Chapter 01: R. Lee Clark's Recruitment and The Attraction of MD Anderson in the Seventies

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Chapter 01: R. Lee Clark's Recruitment and The Attraction of MD Anderson in the Seventies

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Dr. Copeland begins this chapter talking about how R. Lee Clark, MD was recruited to be MD Anderson’s first full-time president from private practice with a clinic led by Dr. Harvey Johnston in Jackson, Mississippi. He notes that this was a “stellar” practice.Dr. Copeland next sketches his intent in coming to MD Anderson to do a fellowship in Head and Neck surgery.He then continues with the topic of Dr. Clark’s recruitment and also reflects on the career of Edgar White, MD.

Identifier

CopelandE_01_20190409_C01

Publication Date

4-9-2019

Publisher

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

City

Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

Overview; Portraits; Joining MD Anderson; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Snapshot

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 | Surgery

Transcript

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Well since we are starting, very nice to meet you, Dr. Copeland, I’m Tacey Rosolowski, we spoke on the phone.

Edward Copeland, MD

Hi, Tacey, how are you?

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Good, good, so nice to see you.

Edward Copeland, MD

(inaudible).

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

There we go, a lot of people believe that. Well, let me put our interview identifier on, so we are making an official start. I want to say that I’m Tacey Ann Rosolowski and I am here in an audio conference room in the Faculty Center on the Main Campus of MD Anderson. The time is about 18 minutes after ten and it is April 9, 2019, and this interview is being conducted for Dr. Balch’s, Charles Balch’s special project, “The First 50 Years of Surgery at MD Anderson.” Just for the transcription service, let me get your voice, Dr. Balch, good morning.

Charles Balch, MD

Good morning, Ted, we’re glad to have you join us.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Yes, and Dr. Edward Copeland is joining us from Florida and happy to have you here. Can I get your voice for the transcription service.

Edward Copeland, MD

Charles is my dear friend, we’ve known each other for many, many, many years, up through all the ranks. Charlie, how are you?

Charles Balch, MD

I’m doing good. Just to estimate, I’d say that goes back at least 40 years.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Really?

Edward Copeland, MD

Yes. I’m sure it does, I’m sure it does. You look a lot younger than me, which is impressive.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Well surgeons are competitive, so I’m not surprised to hear you say that.

Edward Copeland, MD

Charles Balch had already made great strides in understanding the biology of melanoma when I was a visiting professor at the University of Alabama, many, many, many years ago, and I was quite impressed, and it was obvious [to me at the time that the knowledge obtained would be quite valuable.]

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

Wow. Wow.

Charles Balch, MD

So Ted, let me turn about, as part of this history, and just document that you are one of the most distinguished surgeons to have trained here at MD Anderson. Just for the record, Dr. Copeland was President of the American College of Surgeons, the Southern Surgical, the Association for Academic Surgery, the Society of Surgical Oncology, the Halsted Surgical Society, Chair of the American Board of Surgery and the Board of Regents for the College of Surgeons, was in the Vietnam War in the seventies and received a Bronze Star for that. Came to MD Anderson in 1971 to 1972, and then as part of the history that you can tell, Ted, you were looking for job opportunities once you finished your one-year fellowship at MD Anderson in 1971. And among your choices was going to Jackson Mississippi, but fortunately, Ed White [Added by E. Copeland: and Stan Dudrick, the new chair of the Department of surgery at the University of Texas Medical School (UTMSH)] decided that you should come onto the faculty in 1972, [Added by E. Copeland: and help mold relationships between the two institutions] and you stayed here for ten years. During that time, there were 122 publications with your colleagues, mainly around a variety of cancer subjects, most notably your seminal work in hyperalimentation, which was new for cancer patients at the time. And then, as part of the recognition for all your distinguished academic activities and your leadership, you received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from MD Anderson in 1987. So we are all very proud of you, you’re part of our history.

Charles Balch, MD

As you know, what we’re trying to capture through these recorded interviews, which will be transcribed, is your impression of the time at MD Anderson from 1971 to 1982, as part of our project to document the activities and the leadership and the historical sign post during the first 50 years of MD Anderson, from 1945 to 1995. So I’d like to, as that introduction, maybe you could start with what you told me earlier, was an interesting connection with R. Lee Clark, who as recruited to be the first director of the MD Anderson Cancer Center from 1945 to 1946, from a private practice in Jackson, Mississippi, which coincidentally was the same group that you even had, as I understand it, some connections with, when you were looking for jobs.

Edward Copeland, MD

That’s correct. When I came to MD Anderson as a fellow, I knew Dr. Clark, R. Lee well. I had an uncle, Murray Copeland, who you (inaudible), but he was a good friend of Dr. Clark’s, and I needed a place to work. My colleagues from the University of Pennsylvania, who offered opportunities in that area, but I’m from the South, so I wanted to get back to the southern area. Private practice was fine with me, it still would be practice. That’s Dr. (inaudible). So I asked Dr. Clark, do you know of any good jobs, I think that’s what happened, or maybe he came and asked me if I’d like to join his former group in Jackson. Now, I went over to Jackson, Mississippi, to visit a great group. They operated all day, which I always enjoyed doing, they were quite good, they helped each other. I had an appointment at the University of Mississippi. That would have been okay, but it wasn’t part of the deal, and I would have been quite happy there. Having said all of that, Stan Dudrick took the chairmanship of the University of Texas Medical School, the University of Texas Medical School at Houston. I paid very little attention to that, of course. I didn’t know anything about the school and I had no reason to. Stanley called me one night and asked me if I would join him. I was living in Houston, and Stan Dudrick was a very good friend, and so I said, “You know, since I’m already here, I might do that,” and so I went up to see Dr. Clark and he said, “Yes, you should stay.” [I don’t think that the Dean of the Medical School and Dr. Clark saw “eye to eye” on the integration of the MDAH and the medical school. So Dr. Clark saw in me a person who could function in both camps without creating friction since I had supporters and credibility in both Institutions remained this “go between for the next 10 years. I operated at MDAH three days a week, had the medical residents on my service but officed in the medical school. The Situation was a bit fortuitous, however.] [ ] The day that I joined the University of Texas Medical School faculty, one of the four surgeons, Marion McMurtrey, Marion McMurtrey, returned to Utah. This opened up a much needed spot for me at MDAH because of the work load in surgery at the time. I guess I fulfilled the role that Dr. Clark hoped for since I remained in it until I left to become the Chair of the Department of Sugary at Florida 10 years later

Charles Balch, MD

So, Ted, let me go back just for a historical vignette about this practice of Harvey Johnson, which is where R. Lee Clark started out prior to coming to MD Anderson. Lee Clark also had an appointment at the University of Mississippi, but according to the records, he was not satisfied that there was going to be any progress in developing true academic programs, both in education and research. Is there anything more you can tell us about that practice and anything you might know about why would Lee Clark be in general surgery in Jackson, Mississippi, or anything you know about how they found him to recruit him back to Texas.

Edward Copeland, MD

Charles, I think that Lee [Dr. Clark] was from Mississippi or had a connection with the state of Mississippi.

Charles Balch, MD

Yes he did.

Edward Copeland, MD

That’s why he would probably have gone back into [practice there from Mayo Clinic where he trained. As I have said, the practice in Jackson was superb, one of the best I have ever seen. A member of the group, Coop Shands did almost exclusively head and neck surgery. One of my reasons to take a fellowship at MDAH was to learn head and neck surgery so having Dr. Shands I the practice was a huge plus for me. Randy Voyles eventually joined the Jackson group and wrote multiple manuscripts of great importance from his position in private practice.] I think the state of Texas wanted to have a cancer center that was funded by the state. They recruited Dr. Clark to be administrative chief and the first surgeon, as far as I know, at the MD Anderson Hospital. I’m not sure if the donor, [Monroe Dunaway] Anderson had given his money yet, but it was housed in a temporary building right next to Hermann Hospital, to be used to admit patients [to be used to admit patients. Mr. Herman had left a foundation which also provided money for indigent care. Dr. Clark recruited Dr. Ed White from the VA Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. I know this because Dr. White gave my uncle, Murray Copeland a job there when he returned from World War II and thus began a friendship which lasted until both men died while working with Dr. Clark at MDAH. In a sense, I had a similar experience. It was not easy to find the right job for me on my return from Viet Nam, to wit I took the fellowship at MDAH and the rest is a history recorded above.]

Tacey A. Rosolowski, PhD

What was his reputation as a surgeon?

Edward Copeland, MD

He was good. He was doing primarily administration by the time I got there and he also became president of the American Cancer Society, doing all his things internationally. But as a surgeon, I really can’t tell you from first hand experience. I can tell you that Ed White was a whole lot better [technical and judgmental surgeon than many of us during my time thought. The MDAH kept wonderful and complete records dating back in the 940’s. I did many chart reviews of patient records during my time there. The place was a “wealth” of epidemiologic information. In reviewing these records, I often ran across patients who had long term survivals from operations done by both Dr. White and Dr. Clark. I refer specifically to pancreaticoduodenectomy, an operation other surgeons thought was not indicated for cure at the time. Dr. White was a more “laid back” gentleman, whereas Dr. Clark had the mannerisms of a great surgeon, kind but confident.]

Charles Balch, MD

Just for the record, Lee Clark was a member of the College of Surgeons, the Society of Clinical Surgeons, the Southern Surgical. He attended the SSO [Society of Surgical Oncology] and he attended those regularly, and he published a fair amount about thyroid cancer, not any other organ site. [Added by E. Copeland: He was a proponent of total thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer and had pathologic and epidemiologic date to prove his point. Yet total thyroidectomy versus partial thyroidectomy remains a controversial point today. So one of Dr. Clarks’ academic passions was the treatment of thyroid cancer.] The others were in his role as president in UICC [Union for International Cancer Control] type of issues but he did publish a fair amount about thyroid cancer, so I assume that part of his passion was in endocrine surgery. [Added by E. Copeland: In this capacity with his friend, Dr. Murray Copeland, they traveled the civilized world, both as ambassadors for the proper treatment of malignant diseases and for the development of a standardized classification system so that communication about malignant disease could be improved.]

Edward Copeland, MD

Charles, we did total thyroidectomies. I think he may have been a proponent of the total thyroidectomy for thyroid cancer.

Charles Balch, MD

And just for the record, an interesting vignette you might be interested in, Ted, is the Board of Regents first appointed Bill Butler as the interim director of MD Anderson, which had not formed. The archive even has a note from Lee Clark, that he wished he had been interviewed for the job, because he would have been interested in that. As they went through the search, Bill Butler decided he would rather be the president of the Texas Medical Center, so he declined the role as a permanent director and because of that the Board of Regents recruited R. Lee Clark as the director and surgeon-in-chief.

Edward Copeland, MD

It’s interesting, how things occur throughout our lifetime, that turn out seminal.

Chapter 01: R. Lee Clark's Recruitment and The Attraction of MD Anderson in the Seventies

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