Chapter 12: Chief of the Myeloma Section, 1998 - 2004: Leveraging Resources and Mentoring Young Faculty

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Chapter 12: Chief of the Myeloma Section, 1998 - 2004: Leveraging Resources and Mentoring Young Faculty

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At the beginning of the chapter, Dr. Alexanian and the interviewer review CV entries for relevance to the discussion. Next, Dr. Alexanian explains the evolution of the focus on the Myeloma Section. He explains that he was the only person working with myeloma between 1964, when he arrived at MD Anderson, and 1984, when Bart Barlogie joined the institution. They next formed an association with the Transplant Department, and Dr. Alexanian notes the "easy melding" of departments at MD Anderson where credit and projects were shared. He next sketches his activities as section chief -largely leveraging resources already in existence. Dr. Alexanian talks about the advantages that MD Anderson offers the researcher.

Identifier

Alexanian_R_02_20140605_S12

Publication Date

6-5-2014

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Building the Institution; Building the Institution; The Researcher; The Clinician; The Administrator; Multi-disciplinary Approaches; MD Anderson Culture; Mentoring

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Would you like to talk now about some of the administrative roles that you served?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Oh, sure. Well, I don’t think I’ve done much administration here. I’ve been on lots of committees.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, and I was interested in those committees, actually, because, I mean, for when they were and what they focused on, but I guess I wanted to start with your role as deputy head and head of section, just to kind of get a handle on what you did there. From 1980 to 1983, you were deputy head of the Division of Cancer Medicine, as I understand.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Well, that was, I think, an administrative appointment, where deputy means when the chairman cannot attend a meeting, you attend in his place. So I would say that was more of a title.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

More of a title. And was that the same situation from ’95 to ’98 with deputy head of hematology as well?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Okay. But from 1998 to 2004, you were head of the section of lymphoma and myeloma, correct?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

No, I don’t think that’s right. Well, was I? 1998 to—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

2004.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

I would say my primarily administrative would be the head of myeloma.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Okay. And that would—maybe that’s the [unclear].

Raymond Alexanian, MD

I don’t even think it was a title.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, it says section chief, myeloma.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

When I began here, I was the only one doing myeloma for quite a number of years, maybe twenty years, and therefore I was the head of myself. (laughter) I shouldn’t say that, because when patients were sick and had to be hospitalized, we had our whole department, small department, rotated in caring for patients who needed hospitalization. But in the clinic I was the only one to see these patients for twenty years, and then Dr. Barlogie joined me, and I’m trying to remember the year. Must be in the 1980s sometime.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah, if that was twenty years, then it’s around ’84 or something like that.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Something like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Yeah. Okay.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Then he and I worked together as partners, and he was the inspiration for many of the new things. However, I continued also building on many of the things I had begun so that the publication record speaks for itself on who did what, I think, and so we were a very good team. Then the transplant service joined our team somewhere in there, and the papers reflect the timing of that, and so that—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

What was the transplant service attached to before joining [unclear]?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

No, no, they didn’t join. They were independent.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Okay.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Dr. Dicke, Karl Dicke, D-i-c-k-e, developed that section, and he had a small cadre of people that worked with him, and then this expanded as the successes became evident in a number of areas. Then Dr. Champlin came to replace Dr. Dicke, and the dates of that I’m not clear on, and I think the papers would reflect that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Now, so was the transplant group, was that—

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Separate.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

—formally called the Transplant Group?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yes, it’s a transplant department.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Transplant department. Okay.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yes. As you know from in the transplant—we’re talking about bone marrow transplant and then stem cell transplant, so not organ transplant.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Mm-hmm. Yeah, you talked about your transplant work last time.

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Yeah. So that’s one of the advantages of a center like ours, is the sense that there was an easy melding of departments where there was shared opportunities and shared credits in terms of papers and grants and so on, so whereas this was easier for us than for many other outside centers.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. And this was also prior to the period of enormous growth so [unclear].

Raymond Alexanian, MD

This was at the time during the—now I’m talking—the first combined was with radiation and then transplant, so that there were different techniques. And now we’re talking about immunotherapy, different newer techniques that are showing promise.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Mm-hmm. So as head of section, when you kind of took on that role formally, were there any specific changes in the power that you were given to make decisions, the resources that you were given to develop the areas? What happened with that?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

Well, you try to exploit the opportunities you have in terms of personnel, patients, techniques, financial support, and so you decide, first of all, what is the most promising area of research and advance in your field, and then see how you can apply what you have to make those advances, and then show in terms of papers and studies and larger numbers of patients—see, one of the advantages here, the major advantage of MD Anderson is a large numbers of patients with diversity, with diverse features, combined with the resources in terms of diverse technologies and techniques, and so that one can apply these so that one can—just a small number of people, like myself and Dr. Barlogie, with the numbers of patients we see and applying the new methods quickly, we can develop better treatments and better ways of understanding. And Dr. Barlogie also provided a special laboratory support in terms of—I was going to say DNA, RNA, and typing facilities that he was able to apply to patients with myeloma.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

So in 1998, when you were given the title of section chief, did you have resources from the administration that enabled you act on some of those strategic pathways?

Raymond Alexanian, MD

As I mentioned, resources are the number of patients—when we’re dealing with drugs and laboratory, we have samples and bone marrow studies, and the laboratory—see, the laboratory was able to do cytogenetics, and we could do special technology procedures with some of the staff in laboratory medicine. Laboratory medicine is a crucial part of the work in myeloma, in terms of special tests, one test called electrophoresis, and that’s very important in myeloma studies.

So our work with the clinical special chemistry and bone marrow, the facilities were already there, the application of certain programs to the patients who were also already there, and one thing that I always felt, which I commented on before, is that for every new patient that I saw, there was a database. His data was recorded in a database in terms of his clinical and laboratory features and so on, so that the follow-up could be done more easily. So there was no special providing of—that’s one of the great advantages of a place like this, you have the resources.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Mm-hmm. They’re already available.

Chapter 12: Chief of the Myeloma Section, 1998 - 2004: Leveraging Resources and Mentoring Young Faculty

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