Chapter 03: Coming to MD Anderson to Build a New Department

Title

Chapter 03: Coming to MD Anderson to Build a New Department

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Description

Photoimmunology

Identifier

KripkeM_01_20071213_C03

Publication Date

12-13-2017

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Researcher; Joining MD Anderson; Professional Path; Evolution of Career; Overview; Definitions, Explanations, Translations; Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research Discovery and Success Personal Background

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

That would be hard for me. So who approached you about coming down to MD Anderson?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We had been approached. Actually Josh had been approached several times in the past, about coming to MD Anderson, both by Fred Becker and by Garth Nicolson. We came to a point in Frederick where there were leadership changes and there were changes in direction. It made it less appealing for us to be there, and so we decided to look elsewhere and Josh simply picked up the phone and called his friend Garth and said, are there still opportunities, are you still recruiting at MD Anderson? And the answer was yes, and we were both invited for interviews.

Lesley W. Brunet

You were invited by Nicolson or by --

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Dr. Becker [oral history interview

was the one.

Lesley W. Brunet

Dr. Becker, that's what I assumed.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

He was the primary recruiter. And so we actually didn't job hunt too much, because it was really clear that it would be hard to find another place where there will be such a wonderful opportunity for both of us. So we were lucky twice; once going to Frederick, where we were both offered directorships independently of each other, and then coming here, where we wanted to go somewhere else and there were two departments and chairs, both of them, and (inaudible). It was a very unusual opportunity for us and we were very fortunate. So we didn't even look at anything else, we just came.

Lesley W. Brunet

How did Anderson measure up in terms of basic research? That was like in '83?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Well, you have to understand our history. When we went to Frederick from where we came from, there was no place else, and we built a program from scratch. So we were not particularly concerned that there wasn't a gigantic basic research effort at MD Anderson. We knew the reputation of the institution through symposia that they supported. We knew from Becker, from scientific circles, and the institution provided everything that they had promised and more. And so we were really not concerned about who else was here, in terms of basic science. Of course we understood that it was a wonderful opportunity for us, if we were ever interested in doing anything with human cancer. And of course Josh's work is very much focused on human cancer, and he was really new to being in Frederick without a clinical outlet for his work. And so that part was also extremely attractive for us. It was not only a cancer research institute but it was a cancer hospital.

Lesley W. Brunet

I didn't realize that he worked so closely with the clinical side.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah, he does.

Lesley W. Brunet

I mean, I guess it makes sense.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

He does. Part of that, he has a veterinary background, so he actually has a medical background, so he thinks in that way.

Lesley W. Brunet

That way. I knew they were ecstatic about you coming here and they have been all along.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Well we were ecstatic about coming.

Lesley W. Brunet

Hardly anyone says that when they talk about coming to Houston.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Well, really I always said I wish MD Anderson was in Austin or San Antonio or someplace else. And in fact, when I attended the MD Anderson symposium here in the past, I couldn't imagine how people lived here in the humidity.

Lesley W. Brunet

It's so good for our skin.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I have discovered that since I've been here. We absolutely adore living in Houston and may never leave.

Lesley W. Brunet

From the get-go or has it grown on you?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

It has grown on us, but we never disliked Houston. For us you know, our level of comfort living in a place is what work is like, because we spend 90 percent of our time there, and work was fabulous from the beginning and we grew to love the community. You know, in 1983, there weren't a whole lot of restaurants in Houston, so that whole scene, watching Houston develop and diversify and become more cosmopolitan has been really fun. You know, when we recruit people here, the thing that I think is so impressive about Houston is the diversity of everything, not just the population. Houston has something for everybody, whether it's Irish dancing or the Harpsichord Society or a football team or the symphony. Whatever interests you can be found in Houston. It's an amazing place and everything is very accessible. It's not like living in Washington or New York or Boston where going out for an evening was a major big deal of organization.

Lesley W. Brunet

Because of the drive or?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

The drive, parking, getting tickets, all of that kind of stuff. Here you know, if you decide on a moment's notice that you want to go to the theater, you can drive down, park in the parking garage and go get our tickets. It's not a major logistical challenge.

Lesley W. Brunet

And you live in town, or do you have a country place?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We do both. When we first came here, we went to Kingwood, because my daughter started high school. And so she went to Kingwood High School.

Lesley W. Brunet

That's quite a hike.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes, it was quite a hike and it became very tiresome after a while, so we gave that up. We moved into town -- I'm not remembering how many years we were in Kingwood; almost 15 probably, 14 or 15.

Lesley W. Brunet

So she grew and graduated and went to college.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. We moved into town, into a high rise, which I hated. I just couldn't deal with it. We were in the high rise for a couple of years and I was just not ready for that lifestyle. So we bought a house in town, in the Museum District. We had lived at the Park Line, which is right on the park, and so we bought a house.

Lesley W. Brunet

On Harwin Drive?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. So we bought a house on Banks Street, that neighborhood, and we were there for a number of years. Once we bought the house, we bought property out in Magnolia, Texas, and built a weekend place there. Once we had the weekend place, the house in town became a burden. And so all of the gardening and things that I like to do are now done out in Magnolia, and so we're back in a high rise in town and this time love it, because we have the other alternative on the weekends and whenever we choose. So that works well. So we're still in the Museum District. We live in the Museum Tower actually, on Montrose.

Lesley W. Brunet

Is that the one that's on the east side, they renovated, or going north?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

It's on the -- going north, it's on the east side, yeah. It's a big building.

Lesley W. Brunet

But it looks like it's older. Maybe I'm thinking of the wrong one.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

It's right across the street from Bell Park, if you know where that is, on Banks Street, there's that one stoplight.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, I think so. Yeah, so you're close in.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Very.

Lesley W. Brunet

And you survived the floods in 2001. I guess it didn't really flood there did it?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Our house on Banks Street was quite high and somehow we did not flood. We were close to flooding. There were other houses on our street that got flooded but ours did not.

Lesley W. Brunet

I know I lost St. Margaret's that way, people's houses, more flooding. So you usually spend time there on the weekend? And do you have horses?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We do, and I'm a very avid rider.

Lesley W. Brunet

Honestly, I heard this, because of Dr. Tomasovic and his horses.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Oh yes, yes. In fact, I did three-day eventing competitively for a number of years, which is cross-country jumping, stadium jumping and a little bit of dressage.

Lesley W. Brunet

You mean as a young adult or recently?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No. I just --

Lesley W. Brunet

Yesterday?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I gave it up about three or four years ago. The jumping part, I had to give up because of my back. So I've traded the jumper for a dressage horse, so I'm actually doing dressage, which is not jumping.

Lesley W. Brunet

What's dressage? Is this English riding?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yes. It's English riding. Have you ever seen the Lipizzaner Stallions, the white stallions from Austria?

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, oh, I've heard of them.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

And they do all kinds of fancy things? Well that's the highest level of dressage. I don't ride at that level. I ride at a lower level, but it's kind of harmony between horse and rider and you do -- I did compete occasionally and it's like figure skating. You do a prescribed pattern.

Lesley W. Brunet

This is how you relax?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

That's good. And gardening?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

What do you do when the Renaissance Fair comes? Stay in town?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We try to stay home, yeah. (laughs) We try to avoid the roads.

Lesley W. Brunet

Boy it's an interesting group to descend on your neighborhood.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

Yeah. Oh, we hate that, yeah, yeah.

Lesley W. Brunet

When you got here, were there other impressions? Did you know a lot about what was going on the clinical side?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No. We were here on the south campus from the beginning.

Lesley W. Brunet

Oh, from the beginning.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We were in the Smith Research Building, both in the Department of Immunology and the Department of Cell Biology, which is Josh's department, when we started out. So we were pretty well disconnected from all the clinical activities.

Lesley W. Brunet

And there was a certain amount of discontent over Developmental Therapeutics and the Department of Medicine, because by then, they had closed the developmental therapeutics.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

We were out of the controversies and out of the politics pretty much. Josh was very good about establishing collaborations with clinical collaborators, and has a continuous stream still, of clinical fellows who come and work in his department and in his laboratory. So he's been very active in training physician scientists. I have been more distant from that, although in my last few years running a research lab, I did work with clinical collaborators and developed a program project around skin cancer, that had clinical components to it.

Lesley W. Brunet

Did that sort of distance and not getting involved in the politics help when you were brought in to the executive offices?

Margaret Kripke, PhD

I would say no, because I didn't know enough about the clinical side, so all of that was kind of catch up learning. That was (inaudible) to a different level of administration.

Lesley W. Brunet

But you didn't have enemies that you know, other people might have.

Margaret Kripke, PhD

No, no. We were pretty clear of controversy.

Lesley W. Brunet

That's unusual in a medical center. I always give presentations on cooperation and conflict at various -- not when I was here but at some of the other institutions. I don't want to take up too much time.


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