In memoriam: patient advocate, author Jessie C. Gruman H’11

Jessie C. Gruman, president and founder of the Center for Advancing Health (CFAH), died on July 14, 2014 after a long illness. Dr. Gruman was the recipient of an honorary doctor of humane letters degree from Syracuse University in 2011. With the philosophy that people will not benefit from the healthcare available to them unless they can participate fully and competently in it, Jessie Gruman thoughtfully and passionately drew on her own experience of treatment for multiple cancer diagnoses, plus surveys, peer-reviewed research and interviews with patients and caregivers as the basis of her work to advocate for policies and practices to overcome the challenges people face in finding good care and getting the most from it.

“We at Falk College were honored to know and be able to nominate Jesse Gruman for an honorary degree at Syracuse University. She led an inspired and committed life giving voice to endless medical consumers. Her advocacy for medical patients and research has helped create a more responsive healthcare system,” notes Diane Lyden Murphy, dean, Falk College.

In 2011, she was the featured guest speaker for a special Falk College lecture where she presented, “The Patient in Patient-Centered Care: What Clinicians Need to Know.” She authored many publications, including “The Experience of the American Patient: Risk, Trust and Choice” (Health Behavior Media, 2009), “Behavior Matters” (Health Behavior Media, 2008) and “AfterShock: What to Do When the Doctor Gives You–or Someone You Love–a Devastating Diagnosis” (Walker Publishing, second edition, 2010), as well as scientific papers and opinion essays and articles.

During her lifetime, Gruman was honored by Research!America for her leadership in advocacy for health research. In addition to her honorary degree from Syracuse University, she received honorary doctorates from Brown University, Carnegie Mellon University, Clark University, Georgetown University, New York University, Northeastern University, Salve Regina University and Tulane University. She was a recipient of the Presidential Medal of The George Washington University. Gruman earned her bachelor’s degree from Vassar College and a Ph.D. in social psychology from Columbia University. In addition to her leadership of The Center for Advancing Health, a nonpartisan Washington-based policy institute funded by foundations and individuals in 1992 to work on patient engagement, she was a professorial lecturer in the School of Public Health and Health Services at The George Washington University.

“Jessie was a tireless advocate for patients. For the past ten years, she focused her efforts and the efforts of CFAH on advancing patient engagement as well as helping people find and benefit from good healthcare. The Center has lost a brilliant colleague. Those of us who have been fortunate enough to know and work with Jessie have lost a dear friend. We will deeply miss her powerful and inspiring voice for patients, families and caregivers,” said M. Chris Gibbons, M.D., MPH, CFAH board of trustees chair.