Chapter 13: A View of MD Anderson Presidents

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Chapter 13: A View of MD Anderson Presidents

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In this chapter, Dr. Arlinghaus offers his views of the four MD Anderson presidents. He describes Dr. R. Lee Clark as a "true visionary" who realized surgery wasn't sufficient to address cancer and other specialties were needed to unravel its mysteries.Dr. Arlinghaus confirms that Dr. Charles LeMaistre was very supportive of him.He talks about some tensions among department chairs and comments on his own leadership style.He recalls the influence of his mother, Loretta, on his character and behavior.Dr. Arlinghaus next talks about Dr. John Mendelsohn.[The recorder is paused]Dr. Arlinghaus notes that Dr. Mendelsohn's discovery of a new cancer drug was a "remarkable achievement" and that he added to the strength of the institution.Next he talks about Dr. Ronald DePinho, offering the view that the institution will grow under his leadership.

Identifier

ArlinghausR_02_20140402_C13

Publication Date

4-2-2014

Publisher

The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Key MD Anderson Figures; Portraits; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Culture; Building/Transforming the Institution; Multi-disciplinary Approaches; Growth and/or Change; Personal Background; Institutional Politics; Controversy; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; The Professional at Work; Leadership; Giving Recognition

Disciplines

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

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I wonder, if we’re --- if you’ve kind of finished up talking your research, if you could talk a little bit about the institution that --- do you have anything more to add …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah, I can …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… about the institution?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… I can. There’s been four presidents, you know.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, and …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Dr. Clark, Dr. LeMaistre [oral history interview], Dr. Mendelsohn [oral history interview], and now Dr. DePinho [oral history interview].

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And, huge growth of the institution. I mean, tell --- tell me about your observations about the leaders. What do you think their impact has been?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I was very impressed with Dr. Clark. He --- he hired me back in --- whenever that was --- 1969, yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Tell me your impressions of him.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Hard-driving man, but was interested in the sciences. Was the clinic ---- you know, he was a surgeon. He was a surgeon. So, not only was he a surgeon, he was actually interested in what I was doing. I think I told you about Demakowski [phonetic] and that mess. Did I tell you about that?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

A little bit, yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

How I had to …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… fight my way to get approval back at that time as new faculty were coming in --had to get approval work on an area that I wanted to work on, and Dr. Demakowski [phonetic] was blocking them.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right, yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

We had to convince him I wouldn’t compete with him. I would add to what he was doing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And Dr. Clark ….

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Dr. Clark was …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… supported you.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… supported me a hundred percent.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Why --- what do you think --- I mean, I always struck that people describe how visionary he was. What do you think gave him that --- why do you think a surgeon, you know, who had that ability to say, yeah, this field, this field, this field, let’s --- let’s add them to the mix.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I can’t speak for him, but I --- I would set --- my guess is that he realized that surgery wasn’t the only answer. We had to generate a lot of new knowledge, and he wanted to be part of that by forming this Cancer Institute in which faculty members like myself would come in to unravel some of the mysteries of what causes cancer. And I think he appreciated that very well. That’s the reason he did what he did, was to form MD Anderson. So, he was a true visionary, in my opinion.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Tell me about your impressions of Dr. LeMaistre.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Dr. LeMaistre helped me a lot. He helped me. He was very sad that I left and went to California. He didn’t tell me he was sad. I could read it on his face when I told him I was going to resign.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, you mentioned that meeting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah. And he was sad --- and he helped me come back. This is the part we need to water down, and Dr. Becker was not involved in my recruitment. He was the Vice President for research and he recruited all of the researchers. But, he didn’t recruit me. Dr. LeMaistre did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What do you think --- what --- what was the --- the connection you had with Dr. LeMaistre that made him support your work? What do you think that --- what did he see in you?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I can’t give you an answer about that, but I used to attend these Monday morning meetings that all Department Chairs used to attend, and I used to speak up. I didn’t speak up often but when I spoke up, it was --- it was meaningful. And one time, I spoke up and he followed --- wow --- he followed me out of the --- the big auditorium, he said, “Dr. Arlinghaus, thanks for your comment.” Wow.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So, he really appreciated your viewpoint …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

He did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… and your take.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And I didn’t say much. I wasn’t a …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… Department Chair. I was kind of third tier down. And a vice president, so …. People above the vice presidents --and then … I was small potatoes but I --- I only spoke when I had something to say. And ….

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Amazing that he bothered …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… to thank you. Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And when I left, he didn’t like it …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… because of that. And he made sure I could get back in, and he knew (this is what you have --- can’t put in the book) Becker blocked my growth.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. You know, those things happen at institutions

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And that’s the reason I left.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Those things really happen

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

And he wanted to make sure if I wanted to come back, I could get back in. Gave me a big start package. Becker had nothing to do with it. Becker was probably --- I couldn’t be in Becker’s office but I would say he was very angry that day when I was hired in his research division ….

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… without his …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Without his approval.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So in a way, I quietly – what’s the word – overcame that block. I didn’t go to LeMaistre and pound on the table: this guy, Becker, look at what he’s doing to me. I just quietly said, look, I’ve found a job in California and I’m going to start up a company.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Right, I’ve got to take an alternative route. It’s not happening here.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I didn’t --- I didn’t burn any bridges.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yep, yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

To this day --Becker was in my office right before you saw him.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, yeah. I saw him out in the hall actually.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

He’s always coming in to talk to me.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, yeah. Well, it means it paid off not to burn those bridges.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Well, I didn’t --- I didn’t --- there were times when I became Department Chair, I could have been negative towards him, an important time. But I chose not to do that. Or, in street fighting where I grew up, not to get even.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Were you a street fighter as a kid? Did you have to take care of yourself?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I had to take care of it, but I was --- I --- I didn’t like to fight. I was --- I usually broke up fights and got hurt because of it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Yeah, yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah. I was --- my mother’s son.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What does that mean?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

You’d have to know my mom.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

You’d have to be flying at the speed of light now, because she’s dead.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Yeah, she sounds like she had a big influence on you with her support ….

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

She did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… of your education, and …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

She did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

For a third grader.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Her name?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Loretta. Loretta Francis.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And your dad’s name?

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Elmer Theodore, blind.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, that --- that really struck me when you said that. I mean, how amazing that he worked all those years, was an ind --- independent person, I assume.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah, he was head foreman …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Wow.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… and he did everything by memory.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So, I probably got my good memory from my father.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

(laughter). Ah, there you go. Yeah

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So I have to tell you. So, I told him I got my Ph.D. I graduated, my wife was with me, Barbara, who’s now dead but… I said, well --- well, Dad, I got my Ph.D. degree, I’m --- I’m a Doctor of Philosophy. My father looked at me and said, “I have a question for you, Ralph. Can you write prescriptions?” I said, “No, I’m not an M.D.” ….

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… and he looked at me, he said, “What good is it?” (laughter)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Gee. Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Some could say he’s right but ….

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… that’s the way he felt.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Well, it’s funny. You know, my …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

The practical side, he couldn’t appreciate what I was going to do, right.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

But he didn’t know what I was going to do at that time …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Sure.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

… because Barbara was still alive.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. I think that’s --- you know, there are stories from my family, too, because …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… you know, my father’s side of the family is immigrant family and for the generation that went on and got a lot of education, their parents and …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

… they didn’t understand.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

They couldn’t appreciate what …

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

So, my mom had vision like that. She said – I think I told you – she said, get educated, all the education you can get and it will help you.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. And you did.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes, you did.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

I did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Tell me about Dr. Mendelsohn.

Ralph B. Arlinghaus, PhD:

Ah, another thing you can’t put in the book.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I will pause the recorder then. [The recorder is paused.] Ralph P. Arlinghaus No, you can put that recorder on Tacey Ann Rosolowski: Okay. Ralph P. Arlinghaus I’m going to say nice things about him _______ and Dr. Mendelsohn first of all was an excellent scientist. He developed a new drug to treat cancer patients which is a remarkable achievement. Many of us as researchers want to do that. And also none of us do that. He was able to do that. So he is an exceptional researcher and he added to the strength of this institution and hired good people and I think I’ll stop there. I think you can turn it off if you want and I can say the next part. I think I told you. [The recorder is paused.] Ralph P. Arlinghaus Yeah, we can

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. Okay. So we’re back after another quick pause, just a couple of minutes. Ralph P. Arlinghaus Hey, Dr. DePinho is, of all the four presidents, he is the most knowledgeable of the cancer research part of the business that we all do. And he has hired some really outstanding people in the short time he’s been here. So I think the institution will grow under him. And I wish him well. You know, I don’t --- I’m no longer department chair so I don’t interact with him, and he was trained under a guy that learned their stuff from Rauscher at leukemia virus research. So Dr. DePinho has met me and brought this up as he has otherwise been here. So …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right Ralph P. Arlinghaus So anyway. So that work is sitting in journals, but some people remember it. And his advisor that he trained under …

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Was part of that world…

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Chapter 13: A View of MD Anderson Presidents

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