Dr. Robert J. McKenna, a former president of the American Cancer Society, died on Jan. 13. Cause of death was not released. He was 78.
McKenna was a teenager when he joined the Navy and served in the Pacific during World War II. Upon his return to the states, he graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Cornell Medical College then taught at the University of Southern California for 35 years.
McKenna also spent four decades working with the American Cancer Society. He ran a committee to promote insurance coverage and employment for recovered cancer patients and lobbied for the passage of the federal Rehabilitation Act of 1973.
In 1985, he was named president of the cancer health agency. Although McKenna only spent a year in office, he launched a cancer prevention study with 1.2 million participants and formed an alliance with the American Heart Association and the American Lung Association to seek federal restrictions on tobacco advertising.
A former president of the Society of Surgical Oncology, McKenna published several textbooks, including “Cancer Surgery” and “Fundamentals of Surgical Oncology.”