Chapter 10: MD Anderson Growth; Key Awards; Views on Women in the Workplace; A Life in Magnolia, Texas

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Chapter 10: MD Anderson Growth; Key Awards; Views on Women in the Workplace; A Life in Magnolia, Texas

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In this final segment of her interview, Dr. Kripke comments on the growth of MD Anderson and on her own career and life after retirement. She begins by noting that many people think that the institution has already become too big. She talks about the loss of personal relationships, but that the mission remains strong. She notes that there were concerns at the executive level about "how big is big enough,"but that the demand for services will increase as the population ages. She explains why satellite operations offer a good solution. Dr. Kripke reflecte on what has given her most satisfaction in her career. Scientifically, she says she was pleased to move forward the Montreal Protocol, which got rid of chlorofluorocarbons (noting with pride that Al Gore mentioned her in his book, An Inconvenient Truth). Administratively, she was proud to bring a sense of fairness, transparency, and a change of leadership style to the role of Vice President of Academic Programs. She also feels she made significant contributions to women in the institution. She hopes that the Office of Women Faculty Programs will continue. Dr. Kripke then speaks about her most meaningful awards, singling out her 1984 receipt of the Lila Gruber Award for Cancer Research from the American Academy of Dermatology, since it is more meaningful to be recognized by those outside one's field than by colleagues. In the last minutes of the interview, Dr. Kripke speaks about the person behind the research and administrative personas. Her "great escape place"is in Magnolia, Texas, where she and Dr. Fidler own property. She built a pool and a greenhouse so she could raise orchids and likes country life, being a "biologist at heart." Reflecting on career expectations of her daughter and stepdaughter, she notes differences between the experiences of career women today and when she was going through her career, acknowledging that things have changed.

Identifier

Kripke,M_02_20120329_S10

Publication Date

3-29-2012

Publisher

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Interview Subject's Story –View on Career and Accomplishments Growth and/or Change; MD Anderson Culture; Career and Accomplishments; Post Retirement Activities; Personal Background; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Experiences re: Gender, Race, Ethnicity; Women and Diverse Populations in Healthcare and Institutions

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 A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

I wanted to go back to a couple of general issues about MD Anderson, if that’s all right, because you’ve certainly seen—during the time you’ve been here you’ve seen it just grow enormously, and I’m wondering if you could make a comment on what you think the impact of that growth has been, and if it’s been managed well, if there are areas in which it could be managed better, if it’s possible for MD Anderson to become too big?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Well, a lot of people will tell you that MD Anderson has become too big, and it certainly is different than it was 25 years ago in the sense that there is, I think, less collegiality. It’s hard to know your colleagues when there are 1,500 of them now instead of 500 of them, so I think with any growth of that magnitude there is a loss of personalization in terms of the employees. I think in spite of it all the mission remains strong. People’s dedication to the mission remains very strong, but I do think it has an impact on—I think people feel more isolated, more insular in terms of whatever their little niche is in the institution. I think we did worry about at the executive level how big is big enough and—

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Oh, that’s thunder.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

—what’s the logical extension of this for the future. The problem is that the cancer problem isn’t going away anytime soon, and in fact, because of the aging of the population, it’s going to continue to increase. The demand for services is going to continue to increase way into the middle of this century, and so I think MD Anderson could continue to expand. It seems that the new approach to dealing with that is to invest in satellite operations because even someone such as myself who is very familiar with the medical center would rather not go into the Texas Medical Center if I don’t have to, and so I think most people are terrified of having to drive and park in the medical center and so on. And so I think that the new philosophy is to try to get treatment centers out of the medical center and not just in Houston in the local environs but also they’ve opened this place, the Banner Medical Center, and they’re opening some additional facilities around the country.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

That was actually going to be my next question on whether you felt that the quality of care could be maintained at those remote locations.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

That is a question way outside of my expertise. That would not be my bailiwick.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

All right, fair enough.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

I would hope so.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

One would.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

But I have no inside knowledge about that issue.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

I just had a few more questions left, and I wanted to first get maybe some of your personal reflections. Some of this you may feel you’ve already answered, and if so, we could just take a pass on those questions, but of all the work that you’ve done at this institution, what do you feel has been the most significant, the work that you’re most proud of, that you’ve been gladdest to participate in?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Well, here’s a scientific answer to that and an administrative answer to that. The scientific answer is that I think one of the things that I am proudest about in terms of my scientific career was being involved in and maybe to a minor extent instrumental in moving forward what’s called the Montreal Protocol, which got rid of chlorofluorocarbons in the atmosphere and my involvement in that issue—and you’ll note on my CV I did some things for the Environmental Protection Agency and was on their science advisory board, and I was on the United Nations Environment Program Panel for a lot of years. The reason for that is one of the things that chlorofluorocarbons do, they damage the ozone layer. We all know that probably by now, but what happens when you have less ozone in the upper atmosphere is that you get more ultraviolet light coming through, and so when people found out that not only is there a skin issue here and some eye ocular issues, but there might be immunological issues and that this might have an impact on immune responses to infectious diseases, for example, that kind of added a new thought process to that whole area, and I think that work was in fact instrumental in helping us get rid of chlorofluorocarbons out of the environment. And so it’s my small amount of environmental activism at work there, but I was thrilled to note that Albert Gore gave me a footnote in his book about the environment, that he noted the importance of my work in that area, which was very nice.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

What would be the administrative answer to that question about what you’re most proud of?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

What I think I’m most proud of was to be able to bring a sense of fairness and a sense of transparency to the faculty part of the institution and to really change the leadership style of that particular office.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

I know there’s been kind of a lag time between when you’ve retired and now but I’m wondering—

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

I want to add one thing.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Certainly.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

I’m also very pleased with what I have been able to accomplish for women in the institution. That’s another thing that I feel is a significant contribution to the institution.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

There’s been a lag time since your retirement and today, obviously, but I’m wondering are there any particular initiatives or trends that you feel you established at MD Anderson that you hope will be carried on?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Certainly the office of Women Faculty Programs is one that I hope will survive a new administration, and I’m hoping that some of the policies that have to do with research, resources and rewarding the behavior that you want will continue as well.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

I have a list of your honors and awards, and I’m wondering if there are any of them that mean anything—are particularly meaningful to you.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Can I look at the list?

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Sure, certainly.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Well, probably my favorite award is the Lila Gruber Award for Cancer Research from the American Academy of Dermatology in 1984 because the American Academy of Dermatology is an enormous organization, and they honor someone in cancer research each year. I was a very junior recipient of that award. I had been at MD Anderson for exactly 1 year, and it was extremely meaningful for me because it was being recognized by an aspect of medicine that I did not belong to. It’s one thing to be recognized by your peers in societies that you belong to and so on, but to have that kind of recognition from the dermatology community was really very, very meaningful to me. What else? Well, the President’s Cancer Panel we already talked about. The other one is I’ve received two lifetime achievement awards for science, and they have been relatively recent, and kind of to be remembered even after I haven’t been in the field, active in the field for so long was both surprising and very pleasant. The same with the Finsen Medal, which is the Finsen Medal in Photomedicine. It’s given by the International Society for Photobiology, and it’s given once every 4 years, and it’s to someone who has made a major achievement in photobiology or photomedicine, and so that was just a couple of years ago, so that was, again, totally unexpected and really very gratifying. People recognized a lifetime of achievement, even though I’d been in administration for 10 years and other things for quite a while.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

And also the longevity of the implications of your work. That’s really great.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

The more recent awards were Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce and also the BioHouston Award. Those are, again, kind of surprising to me because I’ve been out of science for such a long time, and so being recognized by the community, the Houston community, is also very nice. That would be the—on my list.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Just a few more questions. I had just a few questions to ask about the person behind the professional role. I know I’ve read that you have horses and have enjoyed horseback riding. We were talking off record yesterday about how you’re taking some time during your retirement to learn some new skills and hobbies that you haven’t had time to do before, and you’re enjoying this sort of continuing of your learning, and I’m wondering if there is any hobby or indulgence that you allow yourself that shows a facet of your personality that you’d like to share with us, something that maybe is different from what people see.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

I guess one of my great passions is we have a house out in Magnolia, Texas, and it’s in a beautiful setting. I moved my horses out to Magnolia 10 years ago when we bought the property out there, and the first thing I did when I retired was to build a greenhouse and a swimming pool on the property, and so that’s kind of still my wonderful escape place. I’m very happy out there, and I have a greenhouse full of orchids, which are blooming now, which is very nice, and so I like the country life and the country lifestyle. It’s very pleasant. I’m a biologist at heart and a naturalist by preference, and so that’s very pleasant. It’s like having the best of both worlds. We have a lovely apartment in the city right near the medical center and also kind of a country place to escape to, so that’s very, very nice. In addition to horseback riding and orchid growing I’m really interested in food, so I enjoy cooking. I don’t do it a lot, but I enjoy cooking, and one of the other things I did when I retired was to go to Mexico to a place that had a combined horseback riding program. You rode horses in the morning, and you learned Mexican cooking in the afternoon, so it was fabulous for me. I enjoyed that too. But as I think I mentioned to you yesterday, I’m only happy when I am learning new things, and so the Mayor’s Advisory Council has enabled me to do that. I really learned a lot about the obesity issue from doing that, and I have a small group of ladies that I have a Spanish lesson with once a week. We write and talk in Spanish. We have a professor who comes and spends an hour or two with us every week. I like being able to do that. It’s wonderful to have the opportunity to do things that you’ve always wanted to do, so that’s where I am.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Is there anything else that you’d like to add?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

I don’t think so. Actually, there’s one other thought that I think is very important. I don’t know if this was in Legends and Legacies or not, but I was talking to my daughter. My husband also has a daughter. A number of years ago they were thinking about their own careers and kind of getting out of college and what are they going to do, and they said, “Well, we want to be able to have a family and a career, and we just think that the workplace will have to change to meet our needs.” And I just looked at them in horror and said “Oh, my God, I’m going to be supporting these two for the rest of my life” because of course in my generation the way you succeeded was to pretend that you didn’t have all these domestic responsibilities and you were not taking care of children at home and you were not cooking 3 meals a day and having to go to the grocery store and do the laundry and all of that kind of stuff. You just never even mentioned that, and so I was just horrified with their comments, but on further reflection what occurred to me was that the way we did it never changed anything, and the only way you get things to change is by acknowledging that there are differences, and that was so counterintuitive for women of my generation that we never would have dreamed of doing that, so it’s interesting.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Is there any implication from that that you’d like to follow up on for women today, and men too?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

That thought really influenced my work with women and women leaders in the institution that why are we pretending there’s no difference? There are difficult challenges that women have that their male counterparts don’t have, and so it influenced my thinking and actions here subsequently. I don’t know whether—I mean, I do think the workplace is changing partly from the demands of women but also from the demands of men who want to spend more time with their families and more time at home, and they’re not willing to travel, be on the road all the time and move around the country and whatever. I think the workplace is changing.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Yeah, there have been a number of articles in Time and Newsweek about the changing face of fatherhood and the way that more and more women are earning more than their partners.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

And the ones about how women are going to reenter the workforce having stayed out of the workforce for a few years. How do they get back in and so on, and so I think things are changing.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Anything else?

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

No, thank you. You’ve been delightful.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

Well, thank you so much for taking the time. I’m really delighted to have had the opportunity to talk to you.

Margaret L. Kripke, Ph.D

Thank you.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D

I’m turning off the recorder now at a quarter of four.

Chapter 10: MD Anderson Growth; Key Awards; Views on Women in the Workplace; A Life in Magnolia, Texas

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