Chapter 11: The Differing Leadership Styles of Drs. Clark and LeMaistre


Chapter 11: The Differing Leadership Styles of Drs. Clark and LeMaistre



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Dr. Gehan provides a brief comparison of Dr. R. Lee Clark and Dr. Charles A. LeMasitre, who were the first two MD Anderson Presidents. According to Dr. Gehan, Dr. Clark was personable compared to Dr. LeMaistre's more organizational management style.



Publication Date



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


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Key MD Anderson Figures; MD Anderson History; Controversy; MD Anderson Culture; Institutional Politics; MD Anderson Past; Leadership; Portraits On Leadership; On Nature of Institutions

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.


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


We were talking about Dr. LeMaistre. I want to know and Dr. Olson also wanted me to ask you to compare and contrast Clark and LeMaistre.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

Clark had more passion. I guess one of the points I made this morning is that he didn’t pick me to be head of the Biostatistics or Biomathematics Department, so I was certainly very disappointed in that, but I didn’t let that affect my work. I liked Dr. Clark. He put in a very good benefits program here, and he also made sure that the Ph.D.’s got these benefits as well [as the M.D.’s], but not quite as many. We didn’t have cars, but it was a very good benefits program for the Ph.D.’s as well as the M.D.’s. He was a very human man in that we had this annual dinner dance that was often held over at the Warwick Hotel in June. It was an elaborate dinner and dance.

Lesley W. Brunet:

It’s not the one from (Dr. Gehan talked over you).

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I don’t know if they still have the Rogue’s Gallery here with all the pictures.

Lesley W. Brunet:


Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

As people started—I couldn’t say what year—it started in the late 1960’s early 1970’s, but I mean an elaborate dinner dance, which was very nice. But Clark was the Master of Ceremonies. Whoever was retiring, and of course they really had to be old timers then, you could talk as long as you wanted. Some of them were drunk when they got up to speak. Even Dr. Clark had often somewhat too much to drink, but it was very human. We didn’t always listen to all the talks, but I think Clark was a passionate man, a believer in trying to do what was best for cancer, but he had his own flaws. LeMaistre was much more the organization man. He would never be drunk at these events. You would have five minutes to give your talk. He was much more the organization man, and I guess one could say that as the organization gets bigger, you need someone, you can’t just do it like you did it in the old days. There certainly was need for them, but I would be closer philosophically and emotionally to Clark than to LeMaistre. That’s just my view. I think both kinds are needed, and perhaps in their own way each of them was the right one to have at the time. I guess one of the things, and I guess this relates to Freireich, too, that LeMaistre is the one that finished Developmental Therapeutics. I think they were trying to find a leader. The precise administrative part of this I don’t know, but they were trying to find a head of medical oncology, so they formed a search committee and they recommended Freireich. Dr. LeMaistre said, “Go back to the drawing boards. Look again. See what else you can come with.” Well, we still recommended Freireich. I’m not sure just exactly how this process took place. Freireich didn’t get the job. LeMaistre had the chance to make the decision. Irv Krakoff (?) got the job. Freireich would have been a lot better choice. Again, I think LeMaistre was, I don’t know, you’d have to ask him. He’s still around.

Lesley W. Brunet:

Excuse me. Just a minute. Tape 3, Side B

Lesley W. Brunet:

I want to tell you that Dr. Freireich and I have discussed this at length.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

You have discussed this at length? Am I close to being right?

Lesley W. Brunet:

(Dr. Gehan talks over your answer.) I just wanted hear it from you, to get your impression of Dr. LeMaistre.

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I don’t see him as a bold decision-maker. He kept himself very well; he dressed very well. I think of him as kind of the organization man, but without much passion, which I think you do need to have to really make progress, and not being willing to make bold decisions. I think he would tend to make the decisions that created the least waves, and I don’t think that’s the way you make real progress. In terms of putting up buildings and so on, I think he certainly did make progress there. Overall I think perhaps he was helpful, but maybe we would have made more progress in the fight against cancer if some of the decisions hadn’t been that way. As anybody in a situation like that, would tend to support people that they could work with closely, and I think maybe he felt that he couldn’t work with Freireich very closely, but I don’t think Krakoff’s tenure here was particularly successful. As a matter of fact, I had known Krakoff. He used to be at Sloan Kettering in New York, then he went to Vermont. And he is still around, too.

Lesley W. Brunet:


Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

After he got the job, I went over and said, “I just want to let you know that our group here is in biostatistics. We have worked closely in research. I welcome you here and would be glad to work on research projects.” Nothing really much developed after that. He didn’t take advantage of that.

Lesley W. Brunet:

(Inaudible question.) (Counter 46)

Edmund A. Gehan, PhD:

I guess he had his own vision. Again, I don’t think he was all that interested in research. I don’t think so. As head of the research program, that’s one thing that should be a requirement for the job. (Laughter) I don’t think if you asked him to do exactly what I did, show me your curriculum vitae, go over the highlights in your career that might have had some impact on the treatment of cancer patients. I think he did some things back when he was at Sloan Kettering. Ask him what was the main progress made in the fight against cancer while you were here at M. D. Anderson, and how did your tenure here influence that. I don’t know the answer to that. Others might be better at that, but I suspect that not much came out of that. I’m giving impressions here, but I will stand behind more of what I have presented that I have written.

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Chapter 11: The Differing Leadership Styles of Drs. Clark and LeMaistre