Chapter 07: Dr. R. Lee Clark, Surgeon & Chief, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital

Title

Chapter 07: Dr. R. Lee Clark, Surgeon & Chief, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital

Files

Description

Thoughts on the Dr. R. Lee Clark’s reputation, area of expertise, and degree of control over surgical practices at MD Anderson. Dr. Byers talks about how Dr. Edgar “Ed” White, Chief of Surgery, came to MD Anderson, his role and area of practice.

Identifier

ByersR_01_2019014_C07

Publication Date

10-14-2019

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Univeristy of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - MD Anderson Past; The Clinician; Institutional Politics; Portraits

Disciplines

History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History | Surgery

Transcript

Charles Balch, MD

Bob, when you came in 1970, Lee Clark’s title was director and surgeon in chief.

Robert Byers, MD

Correct, president.

Charles Balch, MD

Nobody talks about his role as a surgeon. In fact, he was an incredibly busy general surgeon who in one of his letters described how he had operated from the brain to the colon. Those are his words. And I wondered. What is your impressions of your memory with Lee at that time in the ’70s? I don’t think he did surgery, but he—

Robert Byers, MD

He wasn’t doing surgery.

Charles Balch, MD

But he lectured about thyroid cancer all over the world.

Robert Byers, MD

He would go everywhere. As I say, he was the ambassador for the total.

Charles Balch, MD

But he knew the details of the surgical management of thyroid cancer.

Robert Byers, MD

He knew it back and forth.

Charles Balch, MD

And he had the respect of the surgical community as the so-called surgeon in chief.

Robert Byers, MD

Exactly.

Charles Balch, MD

Now Ed White was the person who was his deputy, who was really the chief of surgery, is that right?

Robert Byers, MD

Yeah, Ed White, among us as fellows in general surgery for that year I was there, Kent Westbrook, you probably know him.

Charles Balch, MD

From Arkansas, yeah.

Robert Byers, MD

He was with me, we were both fellows together. And then the other one was the guy at—not Michigan, what was his name? Winchester.

Charles Balch, MD

David Winchester from Northwestern.

Robert Byers, MD

David Winchester. Right, Northwestern. David Winchester and Westbrook and I were the three musketeers you might say in head—or not head and neck but general surgery that year.

Charles Balch, MD

All of you became surgical leaders in your field.

Robert Byers, MD

Well, it was wonderful to get to know them and to work with them. And we always used to kind of joke about Ed White. We’d kind of say, “The surgeon is Martin and the real chief if Clark, what’s Ed do?” Ed was Clark’s buddy in San Antonio and he was a breast guy I think basically. I think he liked to operate on the breast. So I don’t know how, I never—he was kind of in his dotage—not dotage, that’s a pejorative word. But he was in the retiring phase kind of in the ’70s too.

Charles Balch, MD

Just historically, so we have it on the record. Lee Clark when he came in 1946, the first resident was Jay Ballantyne. And he had a head and neck part-time surgeon named Allen Chamberlin from Hermann or something that did some of the head and neck according to some of his records. But then he hired Ed White, who he’d worked with in the Randolph Field, and even at Wright Field in Ohio. They played on the same baseball team with Cliff Howe.

Robert Byers, MD

I think White was from Kentucky.

Charles Balch, MD

Yes, he was from Louisville, Kentucky. And after the army he went back to Louisville and Lee Clark hired him here in the early ’50s.

Robert Byers, MD

Right, convinced him to come to the mecca.

Charles Balch, MD

And said, “I’m the surgeon in chief but you’re the chief of surgery.”

Robert Byers, MD

Right, yes.

Charles Balch, MD

But as people have told me, Ed White didn’t do anything without Lee Clark’s permission.

Robert Byers, MD

That’s what we joked about, Westbrook and Winchester and I. We joked about well—

Chapter 07: Dr. R. Lee Clark, Surgeon & Chief, MD Anderson Cancer Hospital

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