Jane Karatzas Says “Bravo!” to Jefferson

Jane Karatzas is a concert pianist, an opera singer—and a cancer survivor.

Born on Valentine’s Day in 1935, Karatzas was a natural performer—taking the stage of the Academy of Music to play Mozart in the Young Prodigy program at the age of 8 and entering the prestigious Philadelphia Conservatory of Music (now University of the Arts) to study voice at 19. She and her operatic tenor husband, Johann, performed together all over the world—but she credits Jefferson University Hospitals and doctors for her “encore.” 

“If it was not for my Jefferson doctors, I would not be here today,” Jane says.

During an exam following a routine mammogram, which didn’t show any abnormalities, the doctor felt a small lump; it was concerning enough that she ordered a biopsy. On February 14, 2008—Jane’s 73rd birthday—she got the phone call. “It was cancer.”

Jane immediately underwent a lumpectomy, followed by radiation and five years of chemotherapy. During that time, she was impressed by the excellent medical care combined with the compassionate “personal touch” Jefferson doctors, nurses, and staff provided.

An avid devotee of science and medicine thanks to the influence of her older brother, an MD/PhD, Jane loves to read and learn about medical research—cancer in particular. One of the highlights of her year, she says, is her visit to the Jefferson cancer research laboratory of Scott Waldman, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Jefferson.

“The research they are doing is just wonderful,” she says. “But you have to be careful with cancer. It’s smarter than we are. Every time we think we understand it, it changes!”

And that is why Jane recently added the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson as a beneficiary in her will; she is bequeathing money for a research fund in her and her late husband’s name.

“Jefferson is very near and dear to me,” she says. “When I’m gone, I want their research to continue so we can outsmart cancer.”

A longtime resident of Broomall, Pennsylvania, Jane served as a church organist and music director for many years, but retired when her husband passed away seven years ago. She now shares her home with two rescue cats, including one who followed in her footsteps as a performer—Sheba, her black mackerel tabby, is the star of the Tidy Cats Kitty Litter commercials.

Petite and spry, Jane says she lives a very active life “thanks to a great attitude and outstanding medical care.”

Jane once sang the lead roles in Carmen and Samson and Delilah; now she sings the praises of Jefferson. “Everyone at Jefferson is family,” she says. “I’m especially grateful for my radiation oncologist, Dr. Pramila Rani Anne, and medical oncologist, Dr. Rebecca Jaslow. They—and everyone at Jefferson—take very good care of me, and I love them.”