In Memory of Mary (“Dicey”) Jackson Scroggins, 1950 – 2022

Mary (“Dicey”) Jackson Scroggins, a fierce advocate for global women’s health, a leader in promoting health equity and an extraordinary mentor to patient advocates who came after her, died on August 1st.

By Gwen Darien

I have struggled to start this post, words don’t seem adequate to express the sense of loss for those of us who were Mary’s family, friends and colleagues, her place and impact on patients and communities is beyond description.


The first time I met Mary was via (snail) mail in 1997 when she submitted an essay idea to MAMM magazine (a magazine for women with breast and reproductive cancer for which I served as editor-in-chief). We accepted her essay and asked to her submit many more. Months later, in an unexpected encounter on a path in Central Park, we instantly recognized each other though we had never met in person. Mary was my beloved friend, co-activist, partner in trouble making and dessert-eating companion for 25 years.


Mary was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) in February 2021, shortly before the 25th anniversary of her ovarian cancer diagnosis. One of the last times I talked to Mary, sometime around her birthday in February 2022, we were planning our next projects together. We spoke for a long time. Her voice was strong, her focus clear. She told me not to worry about her, that she would be okay.


During the 25 years I knew her, our telephone calls would last for hours. Sometimes we talked every week, sometimes many months would go by between conversations. We would have wide-ranging, inspiring, energizing conversations about equity and justice as well as long conversations about family, cooking and traveling. She adored her family, her husband, Edward, her three daughters, Nneka, Akiba and Amaal, and three grandchildren, Anwar, Sanna and Asha. She spoke about them with deep love, respect and regard. All her friends felt that they knew her family so well, even when we only knew some of family members through her evocative and warm stories.


The last time I heard Mary’s voice was on my voicemail when she called a couple of months ago. Her voice was weak, but she still was resolved to keep on advocating and acting to give voice to patients, families and communities. She was anxious to begin working again.


Through her writing, speaking and presence, Mary always challenged her friends and colleagues to think differently about health and equity and to do more to ensure a just health care system. Her death from cancer redoubles that challenge.


We will miss her very much.