Chapter 14: Impressions of Dr. Ronald DePinho


Chapter 14: Impressions of Dr. Ronald DePinho



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Dr. Becker then talks about his surprise that the search committee selected Dr. Ronald DePinho to succeed John Mendelsohn. In the final moments he talks about the importance of MD Anderson being listed as a co-grantor on degrees conferred by the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He notes the creation of MD Anderson's academic convocation as an important recognition of accomplishment. He ends the interview with an anecdote about attending an address by Dr. DePinho and sitting next to Dr. LeMaistre.



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; Growth and/or Change; Understanding the Institution; Portraits; The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation; Building/Transforming the Institution; Career and Accomplishments

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


Frederick F. Becker, MD:

Now, one other thing. John Mendelsohn steps down. Again, people come out from where they’ve been and volunteer themselves as presidential candidates, many of them quite distinguished, many of them quite the top of their area in our area of oncology, none of them bad people or candidates. One of them from within—hadn’t been from within long—had incredible credentials. If I was asked to bet, I would have bet on him in a minute. Interestingly enough, I started to get a couple of calls from faculty members because now the committee was much more diverse—men, women, blah, blah, blah, a couple of students, some faculty members, Board of Regents, Board of Visitors—and I got a couple of calls and they said, “There are some suggestions from the outside, blah, blah, blah.” And I said, “Yeah, but you’ve got to tell me who they are, because the guy inside is quite terrific in many respects.”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And who was this inside guy? Okay. [The recorder is paused.] [ ]

Frederick F. Becker, MD:

It’s common knowledge. Everyone knows. They would have bet on him. And then they brought up Dr. DePinho’s name. I happened to know him because years ago the Harvard facilities were told they had to unify their CORE grant—they couldn’t have five of them—and that wasn’t easy because the one thing at Harvard that everybody knows is everybody hates everybody. So if you’re at Hospital A, you hate Hospital B and think they’re punky. So I was on a committee of five people established by Harvard to go up there—this is anecdotal and has nothing to do with Anderson—and to advise people up there. So I was very well familiar with Dr. DePinho’s work, and of course, it was a little historical because it had been some years ago, and he knew me. I want to say everybody knew me anyhow. I said I was very surprised because I personally wouldn’t have thought of it, but his credentials are really unbelievable. Of course, he led a huge group of researchers, he was a tremendous fundraiser, he has a couple of companies, so he’s very familiar with commercialization, and his research was top of the line. I may have said to someone, by the way, “I’m surprised he isn’t in the National Academy,” so I was a little ahead of the time. And he’s brilliant. If you hear him speak—I thought that maybe he didn’t have enough clinical exposure for a place like this, I mean in terms of being selected. I think they’ve got themselves the fourth winner. He’s a pistol. Turn off your thing, and I’ll tell you an anecdote.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

All right. [The recorder is paused]

Frederick F. Becker, MD:

For years Dr. LeMaistre and I fought for academic recognition, and what I mean is this: although we trained the vast majority of graduate students, and their PhDs were awarded for work they did with us, the graduate school was solely under the medical school. We weren’t even mentioned, and that really steamed us. Finally—I believe it was John, but it was also certainly input from Mickey—we were recognized as co-leaders of the graduate school, and MD Anderson was placed on the certificates of graduation and so on. One of the things we thought of years and years ago was that one of the things that putatively marks an academic center is an academic convocation. So we established an academic convocation here at which point faculty members are given awards, students and fellows are given awards, and there’s recognition of accomplishment. I try to get here for the convocation since I helped to create it. This past year, I came down in November for the convocation, and because people still know me, I was given a seat in the front row next to Doc LeMaistre. And when Dr. DePinho spoke, he recognized me in his speech as a great contributor and so on. Actually, the person who won the LeMaistre Award, Mien-Chie Hung, spent ten minutes talking about how I supported his research and so on. Now I go back to New York for my New York visit, and I get an email that says Dr. DePinho is going to speak at some gigantic law firm—it’s a fundraiser—and would I like to go. Sure. So I get dressed up, I go there, and Dr. DePinho comes in escorted by his group of Steve Schultz and Pat Mulvey and that crowd, and he looks over, and he sees me. He walks up and gives a brilliant speech—good God, a marvelous speech. But of course, at the end he’s going to be whisked out to give another speech somewhere. He’s fundraising. And as he goes past, he stops and looks at me and he says, “Are you going to be everywhere I make a speech?” I said, “I’m watching you.” Click. You can turn it off now.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

(laughs) All right. So we’re done?

Frederick F. Becker, MD:

Yeah, we’re done.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

We’re done. Okay. It’s 5 after . (end of audio file )

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Chapter 14: Impressions of Dr. Ronald DePinho