2018 Trailblazer: Margaret Cuomo, MD

margaret cuomo health heroes 2018

You could say politics is in Margaret Cuomo’s DNA. Her late father, Mario, was the 52nd governor of New York, and her brother Andrew currently holds the position. Yet from an early age, Cuomo’s passion was medicine.

She entered the radiology field in the 1980s, when imaging technologies like the CT scan and MRI had just entered the medical arena. “It was so exciting to me that there were these new tools that could enable physicians to pinpoint the diagnosis in a way that had never been done before,” she says.

That decade also brought a flood of people with cancer, many of whom were diagnosed with late-stage or aggressive forms of the disease. “It seemed like we were not ahead of the game, we were behind,” Cuomo says. “We were losing too many young, productive lives. After a while, I reached a critical tipping point where I said to myself, ‘We must be able to do better.’”

In 2013, she wrote A World Without Cancer, a book focused on the power of cancer prevention. “There are many strategies within our control every day, from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep,” Cuomo says.

She points to several, including a plant-based diet, physical activity, good quality sleep, stress management, smoking cessation, and sun protection. “These are messages that we can start offering our young people and carry right through the lifecycle,” she says.

Cuomo also pushes for prevention through two nonprofit organizations: TrueHealth Initiative is a coalition of experts promoting lifestyle as medicine, and HeritX aims to prevent inherited cancers linked to the BRCA gene mutation. She believes that with initiatives like these, a world without cancer is possible.

“When you get brilliant minds together and they’re focused and dedicated, amazing things can happen,” she says.