Chapter 12: The Contributions of Colleagues to MD Anderson's Legacy

Title

Chapter 12: The Contributions of Colleagues to MD Anderson's Legacy

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Description

The interviewers ask Dr. Gehan to talk about his MD Anderson colleagues. A statistician by nature he offers to evaluate his colleagues on a 1-10 rating scale while identifying the strengths and weaknesses of each individual.

Identifier

GehanE_01_20030328_C12

Publication Date

2003

Publisher

The Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library, The University of Texas Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Key MD Anderson Figures; MD Anderson History; Institutional Politics; MD Anderson Past; Portraits

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

Lesley W. Brunet:

Using that same methodology, Dr. Olson had wanted me to ask to have you evaluate other people or rather the history of oncology (Dr. Gehan interrupts you).

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

On a score of one to ten? (Laughter)

Lesley W. Brunet:

What would be their contributions and why? There are a number of names we have already talked about.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Maybe I’ll score them on a one to ten basis. Ten is high and one is low.

Lesley W. Brunet:

Obviously, Dr. Frei.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I’d give him a ten. And as you saw, he is the first Icon [in Oncology] Award. Of course, Freireich was on the committee.

Lesley W. Brunet:

I was very impressed by him.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Who, Frei?

Lesley W. Brunet:

Frei. He seemed a wonderful person.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

He is a very fine man. I had dinner sitting next to him last night and he said, “You know, I’m almost going to be eighty.” I hope he makes it to eighty, which will be early next year I think. We lived a block apart in Meyerland. When we came here in 1967 Freireich said, “You’ve got to live in Memorial. You’ve got to live in Memorial.” I don’t like long commutes. Ever since Brooklyn, New York, I don’t like long commutes. So we looked around, and in the end we didn’t end up in Memorial, we ended up in Meyerland, a block away from Frei. He’s a pretty big guy. He has pretty big hands. He’s about 6’4”.

Lesley W. Brunet:

(Dr. Gehan talked over you.)

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Even then we used to go out and play touch football. On Sunday we’d find much younger guys and pick up games, and we more than held our own. He’s pretty tall. I think of myself as originally a good athlete, too. In fact he even told me. We used to do a lot of jogging around Godwin Park. He did something that I never did. He always came in sweaty and then he would go and hug one of his daughters. (Laughter) My kids think of Tom as Santa Claus because, strange as it seems, he used to dress up as Santa Claus. I mean this thin, scraggily scarecrow-type guy dressed up as Santa Claus. And they used to go Christmas caroling, he and his family. His daughters were babysitters for our daughters, so they always came to our house. We have been very good personal friends over the years, but it’s more than that. He has a ten record in his research, too, and he just doesn’t administer drugs to patients. He is interested in the pharmacology and all the arguments for it. Parkinson’s has slowed him tremendously now.

Lesley W. Brunet:

How about Freireich?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I’d say he is a ten. I would rate him up at the top, too. He is much more into education now. How are people keeping up with the latest work in micro (? Counter 121) studies, biological therapy, the very latest things in the forefront of research. He probably isn’t there. Based on the moment, he probably isn’t [there], but in terms of his career, I think there is no question about that.

Lesley W. Brunet:

Some other people in Developmental Therapeutics, perhaps Dr. Bodey?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Bodey I would rate very highly, a seven or eight maybe. He is a specialist in infectious diseases and that is a reflection of the breadth that they were looking for. The major cause of death in cancer is infection, and he was a specialist in infections, but some of it is kind of routine work. He is very well organized and he really turned out a lot of very good work, and I think that he was close to the top of the field in dealing with infectious diseases. If I had any serious infection, he’s the person I would call. I would rate him very highly, but maybe not a ten. You can’t rate everybody a ten. (Laughter)

Lesley W. Brunet:

You can drop that number again if you want to.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

No.

Lesley W. Brunet:

What about Dr. Gutterman? We haven’t really talked very much about him.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I wouldn’t rate him that high, five or six maybe. I think he’s been kind of up and down. I think he has done some good work, but he hasn’t shown the consistency. He was at that dinner last night. I think he did some very good work, I think in interferon, but he’s not a good team player. He tended to go off in his own directions. He did call upon us from time to time and we did work with him. Some of my ratings are based upon how much the folks worked with Biostatistics and some parts of that. I think he has done some good work, but he probably didn’t live up to his full potential.

Lesley W. Brunet:

He’s still around quite a bit.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Yes. He’s still here.

Lesley W. Brunet:

He’s in the library every day.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Every day? I think he’s a real bright guy. Maybe he should have had more impact I think.

Lesley W. Brunet:

What about Keating?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I’d rate Keating very highly. Maybe a seven or eight up there. He’s not as well organized as some of the others. I think he’s an idea man and a great guy. I’d always want him on my team whatever the game was. He has been mentored by Freireich and I think he came over here as a fellow from Australia, but he stayed. His life and career are here. I think he has done some very very good work, especially in chronic leukemia. And again, he did work closely with us. That paper on this method of dealing with untreated patients, he was the one who shepherded that through, so I would rate him very very highly.

Lesley W. Brunet:

What about Dr. Hersh?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I would rate him very highly, too, probably a seven or eight. He is in immunology. Again, he is a very good personal friend. He is from the Bronx, New York. None of the other people that you have mentioned are from New York City, but Hersh is. I think people from there, you have to have a pragmatic attitude. You find a way to get the job done by whatever means it can be done.

Lesley W. Brunet:

You have that characteristic because you’re from the Bronx?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I’m not from the Bronx. I’m from New York. What do I mean? I mean that you’re used to dealing with all kinds of people. Some of the people that I played with as a teenager have gone to jail, others went to longshoremen. There used to be street vendors and others would commit crimes by stealing from the street vendors. Yet others would go on and do very well in school. You get a picture of all sides of life. Where were you brought up?

Lesley W. Brunet:

Several different places. Maryland (Dr. Gehan talks over you.)

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Oh, Maryland? I guess the theme was, I have yet to speak to a person. I say, somebody is from the country. [They would say,] I wouldn’t change anything. I grew up on a farm. It was great and I learned animals and all this stuff. Most people, unless they had terrible parents in one way or the other, their childhood was fine. I’ll say the same about how my parents treated me well, except that my father died when I was thirteen, so that wasn’t so good for the family. Number one, being able to deal with all kinds of people, including getting into bar fights occasionally, was good. And also a feeling of independence. You could take subways or busses anywhere. We could go to the beach. You just dealt with things as they came. I think that’s kind of stayed with me. How did we get on to this? I said Hersh and I were both from New York. I have heard him lecture a number of times. He is very sharp. He is a very good immunologist. I think one of the reasons Hersh left here was because of Krakoff. I think he and Krakoff didn’t [get along]. Hersh is still active in Arizona. One reason I can’t rate Krakoff highly because I think this place would be better if Hersh were still here. But he has made a good career for himself in Arizona. I think M. D. Anderson would have been better off if he had stayed. He has done very good work in immunological and biological aspects of cancer trials.

Lesley W. Brunet:

One other person who left, and I wonder if he comes in that same group, Blumenschein, the head of the breast program?

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Blumenschein. Yes. Well, he’s up in Dallas or somewhere near there. I believe he more or less went into private practice. I think he’s a fine man. He didn’t do much in cancer research, but I think he’s a good guy. I think he’s more a private practice type physician than one that would be successful in sort of research. I think he was more of a follower in that respect and I think he got along well with administration. I don’t know exactly why he left, but he is more on the private practice side of things.

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