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In Memoriam: Jessie Gruman


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Jessie Gruman, president and founder of the Center for Advancing Health, died at home on Monday, July 14, 2014 after a long illness.

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. Jessie was a tireless advocate for patients. For the past ten years, Jessie focused her efforts and the efforts of CFAH on advancing patient engagement as well as helping people find and benefit from good health care. We will deeply miss her powerful and inspiring voice for patients, families and caregivers.

No words can adequately express our sadness at Jessie's death or our gratitude for the opportunity to know and work with her.

M. Chris Gibbons, MD, MPH
Chair, Board of Trustees
Center for Advancing Health

Jessie's family has asked that contributions be made to:

Memorial services honoring Jessie will be held in New York City and Washington, DC this fall.

A note of thanks from Jessie's family and a collection of tributes is available here.

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Comments on this post
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Dirk Felleman says
July 14, 2014 at 10:20 PM

Jessie was one of my favorite people for all of the reasons that those who knew her understand and my world is less without her. I'm so sorry for her loved ones and for all of us.

Michael Millenson says
July 15, 2014 at 1:31 AM

Jessie was a friend, mentor and a truly unique voice of passion, compassion and just the right amount of sardonic humor to keep everything in perspective. Dirk Felleman's comment above got it exactly right: "one of my favorite people for all the reasons that those who knew her understand, and my world is less without her."

We will all miss her a great deal. May her memory be a blessing.

Gregg Masters says
July 15, 2014 at 1:44 AM

A true warrior and inspiration to many. Jessie's passing is a loss we'll all feel, however her advocacy legacy and spirt will live on. RIP Jessie!

Regina Holliday says
July 15, 2014 at 7:34 AM

I was honored to present with Jessie several times and she was an amazing speaker with tact and grace. Our world is less with her loss.

Andre Blackman says
July 15, 2014 at 8:02 AM

Several years ago I fondly remember attending a book signing event for Jessie when I lived in Washington DC. I was still at the beginning of my career, not that long out of college. Just seeing her passion for patients and re shaping the health care system made a lasting impression on me.

She even took some time to talk to me afterwards and gave me career advice but more importantly, life advice. A true champion and inspiration.

Carolyn Thomas says
July 15, 2014 at 8:21 AM

I am saddened and shocked by this news. Jessie was a tireless champion for patients, a visionary, and a brilliant writer whose legacy will live on through the words she left us. My sincere condolences to her family and friends.

Elaine Schattner says
July 15, 2014 at 9:56 AM

Jessie was such a warm, caring and insightful person. And so inspiring! Even while Jessie was going through rough medical times, she gave of herself constantly, encouraging and supporting others (myself included). It is a privilege to have known such a remarkable woman.

Casey Quinlan says
July 15, 2014 at 10:02 AM

Deeply saddened by this news. Jessie was a giant in the patient empowerment movement. Her loss will echo forever, but so will her legacy. The work she did will help everyone. I'm grateful she was here.

Teresa Masters says
July 15, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Very sad loss. Cancer has turned my life direction to Advocacy. Patient Engagement is a major direction. I so appreciate the walking the path behind the lead of such as Jessie Gruman.
Thank you all.

Michael VonKorff says
July 15, 2014 at 11:46 AM

I was blessed to have Jessie as a friend and colleague. I had dinner with her and Richard a little over a month ago--she was frail but determined, giving ME guidance and support, which says volumes about her will and her humanity. This is a very sad day for everyone she has helped and inspired over the years.

Alicia Staley says
July 15, 2014 at 11:52 AM

Jessie was an inspiration to me. This is a very sad day.

Joe Gitchell says
July 15, 2014 at 12:15 PM

The world is more gray and dull today than before. May all of those who knew Jessie draw comfort from the indelible memories of her tireless contributions to the health and wellbeing of others as well as her essence as a genuinely kind and giving human.

Mary Woolley says
July 15, 2014 at 12:20 PM

It is heartbreaking to lose Jessie. She was a mover of mountains and will long remain an inspiration as others attempt that feat, in the interest of patient empowerment and true advancement in health and well-being. I have never met anyone more distinguished in the dual attributes of informed, calm tenacity and deeply felt human connectivity. I salute her and extend condolences to her much-loved husband and family.

Steve Woolf says
July 15, 2014 at 12:37 PM

I can't add more than the wonderful remembrances above. We've all lost a dear friend. And patients have lost one of their most tireless champions. She will be long remembered.

Carol Schechter says
July 15, 2014 at 12:45 PM

I was blessed to know Jessie as a friend and colleague. She was talented, smart, funny, passionate, compassionate, and a tireless advocate. She made the world a better place, and her passing brings a great sadness to all who knew her.

Gary Schwitzer says
July 15, 2014 at 2:24 PM

Jessie was a strong voice for patients. One of the finest tributes to her will come as others continue her important work.

Alicia Aebersold says
July 15, 2014 at 2:31 PM

Such a loss - Jessie was a powerful, positive communicator and an incredible inspiration. The world is better because she was in it.

Donna Cryer says
July 15, 2014 at 2:36 PM

I am too sad to write anything more.

Sue Curry says
July 15, 2014 at 2:40 PM

Jessie was visionary, inspirational, and aspirational - her legacy is tremendous and our fortune in having her in our lives for too short a time is boundless.

Jan Oldenburg says
July 15, 2014 at 4:02 PM

Although I didn't have the pleasure of knowing Jessie personally, I am a huge fan of her work and her leadership. I am so sorry to hear this news. The patient engagement world will miss her deeply.

Connie Davis says
July 15, 2014 at 8:45 PM

The world was brightened by Jessie in so many ways and I am very sorry for all of our loss, and mostly for her family. From the first time I met Jessie, she influenced me in ways both small and profound. I understand the word "maven" because of Jessie. I took risks that worked out because of Jessie. And I sidestepped dead ends because of Jessie. I find myself quoting her often…and I'm sure I will continue to do so.

I am most grateful for the last two years as a Fellow at CFAH where we grappled with the task of truly engaging people in their health and health care. Jessie's passion, devotion and sense of urgency uniquely guided us forward.

Amy Berman, John A. Hartford Foundation says
July 15, 2014 at 10:29 PM

Jessie has forever changed the health care landscape, helping people and families have a say in their health and health care. Jessie will continue to inspire and encourage through her work. Am grateful to have gotten to know her. My heart is heavy tonight and thoughts go out to her family and many, many friends.

Patrick McCabe, GYMR Public Relations says
July 16, 2014 at 12:04 AM

I feel tremendous gratitude tonight for Jessie's very full life and the tremendous difference she made in her too-short time among us. Jessie was a provocateur, an inspiration, a teacher and tireless advocate for patients. She offered us all a Master Class in how to live and die with grace. I am glad I knew her and grateful to her. God bless Jessie on her journey, and bring peace to her family, coworkers and friends.

Judy Salerno says
July 16, 2014 at 1:01 AM

Thank you, Jessie, for your commitment to patients and your outstanding leadership. You inspired so many of us and we will miss you.

Donna Grande says
July 16, 2014 at 6:54 AM

Jessie was a true leader--passionate, committed, and inspirational. Her time on earth was far too short, but how blessed to be able to call her friend. May her legacy for advancing health stay alive in each of us as we continue to "fight good fights."

Peace and comfort to all,

Trisha Torrey says
July 16, 2014 at 8:24 AM

Few people could impact others in such positive ways as Jessie did throughout her lifetime - and now beyond. Her illnesses were her cross to bear, and she carried them with grace, dignity, positivity, and purpose so the rest of us would benefit. I feel blessed that Jessie was a friend and colleague, and I will miss her.

Stephanie Sugars says
July 16, 2014 at 2:10 PM

Jessie Gruman remains a role model for me - her grace under pressure, her heartfelt thinking, her generosity of spirit pervade all of her work... work that continues to ripple into the wider world.

I feel both sad and fortunate today. Sad that Jessie suffered and died, fortunate that she chose to live so well and make such a big difference in so many lives.

Lew Sandy MD says
July 16, 2014 at 2:41 PM

Jessie led a life of both courage and signficance. She not only touched people personally, she fundamentally altered how both individuals and institutions think about patients and meaningful patient engagement. While I am sad she is gone (after so many battles), I am grateful her legacy will endure and even best to all who knew her.

Michael Goldstein says
July 16, 2014 at 3:49 PM

I, too, am deeply saddened by this news... we will all miss her wisdom, perspective, advocacy, and passion.

I, personally, have been forever changed as a result of my interactions with Jessie. She had a unique capacity to connect with others on a personal and emotional level, while also offering her input, feedback and perspective in a way that was precise and powerful. As I now realize (as I write this comment), Jessie's "way of being" epitomizes effective engagement!

As a result, I am committed to furthering her vison of patient and health engagement.

David Sobel, MD Kaiser Permanente says
July 16, 2014 at 6:29 PM

We have lost a great colleague, friend, and inspirational leader. Jessie had a unique combination of behavioral science, public policy savvy, personal experience (way too much for one person), and an indomitable and refreshing feistiness and common sense. Oh, how I will miss her voice, her sensibility, her spirit.

Hers was a life well lived, and an inspiration to all to make a difference.

Anne Polta says
July 16, 2014 at 6:32 PM

I am at a loss for words. Jessie had so much passion for her life's calling. Her voice was always authentic, always insightful and generous. My condolences to all who knew her and especially to her loved ones.

Gerardine Wurzburg says
July 16, 2014 at 9:18 PM

She was a gracious human that taught us all. Her perspective from living with the knowledge that the timeline was shorter, guided her. She gave, she humored, she embraced what she could. She was always a reminder to be kind.

Steven Locke, MD says
July 16, 2014 at 10:37 PM

Every interaction I had with Jessie left me invigorated, challenged, and supported. She was a force of nature, devoted to the improvement of health care and savvy enough to apply pressure for change, with just enough pull and just enough push to make a difference. She was a visionary of how things could be and inspired me and many others.
It's hard to imagine our field without her voice, but it lives on in those of us she has touched. I hope to learn some day that there will be an award in her honor and memory that recognizes others who now must carry the torch for her.

Maulik Joshi says
July 17, 2014 at 12:03 AM

Jessie was a truly wonderful human being. She gave so much to all of us in many, many ways. She was passionate, inspirational and changed our world for the better. I am a better person from knowing her.

My condolences to all her friends and family.

Bill Lichtenstein says
July 17, 2014 at 12:36 AM

Shocked and saddened to see the news that Jessie has passed away. Jessie was part of a consortium of MacArthur Foundation mental health grantees along with my company and others, and we would all convene at the foundation in Chicago for the better part of a week each year to share experiences and cross-pollinate. I held her in the highest-esteem and followed her work at CFAH in the years since. I saw her last at the Brown University graduation where she was getting an honorary degree, but I was not aware of the seriousness of her illness so this comes as a shock. Condolences to all in her life. We've lost a sparkling star.

Nyna Williams says
July 17, 2014 at 9:28 AM

Sad that Jessie had to suffer and that she is gone. I have known her since grad school at TC, when she mentored me on my first research study. My condolences to Richard.

Steven Findlay says
July 17, 2014 at 12:44 PM

Jessie's voice, spoken and written, cut through the muck. She was fearless in speaking her mind, unafraid to offend. Yet she did so with a manner, spirit, grace and flair that never actually did offend, and always got the message across. She had much to teach from her own experience and from a keen mind that leavened earnestness with humor and wit. She was inspiring. Her wisdom and contributions on patient engagement -- and the purpose of healthcare and healing in general -- have made a permanent contribution. I will miss her and reading what she had to say.

Pat Kobor says
July 17, 2014 at 12:50 PM

My sympathies to her family and friends for this huge loss. I admired Jessie so much, and know her work will continue to benefit scientists, clinicians and patients.

Ron Abeles says
July 17, 2014 at 2:46 PM

Jessie and I shared occasional pancake breakfasts in Bethesda for several years after I moved from NIA to OBSSR at NIH. She was a sage, understanding, and compassionate advisor on professional and personal issues and difficulties. Never did she let pass a word of complaint about her own health or other issues. Her contributions to behavioral and social aspects of health, disease, and care-giving will be a lasting tribute to her. I miss her already.

CFAH Staff says
July 17, 2014 at 5:40 PM

Virginia Sloan, Jessie Gruman's sister-in-law, asked CFAH to share this note from Jessie's family:

Jessie's family is incredibly overwhelmed and honored by the outpouring of love, admiration, and grief following Jessie's death. Though we knew this was likely Jessie's last cancer, she and Richard, Jessie's husband, and my brother, fought so tenaciously for so very long.

A light has gone out in our family, and we greatly appreciate knowing that you share our devastation, shock, and loss. I'm sure you will hear more from us, but please know what a comfort it is to read all of these blogs, tweets, and other posts.

Thank you,
Virginia Sloan

Matthew Holt says
July 17, 2014 at 6:27 PM

I only met her briefly once and saw her speak a couple of times--but it's amazing to think her she dragged the patient movement so far, and did it so elegantly and with such great poise. And amazing to see the love she evoked.

Ralph N Wharton MD, Columbia University says
July 19, 2014 at 3:09 PM

Jessie was a woman of consummate courage and dedication to the cause of improving our dysfunctional health care system. She was an enlightened advocate for compassionate quality care which we sorely need. No one was a more passionate and committed soldier than she or more zealous and articulate.

All of us at this University who knew her and her equally dedicated husband mourn her loss. We shall have a healthier world because of her determined efforts and her own superb efforts and lifetime of struggle for her own health and those of others.

Dawn K. Wilson says
July 20, 2014 at 8:23 AM

Jessie was a special friend and gracious colleague. It was such a special moment for me to honor her with the inaugural "Jessie Gruman Patient Engagement Award" on behalf of the Society of Behavioral Medicine. Her contributions will continue to impact the field forever. She was a visionary, a leader and most of all a giving, caring friend!

Kellie Slate Vitcavage says
July 21, 2014 at 9:40 PM

We were so fortunate to have Jessie come to Maine to share her passion, her wealth of information and most of all her commitment to patient engagement. It's because of her influence, we are now very involved in fostering meaningful patient engagement at Maine Quality Counts, a nonprofit health care collaborative where we are helping to create effective patient provider partnerships in the visit where it really matters for people to get the right care at the right time.

My thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends. She will be incredibly missed and may her legacy continue on in many of us as we continue to cause a Revolution in health care through the power of patients. God Bless.

Susan Levenstein says
July 23, 2014 at 8:39 AM

A wonderful woman, with great spunk and dedication and style, who managed to accomplish incredibly much and was a delight to hang with.

David K Ahern says
July 23, 2014 at 2:10 PM

The many poignant and affectionate comments above are a testament to Jessie's positive impact on so many of our lives. Jessie was gracious enough to take some of her precious time to speak with me and Ellen Beckjord in January about the challenges of cancer "survivorship" for a book we are co-editing with Brad Hesse. Jessie offered many words of wisdom and despite all of the flaws in the cancer care system offered hope and optimism about the future. We will make sure that her comments hold a prominent place in the text as a tribute to a truly remarkable human being.

Kent Bottles MD says
July 23, 2014 at 10:44 PM

I am glad I got to know Jessie. I think she made me a better physician and a better person. She was very supportive of my work and she made me feel special. I wish I could be half as good as Jessie. I miss her terribly. She was a great person, friend, colleague, and mentor.

Carolyn Clancy says
October 8, 2014 at 3:21 PM

My life and work has been so enhanced by Jessie's generous contributions -- when we really achieve patient-focused care it will be in large part a tribute to her relentless passion, enviable communications skills and patience with those who struggled with the concept of 'organizing care around our lives'. It is inevitable that I quote Jessie's insights with great frequency. Beyond her many professional accomplishments, Jessie was a friend and mentor. Her departure leaves an incredible legacy and a gaping hole in my heart.