment.
With her passing in June, her legacy is remembered beyond the bench by the graduate students she mentored over the years. She wore many hats during her 37 years at UMB – professor emeritus in the Department of Pharmacology; world-renowned cancer researcher at the national and global scale; trailblazer in the breast cancer treatment field. But perhaps her most understated, and yet equally important role was that of a mentor.
“Dr. Brodie was a quiet, soft-spoken lady of few but powerful words,” remembers Aashvini Gupta, one of Dr. Brodie’s mentees. “I wouldn’t be where I am without her.” Her research is frequently highlighted as the crowning achievement of her distinguished career. She developed novel therapeutics for breast cancer patients with estrogen-driven cancers and it completely revolutionized how patients are treated. Her early studies recognizing the significance of estrogen in these types of breast cancers, and her foresight to develop inhibitors that block estrogen production have cemented her as one of the leading pioneers of breast cancer research and therapeutic development. Yet despite the prestige her tremendous contributions awarded her, Dr. Brodie remained an effective and engaged mentor to her graduate students.
“Angela accomplished more than most scientists could ever dream of,” says Adam Schayowitz, a former student who still works in the oncology drug development field. “Yet she was so incredibly humble you wouldn’t have the slightest inclination.” This sentiment was likewise reflected by previous students Gupta and Aakanksha Khandelwal. Gupta remembers Dr. Brodie for the positive and encouraging way she seemed to handle every situation. Aakanksha recalls how supportive Dr. Brodie was both during and after her doctorate. Schayowitz further described her as compassionate, trusting, and a fierce defender of her students.
Despite her wide-reaching and busy research career, Dr. Brodie was committed to ensuring the success of her students. “I had an interest in pharmaceutical drug development,” says Schayowitz. “Angela fully supported this. I’m confident I would not have had a similar career path without her guidance and support.” This support seemed to come across to her students from day one. Gupta recalls her first meeting with Dr. Brodie before beginning in the lab and how it solidified her research future. “I loved her calm and smiling face and knew this is where I would like to come in every day for the next five years,” recalls Gupta.
Dr. Brodie also recognized the importance of a lab-life balance. “She was serious and focused in her research but knew how to embody life,” says Khandelwal. Dr. Brodie was an avid horseback rider, a passion shared by Khandelwal, and she remembers swapping riding stories with Angela. Gupta was also touched by Dr. Brodie’s compassion. “I’ll always remember her as the finest and smartest lady who shaped my life in the United States,” she says.
Aside from being a dedicated mentor, Dr. Brodie also inspired many of her graduate students. “Dr. Brodie set a strong example of perseverance and persistence,” says Khandelwal. “She proved to us that the sky is the limit and that one should always dream big despite the obstacles that will need to be overcome.” This never-quit spirit seems to have made a lasting impression on her former students, both in terms of personal experience and in research.
Her qualities as both a researcher and personal mentor will not be forgotten, and her students are left with many fond memories of her. “The time she cross-country skied to work in three feet of snow might be the most quintessential moment I can recall,” says Schayowitz. “Persistence, an attitude that nothing will ever get in the way, and a love for outdoors. That probably defines her best.”
The University of Maryland School of Medicine is creating an endowed professorship in Dr. Brodie’s honor, to be called the Drs. Angela and Harry Brodie Distinguished Professorship in Translational Cancer Research.