Chapter 01: Medical Training, the Military, and a Fellowship at MD Anderson

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Chapter 01: Medical Training, the Military, and a Fellowship at MD Anderson

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Dr. Ames begins this chapter by sketching his training at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and St. Joseph Hospital in Houston and his fellowship at MD Anderson. He talks about the environment for surgical practice at MD Anderson at that time and some technical aspects. Next he talks about his service as a Major and Chief of General Surgical Services in the Army (7/1975-7/1977). He talks about how the carefully selected group of skilled surgeons with whom he served.

Identifier

AmesF_01_20190807_C01

Publication Date

8-7-2019

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

Professional Path; Military Experience; The Researcher

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.

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

We are recording, the counter is moving, always a good sign, and I want to say for the record that today is February 27, 2019. I almost glitched out on the date. My name is Tacey Ann Rosolowski and I am sitting in a conference room in the Division of Surgery, and this is the inaugural interview for a project that has been spearheaded by Dr. Charles Balch, “The First 50 Years of Surgery at MD Anderson.” I want to welcome our first interview subject, who is Dr. Frederick Ames. Thank you very much for joining us.

Frederick Ames, MD

It’s my pleasure.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

That’s great. Part of this is getting the voices so the transcription service can tell who’s who, and Dr. Balch is with us too, thank you so much.

Charles Balch, MD

Thank you, Tacey.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Well, I’m delighted and just for the record I wanted to say that Dr. Ames came to MD Anderson and we kind of zeroed in on a date earlier, when you were rotated here as a resident, in 1973, and then became a clinical fellow in oncologic surgery in 1974 and then joined the faculty in ’77. So this is a long relationship with the institution and we’re delighted to have your perspectives.

Frederick Ames, MD

Thank you.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Well let me start with a question that we settled on earlier, to just kick us off, which is tell us about your surgical training and what brought you here.

Frederick Ames, MD

Well, it’s kind of interesting, and since several of the folks who were involved are no longer with us, I’ll be kind. I began my surgical training in Galveston, at the invitation of the interim chair there, whom I knew as a medical student, and when I returned as a fellow --I’m sorry resident-- after my internship. They had a new chair and he released all of the residents in the program save one, and therefore the rest of us had to migrate elsewhere.

Charles Balch, MD

That must have been Jim Thompson.

Frederick Ames, MD

Of course. In any event, he also, the chair, canceled the longstanding program that goes back way into history, of the chief residents all rotating to MD Anderson Cancer Center, and I don’t remember what the period of rotation was. It could have been three months, it would be easy for me to find out because I know Jim [James] Allums, who was my chief resident as a medical student, and Jim is retired now but lives in East Texas. It would be easy for me to find out. He was one of the last that ever rotated here and so part of my dream in becoming a surgeon actually had to do with a rotation to MD Anderson Cancer Center. That was eliminated, and so despite my disappointment, which is difficult to describe --being released from my residency-- in fact it was one of the more fortuitous things that ever happened to me. So I rotated to Houston, where I knew some people at the residency at St. Joseph’s Hospital, which now is the Methodist residency, and they had a longstanding rotation relationship here.

Charles Balch, MD

Because of John Stehlin.

Frederick Ames, MD

No, it preceded John I think.

Charles Balch, MD

Did it? Okay.

Frederick Ames, MD

I think it did, but I did get to rotate with John Stehlin, who had been on the faculty here as I know you know. In any event—

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Can I actually act just a background question for myself, which is when did you decide to focus on oncology?

Frederick Ames, MD

During my residency.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Okay.

Frederick Ames, MD

When did I focus on surgery? The first rotation I had as a third year medical student was OB/Pediatrics, and then medicine and then surgery, elective and whatever, and so I started on obstetrics in, I guess the first of June. The chief resident outgoing in the residency program was one Taylor Wharton.

Charles Balch, MD

Really? What a connection.

Frederick Ames, MD

So here I am, going to deliver a baby again. The rotation, the call schedule, was alphabetical, here I was. That’s when I learned, you bring your toothbrush and clean underwear and socks when you go to a new rotation. Well, there you are, thrown out of the frying pan into the fire, and I kept backing up and talking out the door and of course Taylor was in the lounge. You know the most exciting thing, I imagine, to a chief resident in OB/GYN, would be to deliver a gran multip pregnant lady. And as it turns out I did real well on all my preclinical stuff and I was very excited. Of course, the OB nurse and I delivered that baby without a hitch, and I frankly deliberated about going into OB, because you were part of the action. Anyway, as I rotated around, I went on surgery and partly because of the admiration I had for the surgeons I was with. I became deeply interested in surgery, and then with further exposure as time went on during my residency, I migrated to cancer. But gosh, the real catalyst was when I rotated here as a third year resident and I had the service of Ted Copeland [Division of Surgery Interview].

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

What was it that grabbed you so much about the environment here for surgery?

Frederick Ames, MD

Oh gosh, just everything. I wanted to be in the action, I was fascinated by surgery, technical surgery, all of the interpersonal actions you had with the patient and the family. There was a lot of drama, a lot of it’s life and death. Not on the operating table, though sometimes that’s the case, but there’s a lot of drama when you’re taking care of people with an illness that’s potentially fatal. In any event, for all of the things, I can’t even remember, I was drawn to surgical oncology and I got to see Ted Copeland, was center court, as was Richard Martin, who was everybody’s go-to person. Everybody in the institution and all the notables around the state who would come here, Richard Martin was the go-to guy, he took care of all the VIPs, all of the trickier issues and everything. In any event, it was the people as well as the discipline that attracted me and I was captivated by it, I applied for a fellowship and I was accepted, I’m sure in huge part, not just large part, because I was known to Dick [Richard] Jesse and Ted Copeland and Ed White and Richard Martin.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Now you were mentioning some names that we discussed yesterday. Did you want to ask some questions to kind of flesh out those individuals or do you want to set them in context first?

Charles Balch, MD

Well first finish your story. You went into the military in between is that right?

Frederick Ames, MD

In between fellowship and coming back.

Charles Balch, MD

So you did a one-year fellowship here, which was typical.

Frederick Ames, MD

Correct. They had a research here but it was altogether nonclinical.

Charles Balch, MD

And Marvin Romsdahl was in charge of that?

Frederick Ames, MD

I think so, I think that’s right.

Charles Balch, MD

So after your fellowship, you went into the Army?

Frederick Ames, MD

I did.

Charles Balch, MD

For two years.

Frederick Ames, MD

For two years. I was in what was called the Berry Program.

Charles Balch, MD

Me too. I had a one-year deferment.

Frederick Ames, MD

I was commissioned as an intern in the fall of ’69, but I did not have a uniform, nor was I on active duty, nor were they paying me as they did some. So each year my chair had to send the paperwork to verify that I was in fact a resident in good standing, and so forth and so on. The Berry Program allowed program directors to maintain some stability within their programs. It was commonplace for residents at the second and third and fourth year to be pulled out of their residencies for two years in the military. This was disrupting everything and there was a plea nationwide for someone to figure out a solution where the military still got the physicians they needed but the training programs who supported indigent care—anyway, that was the origin of the Berry Program. I can’t remember who Berry was, I think he was a legislator somewhere who figured out that this might be a good thing and the military all bought into it. They would project what their needs were, and then they would hold a lottery of the applicants, and I got selected. [ ] The head of the surgical service at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, which is the 101st Airborne, 50 miles northwest of Nashville, found out that you could go and look at the list of all the people coming onboard. He actually picked all of us and I was among one of the most select group of young surgeons I’ve ever been with. I mean it was like the fellowship class here.

Charles Balch, MD

Yeah, yeah.

Frederick Ames, MD

Jim [Robert James] McNaughton, who was Kirby Bland’s best friend in Gainesville and Hugh Walsh from Stanford, who John Najarian had trained. I mean there was this group of people … It was fascinating to be with these people because we learned from each other because we had this diverse background. In any event, it was a wonderful experience for me.

Chapter 01: Medical Training, the Military, and a Fellowship at MD Anderson

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