Chapter 01:  Inspired By Work at a Medical Institution

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Chapter 01: Inspired By Work at a Medical Institution

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Mr. Stuyck explains that he came to work for MD Anderson's Department of Public Information and Education in 1975. (Prior to that he worked in a University of Texas Medical School Information Office that served both the Medical School and MD Anderson.) He then offers some background information, including how he came to spend his "formative years" in Houston. He notes that he spent his undergraduate years at University of Texas at Austin majoring in advertising and journalism. He secured a job in public information at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston after graduation. Seeing the caring dimension of medicine inspired him to continue to work with the medical field, however he was drafted in 1969, going to Vietnam in 1970 as a public information specialist who wrote for the Army until his discharge in 1971. Though he returned to the University of Texas at Austin for graduate work, he left because for a job in the Public Affairs office at the University of Texas Houston.

Identifier

StuyckSC_01_20130611_C01

Publication Date

6-11-2013

Topics Covered

Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Personal Background; Professional Path; Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine; Influences from People and Life Experiences; Joining MD Anderson; Military Experience; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

All right. I’m Tacey Ann Rosolowski interviewing Steve Stuyck for the Making Cancer History Voices Oral History Project run by the Historical Resources Center at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas. And I guess I needed to ask you. Do you prefer being known as Steve Stuyck, or is it Stephen with a middle initial? Steve Stuyck, MPH, Well, it’s Stephen with a P-H and a C, but I—everybody calls me Steve, and that’s what I prefer. Absolutely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. So we will definitely go with that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I just wanted to have that officially for the record in case.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Absolutely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

All right. And Mr. Stuyck began working at MD Anderson in 1972 for what was then called the Department of Public Information and Education. Is that correct?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, almost.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You were at the office of the president.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I came to work at what was called the Information Office—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

—which served all of UT Houston. It served MD Anderson and all of the components of the UT Health Science Center, which weren’t brought together yet. They were independent. There wasn’t a Health Science Center. And I worked in that capacity and—mainly I worked on MD Anderson, but I also worked on the nursing school and medical school and things like that under another director, and I did that for about two and a half years. And when she left the institution, they split the public information function so that the UT Health Science Center established its own and MD Anderson established its own. So I did start here in January of 1972, but I count my official start date at MD Anderson as July 1, 1975. That’s when we split the two apart.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Much like UT Police Department now serves both campuses. They actually had a public relations function that served both—not particularly effectively, but it did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It was a different era.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, yeah. I’ll be interested to hear the logic for the split, too. And Mr. Stuyck served as vice president for Public Affairs from 2000 until his retirement at the end of 2012. This interview is taking place in the Historical Resources Center Reading Room on the twenty-first floor of the Pickens Academic Tower on the main campus of MD Anderson, and today is the first of two planned interview sessions. Today is June 11, 2013, and the time is 10:08. So thank you very much, though we’ve already started. Thank you for participating.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I’m delighted to be here, and I appreciate being asked.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’m really delighted to have the opportunity to talk to you because Public Affairs is something that needs to be demystified for me. And as you indicated, I guess it looks different here at MD Anderson than it does at other institutions, so we will be working our way toward that. But I’d like, if we can, to just get some of the basic personal information out of the way.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay, great. Can you tell me where you were born and when and where you grew up?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I was born in White Plains, New York, July 10, 1946, and lived there for the first few years of my life, and my parents moved to Houston in 1951, just in time for me to start kindergarten. They were among the first of the Yankees leaving the cold northeast , and moving to Texas they loved Texas. They stayed here for thirteen years; and the summer that I graduated from high school, they moved to Baton Rouge, Louisiana. So I happened to—I actually lived in Baton Rouge for quite some time, but the formative years of my life—K through twelve—those thirteen years were spent here in Houston, and then they moved away.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Did you find that eventually that had an impact on you working professionally here in Houston?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I was living in Austin at the time that I moved here. Frankly, I never thought that I’d come back to Houston. It just didn’t cross my mind. I’d been away for a number of years, and it was just serendipity that I did because my brothers and sisters lived all over the country. But I’m the one who came back here to—one of two who came back here to Houston, and I was glad to do it. I liked it from the get-go.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, tell me about high school and college and how you began to—your interests began to coalesce around communication and media.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I went to the University of Texas at Austin as a freshman, and my major was advertising with a minor in journalism. Those were always subjects that interested me tremendously. And after my senior year in college, I got a summer job at the UT Medical Branch at Galveston in their Public Information office. My best friend and I—he was going to be accepted as a medical student at UTMB, and the two of us moved to Galveston for the summer. Twenty-one years old and we lived in the medical fraternity house right on the beach. It was a great way to spend your twenty-first year. And I got really interested in medicine there. There are no doctors in my family, no scientists in my family, and it was very intriguing to me, so I liked it a lot—the three months I spent at UTMB.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What was it that interested you so much about medicine as opposed to other professions or fields?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I think what interested me was the helping aspects of it—was the first thing that caught my attention—and how worthwhile the jobs were—the professions were in medicine. And I was interested in the science of it as well. I was not a particularly strong science student, but I got interested in it when I saw the practical applications of it. Then I went back to UT Austin for my first year of grad school as a graduate student in communications theory, and from there I was drafted into the Army. That was in the last few years of the draft so I went kicking and screaming, you might say, into the Army. I spent the first year in the States, and I spent my second year in Vietnam. I had what they called a civilian-acquired skill even though I was a draftee and they usually went into the Infantry. They made me a public information specialist, so both stateside and in Vietnam I was doing communications work. I was writing and did a lot of writing. In Vietnam I had—I know this sounds odd to say this, but I had a wonderful job writing for the US Army, and I traveled all over Vietnam from the Demilitarized Zone all the way down to the Mekong Delta. And generally, if the action was heavy here I’d go there. If the action was heavy there I’d go here, trying to take care of myself. But I did a lot of writing that year, and I liked it. I really—I think I had a flair for it.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What year was this?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I went to Vietnam—I was drafted in 1969. I went to Vietnam in 1970, and I was discharged from the military in April of 1971.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Do you feel that the experience that you had writing in Vietnam in that capacity had an effect either on your interests or your skills later on?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

You know, Tacey, to tell you the truth, more than anything else I felt I was lucky in Vietnam. I had interesting work and I could—I had a lot of freedom, and I wouldn’t say that it affected it as much as just being around. I was much more interested in the academic environment and in medicine and in health care. When I got out of Vietnam—having nothing else to do—I went back to graduate school at UT Austin. I had been a teaching assistant there in Advertising, and I was a research associate there working for a professor. And I went back in the summer of 1971, and then very serendipitously a friend of mine in grad school told me that she had heard about a job opening at UT Houston in the Public Information Office. And I was really interested in that, so I wrote, came down here for a couple of interviews in October of 1971, and they agreed to wait until I finished the semester in January of 1972. I came down here and joined the team here, and I never finished my thesis. (laughs) I had to wait many years to get an MPH, but I had done everything but a thesis on that master’s degree, and so there I was. And I thought I was very lucky. I really did. I just thought I was—I had no money to speak of, and this was a great job at a reasonable salary, and I was very excited to come here and join the group.

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Chapter 01:  Inspired By Work at a Medical Institution

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