Chapter 18: Departments Within Public Affairs

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Chapter 18: Departments Within Public Affairs

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In this chapter, Mr. Stuyck talks about four departments within Public Affairs: Volunteer Services, the Children's Art Project, Public Education, and Patient Education. He begins with Volunteer Services, a service within MD Anderson that goes back to the 1950s. He then talks about Page Lawson, a director who greatly expanded Volunteer Services in the 1970s. He explains how he came to oversee the Department and tells a story about Tommie Stewart, a volunteer known as "the Hug Lady." He notes that MD ANdserson has 1200 volunteers who contribute the equivalent of 100 full time employees. He mentions the series of directors leading up to Page Lawson, whom he calls "a dynamo." Mr. Stuyck explains the lesson he learned from Page Lawson about remembering the names of volunteers.

Mr. Stuyck next talks about the Department of Patient Education, created by Dr. Charles LeMaistre. He explains how it came from the first patient satisfaction survey conducted in the 1980s. Dr. LeMaistre used the results of the survey to add valet parking, patient advocates, and patient education functions.

Mr. Stuyck explains changes in the reporting structure that came about with these changes, as well as the database that evolved to support patient education activities. He sketches the types of materials produced and who works on them. Next Mr. Stuyck talks about the Children's Art Project, beginning with an anecdote: Page Lawson showed him children's drawings arranged on an ironing board and asked him which ones would make a good card. He talks about his decision to separate the Art Project from Volunteer Services.

Mr. Stuyck describes what the Children's Art Project contributes to MD Anderson. He explains that it gives the institution a chance to talk about its successes. He notes how the Children's Art Project has come to be part of the MD Anderson brand.

Mr. Stuyck then tells the story of how the Public Education Department started. He comments on his colleagues in the Division of Public Affairs. Finally, Mr. Stuyck talks about what the Department of Public Education does for ME Anderson.

Identifier

StuyckSC_03_20130627_C18

Publication Date

6-27-2013

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

An Institutional Unit; MD Anderson Snapshot; Volunteers and Volunteering; Institutional Mission and Values; MD Anderson Culture; Portraits; MD Anderson Past

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

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, I wanted to also ask you about the functions of the different divisions within Public Affairs, so if you would like to—we’ve sketched the history of them. How they came under your administration, but— Steve Stuyck, MPH In most places, Public Affairs is synonymous with Public Relations or Communications, and people always ask me about that, and I think I’ve talked about Communication. I’m going to skip that for now. But other things came to Public Affairs over a period of time. The first one I want to mention is Volunteer Services, and we have a long history of volunteerism at MD Anderson going back to literally women rolling bandages on the lawn at the Baker Estate years. And there’s some great pictures and I’ve seen before of the volunteer gift shops with the Winston-Salem cigarette rack in the background near the cash register and things like that. It just shows that things change. Times change. And maybe you’ve even seen the ashtray—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

No I haven’t. Steve Stuyck, MPH We have an ashtray, Javier has some. We have an ashtray with the MD Anderson logo in the middle of it. A porcelain ashtray that was sold in the volunteer gift shops in the 1950s. Time changes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

They do change. Steve Stuyck, MPH Science marches forward. But our volunteer department was relatively small until a woman named Page Lawson became our Volunteer Services Director in the mid-1970s, and she had many a wonderful ideas and pushed the department, and it grew tremendously. I did not become involved in with Volunteer Services until after Page left, and it came about because the director and I, Tyrrell Flawn, were friendly and worked collaboratively on a lot of things, and we—there were some changes in Hospital Administration, and she and I—I proposed to Dr. LeMaistre that Volunteer Services be transferred over to Public Affairs, and he went along with that idea. I think people don’t appreciate the magnitude of the program today. In addition to the hospital-based volunteers, it includes five gift shops, which is a three-million dollars a year business and very profitable for MD Anderson. And a volunteer endowment that raises money for patient care and sorts of programs, and the Anderson Network, our patient support group, and several other programs. And I think we have a volunteer program that is unmatched at hospitals in the size of it and the impact that it has on programs, and Dr. Mendelsohn tells the story that on his first day on the job, he walked into the clinic lobby looking for the elevators, and was greeted by a woman he also called the “hug-lady,” which was a woman named Tommie Stewart who—one of her volunteer jobs was greeting patients in the lobby and often with a big hello and a hug. So he talks about the hug lady, and you’ll see the plaque outside of Dr. DePinho’s office with the President’s Award that has been given to a number of people, and one of them is Tommie Stewart. She was the first one, I think, who received that award. But volunteers have a huge impact on MD Anderson. What they say about us in the community, good or bad, but they know about us. It just is a great program.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). About how many volunteers are there? Steve Stuyck, MPH There are about 1,200 volunteers who contribute the equivalent of about 100 FTEs. I can’t remember the number of hours, Tacey, but the—but about the equivalent 100 full-time employees.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

That’s amazing. Steve Stuyck, MPH Tyrell was moved on, and we hired—we had great luck with our Volunteer Services Directors. We hired Mary Nell Lovett, whose husband is the grandson of Dr. [Edgar] Lovett of Rice University. She was great, and she was with us for about six years, and then she retired. And she was replaced by Susan French, who has been with us about seven years, and she also is wonderful. The two of them were just—Mary Nell Lovett and Susan French were just outstanding Directors of Volunteer Services.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Did you know Page Lawson? Steve Stuyck, MPH Very well.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Could you tell me a bit about her, because she was so instrumental in expanding? Steve Stuyck, MPH Yeah.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

0:42.01.1 She was apparently a real professional in volunteerism. Steve Stuyck, MPH She was a dynamo. She had a million ideas, and she was always coming up with something or another. I know for a fact—and she was a delightful person to be around. I know for a fact that she came up with the idea for volunteers in working research labs. She secured the grants to support a recreational library, which for a time was a branch of the Houston Public Library here, and we now run it. She got the Children’s Christmas Card Project started. It was part of Volunteer Services. She did many things like that. Just a great—just the kind of person you would need for—to motivate volunteers.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Steve Stuyck, MPH And—she was quite a character, too.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How so? Steve Stuyck, MPH Well, here’s a little example. She and I were kind of partners in crime. We were about the same age. She was a little older, and we weren’t—I wasn’t part of Volunteer Services, but we worked on things—we were both Directors at the same time. One day she called me up, and she said she that she was thinking that it—we had had no raises at MD Anderson in a couple of years. It was a much leaner time then. She was—she thought that she—she wanted to know what I thought about this idea, that she would give her employees a half-a-day off every week, and let them carry it on in the books so they’d only work four-and-a-half days, and that would be like instead of a raise. And I said, “Well, Page, that’s kind of illegal.” She said, “Well, I thought I’d float and see what you think of this idea.” She was great. She had—and another thing on a more serious note about Page, I was in her office one day, which is the same office that Susan French uses today, and she and I were in a meeting discussing things, and she had her door open and every time a volunteer would walk past—I was very young and green at the time—every time a volunteer walked past, she would call them by name and say, “Hello,” and stop and chat and then we’d get back to our meeting, and I’m just sitting there during all this, and I guess she could tell that I was getting a little peeved at her doing this, and when our meeting was over, she said to me very, very nicely—I learned from it absolutely. She said to me, “You know Steve, our volunteers give so much to MD Anderson that I feel as Director the least I can do is to know their name and to say something to them whenever I see them.” And later on, when I became the Vice President in charge of—responsible for Volunteer Services, I used that, and I tried to the best of my ability to know the volunteer’s name and to say something to them when I saw them, and I—1,100 is a lot to know, especially when some work at night and weekends and all, but I would say there were a couple of hundred volunteers that I knew their names and could even now, like when I came in today, I stopped to greet Tom White at the Information Desk, because you just—it means a lot to them that they believe that somebody in a position of responsibility cares about what they do, and I got that from Page Lawson.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

It definitely also takes the edge off the, you know huge expanding institution complex. Steve Stuyck, MPH Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

The impersonality of it. Steve Stuyck, MPH You know that’s one thing I used to feel about the people in communications who were expected to know so much about MD Anderson. I grew up with MD Anderson, and I learned about cancer, medicine, and science in this institution little by little. And now someone walks into this environment, it must be overwhelming for a young person just arriving here to learn things. There’s so much to take in.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Well, tell me about some of the other— Steve Stuyck, MPH Okay. Patient Ed. I give credit to Dr. LeMaistre for creating Patient Education. We did, in the late ‘70s or early 80s, our first ever patient satisfaction survey, which was a one-time—not the kind of systematic thing we do now where we sample patient’s every month. It was a one-time only survey—a point in time survey that was done through the mail and several issues were developed, and to his credit, he used that survey to make changes at MD Anderson, which is what they’re all about. We had over a quick period of time; we added valet parking, which we didn’t have before. We added the Patient Advocacy office, which we didn’t have before, and we added Patient Education. And Patient Ed. came up because a lot of people in the survey expressed concerns that they did not know what to expect from their experience here and their treatment, and they didn’t know who to turn to, and there was not as good communication between the doctors and nurses and patient as there might be. So that was kind of the motivating factor in creating the Patient Ed. office. At the time it began, it reported to Dr. Charles McCall, who was one of our Vice Presidents, and it was his request that I take it over as part of our organization, and I did, and I enjoyed it tremendously. And Patient Ed.—when I first took it over, they had what they called the Clearing House, which was a room about from almost up to this wall right—these partitions right here, lined with shelves and including thousands of pieces of literature that either our Patient Ed. staff had developed working with the clinicians or had gotten from the ACS, the American Cancer Society, or the National Cancer Institute that evolved over a period of time to be a database, which now is about 4,000 materials available online, either as part of the MyMDAnderson portal for patients. Our clinical staff can print them and give them to patients. So, there’s been a great evolution, and it was a tremendous undertaking to make this work. Louise Vallejo is in charge of Patient Ed., and she has a group of either Master’s-prepared educators, some communicators, and some nurses who work on the staff. The nursing credential is very helpful for educators, and they also run the Learning Centers. You’ve probably seen those Learning Centers here—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Steve Stuyck, MPH —that are available to patients on a drop-in basis, and they develop teaching—not just teaching materials, but teaching plans, curricula, for teaching, and also materials on how to help our clinical staff be better educators themselves. Louise has been doing that. It’s just great, and she’s been doing that—been the Director for probably about twenty years. I think the other one is Public Education—or the Children’s Art Project, I’m sorry.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Steve Stuyck, MPH The Children’s Art Project was part of volunteer services, and another thing that occurs to me—I was—Volunteer Services was in the basement, but not in the place where it is today—in a different area, and I was walking down the hallway one afternoon, the basement hallway, and Page Lawson saw me, and she yelled to me, “Come here. I want to show you something.” And she had on an ironing board, like the old days when you used to iron things and volunteers—she had an ironing board set up, and there were, I don’t know, a half-a-dozen drawings by children. And she said to me, “Which one of these do you think would make the best Christmas cards?” And that was my first exposure to the Children’s Art Project. I think it was probably the second year. And I mean—literally just a few drawings—and now it’s a very sophisticated operation that employs twenty-five people and makes—sells five million dollars a year worth of merchandise and that sort of thing. But the first year or two, it was literally in the hundreds of dollars they were taking in.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And it expanded so amazingly. I recently interviewed Karen Harrison [Oral History Interview]— Steve Stuyck, MPH Oh, yes. Yes, yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

—who was—yes, Assistant Director and managed the art project, and as part of that, I was doing background research on the increment—the changes and they weren’t actually incremental, they were exponential in terms of how that expanded. I mean it was just staggering how it took off. Enormous revenue generation. Steve Stuyck, MPH Uh—yes. Page and Karen worked together on that. I think Karen might have been the first employee that the Children’s Art Project had, and she was here for a number of years and then when I took over Volunteer Services, I felt that both programs, the Children’s Art Project and the Volunteer Program needed full-time leadership. It had been Page who was running both programs, and then Tyrrell Flawn who was running both programs, and she was—Tyrell was always going back and forth across the street because the Children’s Art Project was on one side of the street and Volunteers was on the other. And when Tyrell resigned to move back to Austin and get married, it was a perfect time to split it into two different programs, so we freshly hired Mary Nell Lovett from the community as just to run Volunteer Services and promoted Shannon Murray to become the Director of the Children’s Art Project.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). And what was the effect of that? Giving them separate leadership? Steve Stuyck, MPH Well, I think it gave someone a leader who could focus on both those programs. I think it worked perfectly. I mean I think—my sense is that from Day 1 it worked great. But there was overlaps in what they did, but there were also separations, and they were all still part of the same division.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Steve Stuyck, MPH And it just worked out really fine.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How do you think the Children’s Art Project contributes to MD Anderson’s image? Steve Stuyck, MPH Well, this is a big urban research and teaching hospital, and one of the things we’ve tried over the years to do is to put a human face on MD Anderson. The place is known not for the individuals here, but more for the whole reputation, and I think that the Children’s Art Project adds a bit of warmth and human dimension to MD Anderson. And it’s a natural for media attention. It has gotten a lot of it over the years. I think it encourages people to care about MD Anderson, is what I would say.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

I like the playfulness of it, too. Steve Stuyck, MPH Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You know, and—because cancer can be so dreadfully serious and harsh. Steve Stuyck, MPH It gives us opportunities to talk about the success in cancer, because pediatric tumors—the survival rates for most of them are quite high. It gives us a chance to talk about all kinds of things about MD Anderson. In fact, that was one of the things that Dr. Mendelsohn brought to the table. He felt that the Children’s Art Project was perceived almost as a stand-alone organization and it was true that some of our market research told us that people thought it was at Texas Children’s and things like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh really? Steve Stuyck, MPH So, with Shannon, we refocused at bringing a tighter connection to MD Anderson. If you look at the catalogs and things like that, they’ll be sidebars on cancer prevention tips or on clinical—we’ve done some clinical trials mailings and different things like that, so we tried to tie it more closely to the MD Anderson mission and name, and I think I would give Dr. Mendelsohn that credit, because he was very serious about this at one point in his career. He was kind of down on the Children’s Art Project. He didn’t think it was—the people appreciated that it was from MD Anderson.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And let’s see, we have one left over. The Public Education. Steve Stuyck, MPH The Public Education. I think we talked a little about this in our—it began with the—it began at a time when communication was something between a doctor and a patient, and we had the opportunity and I remember describing this to you, to secure a Cancer Information Service Contract from the NCI. And that became the nucleus from which our Public Education program grew. I got in trouble with NCI. I was the principal investigator on the contract, and NCI had Quality Assurance telephone calls that they would place to the various centers around the country, and I was thinking even back then, that this needed to be tied closely to MD Anderson and not be a stand-alone organization. So, I had our staff answer the phone, “MD Anderson Cancer Information Service,” which really—I wasn’t even—I don’t recall my thought process at time, but it really was the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service funded by the National Cancer Institute. So, I got my hand slapped on that one very quickly on one of their surprise calls when someone answered. But I was trying to let people know that MD Anderson was taking on this responsibility, and from that, our other Public Education programs grew, and still is under the leadership of Jo Ann Ward, who I was blessed, particularly with Jo Ann and Louise, Mary Nell, and Susan French. I had great members of our leadership team. Just really were wonderful to work with and great idea people and very conscientious and committed to what they did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

How do you think Public Education has helped MD Anderson over the years as its grown? Steve Stuyck, MPH I like to say, and I have said far too often, because people remind me, I have a limited number of mottos and things, but that frequently Public Education is the best Public Relations. I think people admire MD Anderson, but when they want to turn to MD Anderson, the things they need to know about cancer, and I think we’ve done a lot to eliminate some of the myth and misinformation about cancer to make it less frightening. I hope we have, and I think it’s a role that MD Anderson needs to play. We need to be in the community talking about cancer. Especially cancer prevention and risk reduction. It’s really an important thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Is there anything else that you’d like to say about any of these—? Steve Stuyck, MPH I don’t think so. I don’t think so. I can’t—I’m worn out on it.

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Chapter 18: Departments Within Public Affairs

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