Chapter 05: Expanding the Scope of Public Affairs: Increasing Services for Faculty, Patients, and the Public

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Chapter 05: Expanding the Scope of Public Affairs: Increasing Services for Faculty, Patients, and the Public

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In this chapter, Mr. Stuyck talks about the expansion of the idea of public affairs at MD Anderson.

Mr. Stuyck explains that after he secured the NCI contract for the Cancer Information Service, "Public Education" was added to the name of the Department of Public Information, going on to detail what education can do for an institution. Next, Patient Education came under the scope of Public Information, and he explains what sorts of educational materials the department produced. Volunteer Services was next folded into Public Affairs, and Mr. Stuyck explains that he wanted to bring together in one unified division all the functions that would reach out into the public. Next he explains why Public Affairs was sequentially identified as a Department, then an Office, and finally a Division. He comments on the perception of Public Affairs within the institution then goes on to explain some of the many services provided to MD Anderson. He begins by explaining Creative Services then talks about the role Public Affairs played when Dr. Jordan Gutterman [Oral History Interview] and his work on Interferon attracted tremendous media attention. He explains that Dr. Gutterman received 7,000 to 8,000 letters from people begging to participate in his trials. Public Affairs set up a service to answer all of these letters.

Mr. Stuyck talks about preparing faculty to deal with media appearances. Then he identifies the sections within Public Affairs and notes that he and his management team produced both monthly and annual reports to document the contributions they made to the institution. At the end of this chapter, Mr. Stuyck notes that MD Anderson has generally received very good press. Most of the negative press has come during the last year.

Identifier

StuyckSC_01_20130611_C06

Publication Date

6-11-2013

Topics Covered

Building the Institution; Overview; Building/Transforming the Institution; Growth and/or Change; Institutional Processes; MD Anderson Culture; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; On Research and Researchers

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Uh-hunh (affirmative). I’d like to go back and kind of get a sense of what were the different functions that were included under the Department of Public Information and Education. I’m sorry—you were going to say?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

No. I know we need to get this down. We started with Public Information, which was essentially the public relations function—communications, that sort of thing. We added Public Education, which was community outreach and education to the public.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

When was that added?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That was added with—it started with the Cancer Information Service contract—in 1976 probably—and it evolved into a separate department, and I can’t remember exactly when, Tacey.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Did that—did the success of the Cancer Information Service help demonstrate what Public Information could do?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes. Yes. That’s a very good observation. You know, I’ve said many times that often the best public relations is good public education. If you strive hard to become a resource for information about cancer in the way you are a treatment resource or a research resource—that contributes to our reputation as well as doing a whole lot of good. And LeMaistre agreed with that. Mendelsohn did not particularly, but DePinho really gets it. I think he sees that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I just wanted to observe because this—I find this really exciting, actually, to talk about. (laughs) It’s like you’ve got this huge machine with all these different parts and it’s all moving at once. Because, you know, the information, as you just sketched, can serve so many different functions at once. And one of them, of course, is branding—creating new institution identity—and if you’re massaging and manipulating that information that comes out, you’re changing all of those other things, too. So it’s—and I’m just simply sketching that because hovering in the background is a question I’m going to want to ask which is, what were the conversations that you would have in your privileged position—speaking to the Board of Visitors, speaking to the president, speaking to the Development Office—you know. How was your function coordinated with all the other high-level administrative decisions and functions going on to make this institution move from place A to place B over a particular period of time? And I know I just sketched a huge area. (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It is. That’s thousands of conversations over many years with starts and stops and different—all different sorts of things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes. I bet. But I just kind of wanted to throw that out there because I think maybe if you can think of a moment when that sort of thing happened, we can talk about it a bit and get some examples. Because I think it’s fascinating about how individuals within the institution are making these decisions about the use of language to have an impact—both inside the institution and outside.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Keep coming back to that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I will, yeah.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Let me just briefly sketch out how this—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Absolutely. Yes—came into being.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

So Public Education came first. Then we added Patient Education, which had reported to another vice president who one day called me on the phone and said, “I’ve been thinking about this, Steve, and I think Patient Education would work great in your area.”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now what did that individual have in mind by that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

You mean—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. What did—I mean what did they want Patient Education to look like?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Patient education had already been established here and reported to Dr. [Charles] McCall, and it was Dr. McCall who called me. And it was a small group that worked on teaching materials for patients, on teaching expertise for clinical staff, and it was very rudimentary at the time. They had what they called a clearinghouse of thousands of pamphlets, brochures, and things that they had done, which is now a database that is done electronically. But they had a lot of things going on. They run the learning centers now. You’ve seen those learning centers around. But that is where—it was a long time before those came around. So he said to me, “I think patient education would work great with your other programs.”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Can I just ask you real quick—I’m sorry—and Dr. McCall was part of what department?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

He was the vice president for Patient Affairs.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Patient advocacy, guest relations—things like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So what was the logic for switching it to Public Information?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, the truth is he just—he told me it was exasperating working with those people. (laughter) That was exactly the word he used. And that was it. I’m telling you, Tacey, it was just different then. You know? How about this would work better here. You do it. I’m fed up with it. So I thought what the heck. Why not? It’s a good program. So that was the next one. Then what came next? Then it was Volunteer Services, and the director of Volunteer Services and I had a couple of conversations. She was eager to make a change because she didn’t care for her leadership, which was in hospital administration at the time. I brought it up to Dr. LeMaistre. I wrote up a little plan, and it was done.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now what did you say to Dr. LeMaistre about it?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, I can’t even remember.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

But what was your logic?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

My logic was we were bringing together in one unified division much of the institution’s expertise in reaching the community and getting people to understand cancer, understand MD Anderson, and serve MD Anderson. And that’s how it happened.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now you just mentioned divisions. So what was—when was the shift between that—when—oh, sorry. Bad sentence. At what point did the Department of Public Information and Education become a division? And what did that mean?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, it was very informal. I can’t remember exactly when. We just made the changes at budget time—changing the names and the way the—with LeMaistre and I probably, and it was done.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And what was the reason for doing it that way?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Because division—it was the Office of Public Affairs at that time, and division had more clout to it than office did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And yeah, divisions here are bigger than departments so when we had—so that’s why it was done.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. So it was really kind of a stamp of you’ve got support from the administration.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Did you find that before—what was the institutional perception of the Office of Public Information and Education? I mean were you welcomed? Were people in general supportive?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And you’re speaking about the Public Information component.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It was more of a challenge in the early days.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How come?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Because people—doctors didn’t recognize the need for marketing and for communications in the way they do now. Now it’s not an issue at all. But I think we were well respected. And in fact, the faculty senate did a survey in the early 1990s of the administrative departments, and Public Affairs and the library were ranked as the two top departments—top administrative departments in the survey.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s pretty amazing.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah, absolutely. And when you think about it, they’re the ones that kind of serve the faculty, and you would expect that, in a way, that’d be the case.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

One thing I noticed under the office many years ago—and maybe it’s still there—but there was actually in one of the annual reports that I read—it said that there were communication services offered to faculty and staff. So if you had a media issue you could call up Public Affairs and—I didn’t know what that meant. Could they get help drafting a statement for the press? What was that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, it could be a lot of different things. It could be writing a news release. It could be helping recruit patients for a clinical trial, which might involve some educational materials as well as media materials. It could be publicity and promotion for a meeting that they—to generate attendance. We were trying to look for ways that we could help the faculty achieve their goals, and those are some examples of that. But we do that all the time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And that’s still a function within the department.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And you know, it’s hard for me to describe the evolution of the division because when I came here there were five or six people. And when I left there were 150. And it was a gradual thing over a long period of time where we kept changing, and I tried not to keep it the status quo, and we kept changing things, and the Public Information Office—which became Communications—is now about fifty people in several different areas, and it was an evolution over a period of time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now did you find in those earlier days that the faculty understood that the department could provide them with that support?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Some did and some didn’t. Some were our regulars. There were people like [Emil J.] Freireich [Oral History Interview], for example, and [Jordan] Gutterman [Oral History Interview] in the early days who we did a lot of stuff with.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

And there were others we didn’t.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Jordan Gutterman certainly would have—I mean he had so much contact with the media about interferon.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes. That is such an amazing story. Jordan was—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Tell me about that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

In the time, Jordan was probably the most—what’s the word I’m looking for? He generated—he got more media attention than any other person at MD Anderson. It was amazing. I can remember having a news conference when the first patient to receive recombinant DNA/interferon was actually introduced to the press—a woman named Joan Karafotas from Chicago, I think—at a news conference with Jordan. And he was in Time Magazine, and he was here, and he was there. And this was in the era before the Internet and before a lot of communications, and Jordan received about seven or eight thousand letters—people were writing by letter at that time—from people all over the country beseeching, could they please become a member of his clinical trial. It attracted so much media attention, and we had to set up an apparatus to answer those letters. We answered them all with a form letter, but this was in the era before computers, and we were cranking these letters out, mailing them back to people just so that we could say the trial is full, and that sort of thing. And I never completely understood what happened to Jordan that made him become such a pariah at MD Anderson. But there was a time when he was—he was really prominent. I took him to a Rotary Club of Houston speech—Gutterman—one time. There must have been 500 people in the room, and it was a big annual event we got to—the Shamrock Hotel is where it was. And we get to the door and he goes, “Wait a minute, Steve. Wait a minute. I’ve got to think of what I’m going to say.” And he goes like that. “Okay, I got it. Let’s go.” (laughs) But faculty—there are a million stories like that of these—they were a cut above. But Jordan really fell out. He really did. I guess he’s still around. I’m not sure.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, he’s got labs and—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Have you done a session with him?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I’ve done three sessions with him so far. Yeah, the interview’s not quite finished. It’s not—he’s sort of just on the cusp of talking about the Avicin work. (end of audio one) (begin audio two)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So it will be interesting to see where it goes from there. Yeah.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I lost touch with him, but we spent a lot of time together. I lost touch with him when the interferon thing faded, which would probably be in the early eighties, mid eighties.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Mid, early eighties. Yeah. Yeah. But it was a real firestorm, I’m sure.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes. Oh, yes. Absolutely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Now that’s an interesting example of something that comes up and you have to respond really quickly because who would have thought. So how do you—how did you prepare your staff to be ready to respond to those kinds of things? What was the strategy or tactics?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, it wasn’t so much preparing our staff because that’s kind of what they’re there to do, and that’s what they’ve been trained for. It was preparing the institution. And we did a lot of things to educate the staff about media. We had many sessions with a consultant over a period of years training people in media relations. Groups—we’d bring groups of ten or twelve faculty together to get them prepared for things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What kind of information would those cover? I mean you’ll be sort of educating me because I can’t even imagine what would be covered in a workshop like that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

How to give a good interview, the pitfalls of interviewing and of being interviewed, what to say, how to say things, talking in sound bites, answering questions directly when you can, conveying the information that you want conveyed, mentioning the MD Anderson name many times—different things like that. We’ve had a number of consultants over the years. Now we’ve gotten much—very sophisticated. We have crisis communications consultants and a lot of others who come in to work on things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’m glad I asked that question about the services to faculty. It was really interesting.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I wish I could think—I wish I could think of some more to give you good examples.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I’m sure you will. We can always come back to it. So there—is that—was that called Creative Services?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Creative Services is our artist and graphic designers.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. So what’s the division that would provide this support for media?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

It’s called Communications, and they have four sections, which I think are still on there: External Communications—that would be media and things like that; Internal Communications; Creative Services and—what’s the fourth one? Oh, online media. What is that called?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, and that’s sort of a whole new thing.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Isn’t that on there?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Integrated Media Communications.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Integrated Media. Video and online and that sort of thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And just for the record, I’m looking at an organization chart for the current Division of Public Affairs—though in the seventies and in the eighties and in the nineties I imagine there were different versions of this.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Many.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yes. (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Many. In fact, I didn’t save them, Tacey, but—I might have. There might be some annual reports in my material. I sent a box of stuff to Javier [Garza]—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

—just when I retired, and there was a bunch of annual reports. That was another thing that we did that many other administrative departments did not do. I felt strongly that we needed to document our contribution to the institution, to report on metrics long before that became popular, and for many—I don’t think they do it anymore—but for many, many years we issued monthly reports to the administrative leadership, and we produced annual reports. And as we got busier and busier, we found ways to condense that into much smaller documents. But it was—it was something I felt strongly about—that you needed to let people know, especially if we were tangential to their knowledge of what was going on at MD Anderson. We wanted people to know what we were doing. We needed to issue reports that would give them little snippets of contributions we’ve made and that sort of thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, it seems as though—it seems such an essential service. It’s kind of like a lawyer. You don’t know you need it until you need it. (laughs) Well, I always say if you need a lawyer, you’re probably—if you think you need a lawyer, you probably needed one six months ago. But it may be the same thing with Public Affairs. If you suddenly like—oh, I need someone to help me with my relationship with the public—you know. Probably it’s something that’s been brewing for a bit, and bringing someone in sooner rather than later is probably smart.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The good thing—first of all, MD Anderson—I take that back. We had not experienced as much negative publicity in my history here as we have in the last year. And there have been thirty-five or forty stories in the Houston Chronicle about Dr. DePinho and related matters which have not been flattering. So it’s an anomaly in my history here. We’ve had our share of bad press in my time. Don’t get me wrong about that. But most press about MD Anderson is really very, very positive, and it has been. This is a highly regarded institution—certainly in Texas and beyond—and media feel that way as well. And most of the news out of MD Anderson is not breaking news. It’s news that could be covered or not covered, and you need a good public relations or public affairs arm to let media know what’s going on out here so they can make decisions about whether or not to cover things.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

But it’s been a crazy year since May of last year.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. I’m trying to think about where to go because you—you know—the organization chart says it. You have External Communications, which is kind of what we’ve been talking about. But then you have Internal Communications, which is a whole other dimension. And do you have a sense of which one you’d like to talk about next?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

No. I don’t care.

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Chapter 05: Expanding the Scope of Public Affairs: Increasing Services for Faculty, Patients, and the Public

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