Chapter 10: Charles LeMaistre, John Mendelsohn, and Other Leaders

Title

Chapter 10: Charles LeMaistre, John Mendelsohn, and Other Leaders

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Description

In this chapter, Dr. Ahearn offers his perspective on the three presidents he has served under, noting that MD Anderson was a different institution under each leader, though each has "shared the vision" of MD Anderson as a caring institution. That feeling, he says, also filters into a sense of pride and mission in the faculty.

Identifier

Ahearn,MJ_02_20110803_S10

Publication Date

8-3-2011

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - The Educator; The Administrator; The Educator; Philanthropy, Fundraising, Donations, Volunteers; Education; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose; Institutional Mission and Values; Patients; Human Stories; Beyond the Institution; MD Anderson and Government

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Mm-hmm. I wanted to shift gears just a little bit, because it struck me yesterday when you were first speaking, when we first started the interview, you said that you had the privilege of serving under all three MD Anderson [presidents]

, which is very -- so that’s Dr. Lee Clark, Charles LeMaistre, and the most recent and now outgoing President, John Mendelsohn, and that’s just a very unique situation among the people that I will be interviewing, and so I wanted to ask you a bit to reflect on similarities and differences in their vision, their styles as leaders, what you believe they accomplished. You talked a little bit about Dr. Clark yesterday, but I’m wondering if you could think about these three leaders or what they’ve offered.

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Well, the three people that have led MD Anderson, it’s been a different institution each time. It’s like parents that have three different children. They’re different in their lifestyle. At the time, Anderson was different. When Dr. Clark was here, he was starting from nothing and building MD Anderson with a great vision of what it would become. When Dr. LeMaistre came along MD Anderson was different but he still picked up and supplied what MD Anderson needed at that time, which was --

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

And what was that, under his leadership?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Well, it was, it was a growth in a different way. We had been concentrating earlier on just the basic necessities, and Dr. LeMaistre, having come from the chancellorship of the UT system, was more education oriented, and many programs came in, as you mentioned, prevention programs, because the knowledge base in cancer was changing with each of these three presidents. And Dr. LeMaistre had a great interest in education and prevention, and prevention, and that joined in with patient care, which had been a primary concern when Dr. Clark was there was patient care. We added to the mission, you know, education and prevention to the mission, so -- and, of course, research and patient care had always been there, but that --

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Did you know Dr. LeMaistre pretty well?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Yes, yes. (inaudible) Dr. LeMaistre had the same charisma that doctor... I guess all three of our leaders had a great deal of charisma and believed in getting to know the faculty and the staff in the Institution, so...

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

What kind of man was he?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Doctor...?

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Dr. LeMaistre. How would you describe him as an individual and his gifts?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

I think that his primary strength was from organization, and having worked with the UT system, knowing the ins and outs at the state level for education, and I think -- as I said, he was visionary in bringing in prevention, I think, for the first time, really, and strengthening all the education programs across the institution. I think he was very aware of that. And then, of course, in ’96 --

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

’96.

Michael Ahearn, PhD

-- Dr. Mendelsohn came on board, and once again, a leader for the time. I think that Anderson has been blessed with three leaders that met the needs for the institution at that particular time.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

And what was the need when John Mendelsohn took over the leadership?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Well, I think continued growth, because the need for Anderson to expand their patient care services -- because we never have been able to keep up with the demand for the services here, and I think that we have had spectacular growth under John Mendelsohn’s tutorage within the Institution and the kind of care that we can deliver, and of course his interest always has been individualized, personalized cancer care, and, of course, that’s what he’s going back to now as he steps down from the Presidency is personalized medicine. But I think the scope of the Institution has changed, and, of course, if you were asking a clinician this question they would probably be able to elaborate more. I have, my remarks have been primarily what I have seen from the educational side of the Institution.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Another name that comes up during the time when you first joined was Gilbert Fletcher, and I’m wondering about -- did you have -- what was your relationship with him?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

I did not know Dr. Fletcher directly. We were here at the same time, but he was revolutionizing radiation therapy, as a new tool to treat cancer, and was a very brilliant man. Certainly I’ve, you know... He had clinics in which he presided over the clinic in radiation therapy. I’ve attended some of those, but never actually worked with Dr. Fletcher.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Who am I missing from that period when you came to MD Anderson in the ’60s? People that you worked really closely with and really respected but I don’t know about, so I’m relying on you to tell me who were the big figures there.

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Well, initially with Dr. Clark I think that Murray Copeland was an individual that... They used to say that Murray Copeland and Dr. Clark, either one of them could write the letter and it would be absolutely identical. They worked very much in concert together. Dr. Copeland was a very colorful figure, but very instrumental in those early years at MD Anderson.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

What were his primary areas of activity? What was he really interested in?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Dr. Copeland, I think, was an orthopedic surgeon, but I think that his interest here and his contribution was all over the Institution. He was like a second hand to Dr. Clark, and really in getting federal funds Dr. Copeland could go to Washington and come back with the money in his pocket, so to speak, and there were always very interesting tales. Dr. Copeland was very much the Southern gentleman and very robust and rotund, a little bit, and they used to say that he could drink anyone under the table because of his (inaudible), that everybody else could get tipsy and Dr. Copeland could be conducting the meeting. (laughter)

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Probably why he could come home with money in his pocket!

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Come home with money in his pocket.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Is there anyone else that I should be aware of from that time who was important in your mind?

Michael Ahearn, PhD

Oh, Grant Taylor was a pediatrician here, and really, I think, developed the Pediatric Department. There’s so many others. I mean, I don’t want to leave anyone out but, I mean, there was a wealth.

CLIP

C: This is MD Anderson

C: Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson

C: MD Anderson Past

B: Institutional Mission and Values

C: The MD Anderson Ethos

“A Place of Love and Care”

Michael Ahearn, PhD

+

Anderson has had some fantastic people on their faculty and administration through the years. We’ve been blessed. And they’ve all shared the vision. You know, I remember when I first came, you know, when you’re establishing something, and I was trying to get the ultrastructure laboratory underway, I was here really late sometimes, 9:30 or 10:00 at night, and when I would leave sometime in the front -- the drive in the front on Bertner was a circular drive in the front, and that was the primary entrance to the Institution, and everybody went through the lobby to get into the Institution, and it was not a large lobby, not any larger than this office area complex down here, and that was the lobby for the hospital. And Dr. Clark would be down there, because they had benches built in around the wall that were seating area, and people that had family members in the hospital would many times be asleep down there on those benches at night, and he would be distributing blankets and pillows, and if there was an empty bed somewhere in the hospital that he could take them, he would carry them upstairs and put them to bed upstairs in the patient rooms that weren’t being used. A very dedicated person and concern, and that kind of concern has never left the Institution, even though we have increased in size. The care and the love of people, the Anderson spirit has been there, and I think it’s very unusual for an Institution to move from a small place like that with that kind of feeling and caring from the leadership all the way down to the present time, and I think you still see that, people that are trying and concerned and helping other people. And I hear that a lot from friends that come here. They said, “I was so surprised of the caring relationship that your staff and faculty have with the patients.” It’s... I think that’s been something that we’ve been blessed with, and certainly has been nurtured by the administration of this institution.

Chapter 10: Charles LeMaistre, John Mendelsohn, and Other Leaders

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