Class notes: In memoriam

Jeanne Calle and Richard Letz (left photo) and Carmen Rodriguez and Jeanne Calle
Jeanne Calle and Richard Letz (left photo) and Carmen Rodriguez and Jeanne Calle (right photo)

RSPH loses two beloved adjunct faculty

The RSPH recently lost two well-known adjunct faculty members. Carmen Rodriguez and Jeanne Calle were respected epidemiologists at the American Cancer Society and longtime friends. Rodriguez, 52, died of adrenal cancer on Nov. 14, 2008, at her home in Marietta, Georgia. Calle, 57, died as a result of a homicide on Feb. 19, 2009, at her home in Atlanta.

As their colleagues and students attest, both women enjoyed the intellectual challenges of researching the causes of cancer. A physician from Spain, Rodriguez published more than 100 scientific articles, with a special interest in studying ovarian and prostate cancers. Her work on the effects of hormone replacement therapy and cancer earned the attention of the media, with whom she had a natural rapport.

Rodriguez served as a Spanish-speaking spokesperson for the ACS and often took part in interviews with Spanish-language TV networks, newspapers, and magazines. Her skills and interests meshed with those of her husband, Dirk Schroeder, co-founder of DrTango Inc. The web-based company provides multicultural health care management, marketing, and communications, primarily for Hispanic markets.

The couple moved to Atlanta in 1993 when nutrition expert Reynaldo Martorell recruited Schroeder to teach international health at the RSPH. Rodriguez joined ACS for what she often referred to as her “dream job.” They soon formed a close friendship with Richard Letz, professor and chair of behavioral sciences and health education, and his wife, Jeanne Calle.

Born and reared in Akron, Ohio, Calle served as an epidemiologist in cancer risk assessment at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and with the CDC, where she studied the effects of Agent Orange on Vietnam veterans. Her 20-year career with ACS included many accomplishments, including two landmark studies on the relation of obesity to cancer, advancing understanding of the risk factors for breast and ovarian cancers, and research on hormone replacement therapy and female cancers.

Calle and Rodriguez collaborated on their research, including the Cancer Prevention Study II, led by Calle and one of the largest cancer studies in the world. In 2003, Calle, Rodriguez, and colleagues co-wrote an article in the New England Journal of Medicine that identified several forms of cancer not previously linked to body weight. The study results caught the attention of the media, including 60 Minutes newscaster Leslie Stahl, who interviewed Calle about the relationship between obesity and cancer.

At Calle's memorial service, ACS chief medical officer Otis Brawley described her as "this small woman with the big voice" who stood by her principles to practice good science and who loved to help others. Calle cared for her husband, Rick, who died of cancer in 2004, and provided critical emotional support to Rodriguez, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2005.

Two weeks before Calle died, she retired as vice president of epidemiology at the ACS National Home Office in Atlanta. She is survived by her fiancé, Charles Beaudrot, and several family members. In addition to her husband, Dirk, Rodriguez is survived by their sons, Alesh and Chavi.

Table of Contents