Doctor Receives Augustana Humanitarian Award

Oct 13, 2017

Dr. Judith Kaur
Credit Courtesy of Augustana College

A medical oncologist who's studied cancer among Native Americans has been honored by Augustana College. Thursday night, Dr. Judith Kaur received this year's Richard Swanson Humanitarian Award.

After graduating in 1966, Kaur taught junior high science and worked as a counselor in the Chicago suburbs.

"And I'm telling these young girls - you can be more than a stewardess, you can be more than a secretary. You can be a teacher, yes that's wonderful, but there are these other careers. And then it was like, am I going to practice what I preach ?"

So Kaur went back to school and earned a medical degree. 

A member of the Choctaw Tribe, one of her first jobs was in North Dakota where she began researching cancer among Native Americans.

"When I was going through school, I was told by my professors Indians don't get cancer - they get alcoholism, they have car accidents, they have lots of other things like TB, but they don't get cancer. And I said, I'm seeing cancer every day - what's wrong with these statistics ? Well they weren't recording in the places where I was seeing patients."

And since then Kaur has continued her research, trying to figure out the role of diet, exercise, smoking, alcohol, and genetics. She's also been looking at possible health similarities between US tribes and other countries, including China and in Africa.

Currently she works at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota - as hospice medical director, professor of oncology, and medical director for Native Americans in the Mayo Cancer Center.