Commentary on MD Anderson Growth and Change


Commentary on MD Anderson Growth and Change



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


Houston, Texas

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.


Wenonah Ecung, PhD

I painted for you who, for me, Mickey LeMaistre was, which was opening, warm, embracing of others, John Mendelsohn was the same way. I remember there was a time—and I don't know who told him—but Ramon is my second marriage. So I was going through a divorce. And Dr. Mendelsohn had a Christmas party at his house, as he always did. And when I got there, he was, as Dr. LeMaistre always was, warm and embracing. And there was a point where he says, "I don't know what's wrong with anybody out there that doesn't understand that they'd be lucky to have you." I mean, just—so that's what I had been used to. Folks that are approachable, that are open to others. I never, ever in my—I was there 39 years, and 37 of the 39 years I never forgot I was black, but I never felt I wore that on my sleeve. And [I never felt] that's how people were looking at me.

My last two years, I was ever aware of the fact that I was a black person. And I felt somewhat diminished in certain circles as a result of that. Not from the people that were immediately around me [ ]. I felt—and I shared this with Dr. Buchholz, because I was—I felt he supported me. And I actually went from Associate Vice President to Vice President under Dr. Buchholz' reign. So I always felt he supported me. [ ] And I had never in all my years there felt invisible. So I don't know how we got on that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

Well, talking about how the institution began to feel very different from—

Wenonah Ecung, PhD

Right. So that was—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD

And I was actually—the issue of diversity, and the fact of you being a black woman in the institution, I was certainly going to ask you about that. So we're starting to address that issue as well.

Wenonah Ecung, PhD

Yeah. So it was with the change. (clears throat) Excuse me. That wasn't emotional, that was just choking. (laughter) So it was with the entry of our new president that I think the institution shifted and began to change. When I said it was in conflict with who I am as a person, I saw [ ] doing things and saying things that I had never, ever experienced at MD Anderson in my career, things that were demeaning, and things that I firmly believe, had I even ventured down that road, I would have rightfully been dismissed from the institution. I saw less valuing of people. I witnessed comments of Anderson was now made up of nothing but B people. And we need A people here, which diminishes everyone around you. And I saw the looks on faces as comments like that were made. So over the last two to three years, I just—it just wasn't—and that's not a bad thing, it just wasn't the MD Anderson I had come to know. But again, that does not make it a bad thing, it just means I was at a point where I needed to make a decision.

Commentary on MD Anderson Growth and Change