MSK Clinical Trial Manager Madeleine Ruff’s Inspiring Story

Maddy Ruff sits on a couch, wearing a skirt that displays her prosthetic leg.

Maddy Ruff, who was treated at MSK Kids, now works as an MSK clinical research associate and sets an inspiring example for patients.

Madeleine Ruff, MHA, helps manage clinical trials that test new cancer treatments to see how well they work. It’s an important job but one that doesn’t seem all that unusual, until you learn that Maddy started her career as a professional rock ’n’ roll and jazz singer. It’s certainly not the typical road to the front lines of cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK).

But Maddy sees her circuitous path to a career in healthcare as a “full-circle beautiful story” that started almost two decades ago at MSK Kids.

At 16 Years Old, Her Special Bond at MSK Kids 

Maddy was just 16 years old and focused on a career in music when a nagging pain in her left ankle was diagnosed as osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Maddy and her parents met with MSK orthopedic surgeon John Healey, MD, who told her MSK was treating more of these tumors than any other center in the country. Maddy liked him immediately.

“He was so honest and straightforward with me,” she remembers. “He talked directly to me about amputation, not just my parents. He said, ‘This is a tough cancer. But we’re going to beat it.’ ” Maddy’s left leg was amputated below the knee.

A young Maddy, whose has hair has been lost due to chemotherapy, practices walking with a prosthetic leg.

At 16, Maddy learned to walk again with a prosthetic leg after surgery at MSK for a rare bone cancer.

After surgery, she had nine months of chemotherapy, which she says was a “rough ride.” Maddy was determined to finish high school on time and went straight on to college, where she graduated with a music degree. But even after she got the good news that she was cancer free, Maddy never lost touch with Dr. Healey’s office. She was glad to share her story with other young osteosarcoma patients whenever he asked. She even performed at a major event where he was honored.

For the next 10 years, Maddy lived the artist’s life in New York City. By 2020, her music career had slowed down as she moved up the corporate ladder with a hospitality group. But she lost her job during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a difficult time. She learned that MSK was hiring and called Dr. Healey’s office for guidance.

“I reached back out to these people who saved my life,” she says. MSK came through for her one more time.

Now Managing Clinical Trials, She Brings Hope to Current Patients

Maddy’s first job at MSK was as an office coordinator for gynecologic surgeon Jennifer Mueller, MD, FACOG, and her team in the Department of Surgery. There, Maddy found out she had the right stuff — empathy, sensitivity, and patience — that a job helping patients requires. She explains: “You’re basically the first person patients speak to.” She discovered she loved working in healthcare and made the big decision to begin a new career chapter at MSK. “It was just time for me to grow,” she says.

By August of 2023, she had completed her Master of Health Administration degree. “I started over in a new career in my early 30s,” says Maddy. “I was making up for lost time.”

Maddy speaks with a colleague

Maddy is now on a team testing new cancer treatments.

Maddy’s career path then took her to the Department of Research at MSK Nassau on the administration side, which included consenting patients to trials. She has a keen understanding of the impact clinical trials have on the lives of all MSK patients, present and future.

“Research is the basis of what our standard-of-care treatments are now,” says Maddy.

Patients who choose to participate in a trial at MSK receive the most advanced cancer treatment available, sometimes years before it’s offered anywhere else.

“The reason I’m alive is because of the research that led to the treatments I had as a patient,” says Maddy gratefully.

Maddy is now overseeing a number of clinical trials for MSK’s Department of Neurology in Manhattan. In addition to her passion for research, Maddy generously shares another part of her cancer story with many MSK orthopedic patients.

“I’m also an amputee. Sometimes patients ask me about it,” says Maddy. “It often creates a kind of common ground, a level of respect.” She does it to offer hope. “It’s something that makes me feel good,” says Maddy. “I have a unique opportunity to be representative of what is possible for those patients.”

As for her first love, music, Maddy hasn’t abandoned it. She calls herself a weekend warrior and still sings with a wedding band. Maddy is hitting all the right notes, wherever she goes.


Dr. Healey holds the Stephen McDermott Chair in Surgery.