Chapter 23:  Charles A. LeMaistre’s Administrative Success

Title

Chapter 23: Charles A. LeMaistre’s Administrative Success

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Description

In this chapter, Dr. Freireich talks about some of Dr. Charles LeMaistre’s administrative successes.

Identifier

FreireicEJ_04_20010813_C23

Publication Date

8-13-2001

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

Overview; Leadership; Portraits; The Professional at Work; Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson; MD Anderson History; Institutional Politics; Controversy; Understanding the Institution

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

Emil J Freireich, MD

Dr. LeMaistre, when he came in 1978, was recommended by Dr. Hickey to the executive committee for professorship. In 1978, our Promotion/Tenures Committee was the executive committee of the medical staff and the basic science board for the PhD's. I was on the executive committee as chair of the Department of DT, and Dr. Hickey brought Dr. LeMaistre to the executive committee to be appointed as a professor. These minutes were distributed beforehand. They came to my desk, and I went over them. The first thing you look at for promotion/tenure is publications. Well, Dr. LeMaistre had a list of 18 publications labeled "Selected Scientific Publications," which we now know is 100 percent of those that exist. Of the 18, there were only 6 that were research publications. The others were all summary-type things, case reports. They were trivial. All 4 papers were published before 1959, and they all existed from his fellowship training at Cornell. So from his fellowship on, he had never done any research. What did he do? This instructorship is during his training at Cornell. In 1954 he went to Emory. He ran the outpatient clinic, and he was chair of the Department of Preventative and Community Medicine, which in 1957 was totally trivial. In 1959 he came to Southwestern Medical School. Now, that looks academic. This guy was a professor of preventative medicine. Now he's a professor of internal medicine. Southwestern Medical School is a wonderful medical school.

Lesley Brunet, MA

Now it is.

Emil J Freireich, MD

It was then.

Lesley Brunet, MA

Even in '59?

Emil J Freireich, MD

Oh, yes.

Lesley Brunet, MA

It was only 10 years old.

Emil J Freireich, MD

It was a wonderful medical school. Don Seldin was very good. He was appointed in '59. He ran the outpatient clinics. He ran this Woodlawn Hospital for 6 years. In 1965 he became associate dean for 1 year. That's when what's-his-name picked him up, in 1966.

Lesley Brunet, MA

Charles Mullins?

Emil J Freireich, MD

No. Frank Erwin. So I looked at this, and I said, "Well, he may be qualified to be president, but he's certainly not qualified for a professorial title." Then there was a hush over the audience. There were about 15 people on the executive committee. Dr. Hickey didn't say anything, bless him. Then we had a secret ballot, and the ballot was 14 to 1. So he became a professor.

Lesley Brunet, MA

But it was purely titular, wasn't it?

Emil J Freireich, MD

What I said was, "Isn't it sufficient that he's president, unqualified? Why do we have to make him a professor, unqualified?" Later in his career, he made our businessman a professor unilaterally. Dr. LeMaistre insisted on it. I forget what our businessman's name was.

Lesley Brunet, MA

Gilley?

Emil J Freireich, MD

No. That was Clark's businessman. I'll tell you an anecdote. I don't have the exact year, but shortly after he was appointed here, before I was fired by Krakoff, I was invited to be a visiting professor at Southwestern. You go up there for a week, you make rounds with the students, and you teach them oncology and give a couple of seminars. Dr. Seldin, who is the world's greatest educator—he has received the prize as Outstanding Physician from the Association of American Physicians. Everybody thinks he's wonderful. He walks on water. What he does for the visiting professors is he takes them out to his favorite restaurant, the Warsaw Restaurant, and all the division chiefs in the department come to visit with the visiting professor. He sat next to me at this dinner. After we exchanged niceties, he said, "How's Mickey doing?" I said, "Well, he is certainly different from Dr. Clark. He's got this style and panache and eastern sophistication." He said, "Well, let me tell you about Dr. LeMaistre and how he got to Southwestern. In 1959 the Tuberculosis Hospital was given to the University of Texas because it was abandoned. Because we were treating with streptomycin, it eliminated tuberculosis."

Lesley Brunet, MA

The TB hospital here in Houston?

Emil J Freireich, MD

No, the hospital in Dallas. The dean called Dr. Seldin and said, "We don't know what to do with this hospital, but we can't reject a gift. We can't look the gift horse in the mouth. So you have to use it for your Department of Internal Medicine somehow." Dr. Seldin told me, "I decided that since it was already a pulmonary hospital, I would make it the Division of Pulmonary Medicine. I had to find someone that was willing to go to this broken-down hospital and build up a program in pulmonary medicine. I looked around the country. It was very hard to find anyone to take this on, but I found LeMaistre. He ostensibly knew about infectious disease. He ostensibly knew about pulmonary. So we hired LeMaistre, and he came to run this hospital. Well, by 1965, after 6 years, he was a total failure at making this work. The students were learning nothing. The patients weren't getting good care. I got a call from the dean, and he said, 'Is there anyone in the Department of Medicine who would like to become the dean of students?'" Now, that's a job that no one wants. It's a clerical job, but usually it's an MD. He said, "I've got just the man for you," and he gave him LeMaistre. This is Dr. Seldin talking, not Freireich. This is before we've ever had any major disputes. He was dean of students for 1 year when Frank Erwin called the president of Southwestern and said, "I really need someone to be chancellor at the University of Texas who I can run the university with, someone who looks good, speaks well." He was such a catastrophe as dean of students that the president said, "I've got just the man for you."

Lesley Brunet, MA

This is the vice chancellor for Health Affairs?

Emil J Freireich, MD

That was his first job. He was the vice chancellor for Health Affairs for 2 years, and then he became chancellor in 1968 and remained there until we were fortunate to get him here in 1978. So Don Seldin said, "My predictions for Dr. LeMaistre at MD Anderson are not very good, but I hope he works out, because he certainly hasn't worked out in any job he's had before." But he did work out. He was a great success here. That's an anecdote just for the record, to tell you a little bit about him, because you have to understand that LeMaistre is a man who has an enormous talent. He's a theatrical genius, but he has no skills.

Lesley Brunet, MA

What made him a success here?

Emil J Freireich, MD

He was a regal president. The president of MD Anderson, like John Mendelsohn, becomes a figure in the community. He's appointed to all the business advisory boards. They pay them large sums of money to sit there and nod their heads all day long. He got appointed to the President's Commission on Tobacco, and he nodded his head for 10 years. By contacting all these people, he raised lots of money. He built buildings. He made a good image for MD Anderson in the state. He was very good with the legislators. He was very good at what he did. He was very good at acting, but president of MD Anderson, he was not. Someone else had to do that job. He was the outside guy. But he was very good at what he did. There was no one better than Dr. LeMaistre. If you meet him, you'll realize immediately. With those credentials, with no academic achievements at all, he became chancellor of the third largest university in this country.

Now I want to tell you about 3 important events that will help you understand some of the conflicts that occurred, because it's important to the function of MD Anderson in the international and national program to control cancer.

Chapter 23:  Charles A. LeMaistre’s Administrative Success

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