Chapter 02 : Inspired by J Freireich and Doing Support Work for MD Anderson Researchers


Chapter 02 : Inspired by J Freireich and Doing Support Work for MD Anderson Researchers



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In this chapter, Dr. Elting explains that after a friend suggested she work at MD Anderson to make money for college, she got a job as a clerk-typist in the Tumor Registry, where she learned about diagnoses, anatomy, and treatment. She tells an anecdote about how she came to attend rounds one day in Developmental Therapeutics. The outcomes for patients that day were particularly bad, she recalls, and Dr. Emil J Freireich [Oral History Interview] talked the faculty to remind that that a cure could be discovered at any moment. She says, “I was a goner,” she was so inspired.



Publication Date



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; MD Anderson Culture; MD Anderson History


Linda S. Elting, DrPh:

And a friend of my father's, who was a pharmacist here at MD Anderson, suggested that I apply here just for a clerical job so I could support myself. And so I was hired as a Clerk Typist I. (laughing)

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD:

You still remember the grade?

Linda S. Elting, DrPh:

I do! I do. I had a number of those jobs with numberRoman numerals after them. And I worked in the Tumor Registry. And amazingly enough for someone with zero skills and nothing to bring to the job really, other than, you know, I was smart enough to read, I was sat down at a desk, handed medical records and said, "Read these charts and figure out what kind of cancer they have." And so I learned about diagnoses, I learned a lot about anatomy and physiology that they taught the coders, how to code treatment and things like that. And I was the most junior person. So that meant I got the worst assignments, and what was considered the worst assignment at that point was to go to a hospital unit called 3 West, which was developmental therapeutics. It was where chemo was given, that was a new treatment then in 1970. Most patients were treated with radiation or surgery. So I went with my little pen and pencil and my forms to go and review the charts of the patients who were in there. And one day, I got trapped in the back of the conference room when the whole medical team walked in to have their rounds. And I couldn't get out before they all arrived, so I had to sit through it while they discussed all the cases. And they discussed one after the other, and many were doingof the patients were not doing well that day. They had had three Code Blues since the early morning; it was a bad day on the leukemia service. And Dr. [Emil J.] Freireich was on service that day. And he recognized, I think, everyone's feeling. And he just stopped the meeting in the middle, and he looked everyone in the eye, and he said, "This has been a bad day. We have a lot of bad days." But he said, "Remember, a new cure could be right around the corner." And he said when he first took vincristine, one of the first chemo drugs from his laboratory to the bedside at the NCI [National Cancer Institute], children who had bene bleeding to death from leukemia, who had only a few hours to live, were cured. And he said, "That could happen anytime." And I was a goner at that point. My imagination was captured, and I thought, "Oh, this is very cool, there's this thing right around the corner, so we should all sign up and do this."

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Chapter 02 : Inspired by J Freireich and Doing Support Work for MD Anderson Researchers