Chapter 04: Discovering Neuropathology and Houston


Chapter 04: Discovering Neuropathology and Houston



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Next, Dr. Bruner covers her decision to specialize in neuropathology, a decision that brought her to Houston to study at the Baylor College of Medicine. She flourished in her program, however she recalls that the process of moving to Houston from the mid-west was "just awful." Though she and her husband, Charles, had no intention of staying more than two years, they came to love the city.



Publication Date



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


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story - Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas; Personal Background; Professional Path; Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine; Influences from People and Life Experiences


Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And then you made a move and came to Houston.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

I did. I ran into—during my residency which is where people decide whether to be—whether to stay general or whether to specialize—I met a pathologist who became my mentor there, a man named Jim Harris, who was the neuropathologist at the Medical College, and I just decided that I really, really liked neuropathology as a specialty of pathology. It was if anything even more detailed than pathology and it was sort of a special—it has its own special language, if you will. The rest of pathology sort of has a general language that applies to most of the tissues, most of the specimens, most of the structures, and brain pathology is really very separate. It’s described differently. It’s the only place in the body where there are neurons and glia and the things that we work with every day, and it was something that I probably came out of medical school knowing very little about. I just didn’t remember much about the brain, and I thought, “That’s something that I need to study and know more about,” and it seemed to be a very interesting part of pathology. I decided to specialize in neuropathology, and there really aren’t many training programs. I can’t remember how many there are—maybe sixty in the country. I chose a few to go and interview at. I knew I couldn’t stay in Toledo because there was none there. I looked at a program in Cleveland. I looked at a program in North Carolina, and I looked at a program in St. Louis, which was a very good program at Washington University in St. Louis. I can’t even remember why I was looking at the program in Houston, because Baylor College of Medicine here had a neuropath program, and I don’t know how that popped up on my radar screen, but it did. In going and interviewing at these other programs—when I came and interviewed at the one here at Baylor, I just felt like, “That’s the one.” It’s not that the other ones treated me badly—and I got some offers from the other ones—but the program at Baylor seemed to be a little bit larger. They had—once you go into subspecialty training, instead of a resident, you become a fellow. Their fellowship program was—at the time it was a large fellowship. We had three or four fellows. I think we had three. That was a “large” fellowship. I liked the people. I was very comfortable with the people, and they had a very broad program, because it had different kinds of hospitals. They had a county hospital, a children’s hospital, an adult hospital—so it was a good program. You could see different aspects of neuropathology, and that was my goal, to get the most complete training possible. At that time I wasn’t yet particularly interested in tumors, so I wanted to get complete training. We have Alzheimer’s disease, we have brain malformations that occur in newborns, so there are a lot of different areas of neuropathology. We do muscle and nerve biopsies for muscle and nerve diseases. There are a lot of different types of neurological diseases that we are involved in and usually diagnose and deal with, and I was very happy with the program. It was everything I thought it would be, and the fellows that were there at the time I was there were great people to train with and had a diversity of backgrounds. We helped each other. It was a two-year fellowship.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, my gosh!

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

We never—we were very naïve. Of course, moving to Houston—Toledo—Houston is ten times the size of Toledo, Ohio. Our full intent was to come to Houston for two years in training and then go right back to the Midwest. We had no intention of staying here. We didn’t know where Houston was. We had flown in. I thought Houston and Dallas were close together. We knew nothing about Texas. I didn’t even know MD Anderson was here at the time. I’d never even heard of it! But we settled down, and at the time I was based at Methodist, which was part of Baylor at the time, and my husband also got a job at Methodist, so we would ride to work together and ride home together. We found Houston to be very large, very hot, and those were the two things we remember! After, I don’t know, the first year went by—I had a great fellowship, I had a great time and by about the—was it the end of the first year? Yeah. By about—shortly into the second year of my fellowship we realized that we really liked Houston a lot, and we really didn’t look forward to moving away. It was a really a good experience.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What had turned you around and come up?

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

You know, I don’t know! It was just so easy to live here—no winter. Now, we never minded the winter when we were there. We liked it. We liked brushing snow off our cars, and we liked driving in the snow. We never thought too much about it, but the first winter that we didn’t have, we liked that a lot too!

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, I hear you. I moved down from New York State, so my first winter without ice and snow was okay.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

Yeah, and if you really want that stuff, you can go back there and visit.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You can.

Janet M. Bruner, MD:

But then you can get out of it.

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Chapter 04: Discovering Neuropathology and Houston