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Brock (William), PhD Oral History Interview: Home

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Scroll down this page to explore this interview in several ways.

An Interview Profile summarizes this individual’s role, specialization, and contributions to MD Anderson.

A Table of Contents shows the range of topics covered in each interview session: each chapter title links to a chapter summary.

Chapter Summaries describe the specific topics treated in each section; each summary links to the corresponding recording so you can listen to the chapter.

Here is a link to the full transcript so you may browse and search. (link)

 

 

Interview Profile

 

Interview Information:

Two  sessions:  4 December 2018,

Total approximate duration: 1 hours 50 minutes

Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.

About the Interview Subject:

William Brock, PhD (b. 21 November 2944, Akron, Ohio) came to MD Anderson in 1976 as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Experimental Radiotherapy (later renamed Radiation Oncology)  He joined the faculty of Radiation Oncology in 1978, serving as Chief of the Section of Experimental Radiation Oncology.  In 2000 he established the Faculty Ombuds Office.  He retired from his faculty position in 2006 to work part time in that office until his full retirement in August 2018.

Major Topics Covered:

Personal background, education, retirement activities

            Research: radiation side effects; effect on fibroblasts, normal tissue

Ombuds Office: creation; expansion; programs offered; operations and philosophy

Culture of work at MD Anderson; common sources of employee conflict

 

About transcription and the transcript

 

This interview had been transcribed according to oral history best practices to preserve the conversational quality of spoken language (rather than editing it to written standards).

The interview subject has been given the opportunity to review the transcript and make changes: any substantial departures from the audio file are indicated with brackets [ ].

In addition, the Archives may have redacted portions of the transcript and audio file in compliance with HIPAA and/or interview subject requests.

The views expressed in this interview are solely the perspective of the interview subject. They are not to be interpreted as the official view of any other individual or of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.


Table of Contents

 

Interview Session One: December 4, 2018

 

Setting Sights High in Chemistry and Concerns about the Draft
Chapter 01 / Educational Path

 

Graduate School, Immersion in Developmental Biology, and Transition to Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson
Chapter 02 / Educational Path

 

Research on Fibroblasts and the Decision to Transition to a New Role
Chapter 03 / The Researcher

 

Discovering the Need for an Ombuds Office
Chapter 04 / Building the Institution

 

The Ombuds Office: Early Challenges and Faculty Concerns
Chapter 05 / Building the Institution

 

Interview Session Two: January 22, 2019

 

 

The Ombuds Office: Early Lessons Learned and an Expansion of Services
Chapter 06 / Building the Institution

 

Developing the Ombudsman's Office: John Mendelsohn and Anu Rao
Chapter 07 / Building the Institution

 

Thoughts on the Culture of MD Anderson
Chapter 08 / Overview

 

On the Long-Term Relevance of the Ombudsman's Office and Retirement
Chapter 09 / Overview

 


 

Chapter Summaries

Interview Session One: (listen/read)

 

 


Chapter 01  (Educational Path)
Setting Sights High in Chemistry and Concerns about the Draft   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Personal Background
  • Ethics
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences Military Experience
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

Dr. Brock begins this chapter by sketching his upbringing in modest family and discussing the influence of his father, a hard worker with strong ethics. He talks about why he began to focus on science and discusses the influence of a brother in law who encouraged him to apply to top graduate schools to further his education. [B.S. Microbiology, Ohio State University, 1962-1967; PhD, Chemistry, Yale University Graduate School, conferred 1976]. He explains how his graduate education was intertwined with his concern to not fight in the Vietnam War; he eventually got a deferment and also aged out of the draft.



Chapter 02  (Educational Path)
Graduate School, Immersion in Developmental Biology, and Transition to Radiation Oncology at MD Anderson   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Joining MD Anderson
  • Overview
  • The Researcher
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research

In this chapter, Dr. Brock sketches the development of his scientific and research interests during his graduate program at Yale University.||He first covers what he found intriguing about the field as it evolved in the 1970s, and the focusing of his research interests on isozymes and early studies of gene regulation of hormones. His explains that no one was looking at the role of isozymes in the reproductive systems of male mice, and he began to focus on this. His attempts to describe the cells in the mouse testicle led him to the work of Marvin Meistrich [oral history interview] at MD Anderson, and his decision to come to this institution for his postdoctoral work, during which time his focus shifted from developmental biology to radiation and side effects. He describes his research focus and notes that when he began looking for a job, a position opened up in Experimental Radiation Oncology.



Chapter 03  (The Researcher)
Research on Fibroblasts and the Decision to Transition to a New Role   (listen/read)

Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Discovery and Success
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • Collaborations
  • Formative Experiences
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Overview

Dr. Broch gives his initial perspective on the institution and the tight social and working environment of the Department of Radiation Oncology under Rod Withers. He then talks about shifting to work with Lester Peters, MD on several studies attempting to predict the radio-sensitivity of normal tissue by looking at fibroblasts. He describes the frustrations with these studies, which culminated in diminishing grant money. Dr. Brock explains that he began to think about retiring at this point.



Chapter 04  (Building the Institution)
Discovering the Need for an Ombuds Office   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Evolution of Career
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Working Environment
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Understanding the Institution
  • On Research and Researchers

In this chapter, Dr. Brock begins the story of how he came to the role of founding Director of the Ombudsman's Office. This began, he explains, with faculty dissatisfaction in the late nineties and Dr. John Mendelsohn's [oral history interview] request that he join a blue ribbon committee to study the grievance process, resulting in a new "Faculty Appeals Policy."



Chapter 05  (Building the Institution)
The Ombuds Office: Early Challenges and Faculty Concerns   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Working Environment
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Ethics
  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion

Dr. Brock begins with his first steps in setting up the Ombuds Office and establishing its basic policies for delivering support services. He notes that after a year, it was clear that non-faculty would also benefit from conflict resolution support, and an expansion of the program was warranted.||[The recorder is paused.]||He then talks about how he and his colleagues in the Ombuds Office raised awareness of their new services for faculty, the impact of their services, and the concerns that faculty brought to them. He notes some of the issues at play that prevented faculty from taking advantage of the Ombuds Office. He explains the differences between services offered and those of HR.



Chapter 06  (Building the Institution)
The Ombuds Office: Early Lessons Learned and an Expansion of Services   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Personal Background
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Working Environment
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Ethics
  • Institutional Politics
  • Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion

Dr. Brock begins this chapter by talks about the lessons he learned personally and professionally through this early work with the Ombudsman's Office. He talks about the array of issues brought to the Office. He discusses the actions taken when issues are brought to the attention of upper level leadership and the reasons for the lack of action.||Next, Dr. Brock talks about the process of expanding ombudsman services beyond the faculty and hiring Anu Rao to head the office and develop a program for all employees.||Interview Session Two: 22 January 2019



Chapter 07  (Building the Institution)
Developing the Ombudsman's Office: John Mendelsohn and Anu Rao   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • Portraits
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Institutional Processes
  • Working Environment
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Ethics
  • Institutional Politics
  • Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion

In this chapter, Dr. Brock discusses the growth of the Ombudsman's Office under Anu Rao.||He begins, however, with comment on how John Mendelsohn, MD (3rd president) was interested in addressing the climate of faculty elitism and establishing more equality among faculty and staff. Dr. Mendelsohn's support for the Ombud's Office was an outgrowth of this commitment.||Next, Dr. Brock explains that Ann Rau "hit the ground running" when she took over directorship of the Ombud's Office. He mentions how she raised awareness of the Office and also explains how Ms. Rau worked with the legal department to define the confidentiality of the Office's client records.||Next, Dr. Brock explains how an ombudsman for nursing was hired during the period prior to Ms. Rau's arrival, when he was head of the Office. He explains his belief at that time that the Office needed people with different specialties to address the needs of employees. He notes that Ann Rau said this was "a bad idea" once she arrived, and he explains how his own view of this changed by shifting his focus to the characteristics that all conflicts share.||Next, Dr. Brock talks about what he learned about the institution once the Ombuds Office offered services to all employees. He then sketches the high points of Ms. Rau's plan for developing the program: marketing services and creating a very popular training program for dealing with conflict, difficult conversations, and other communication challenges.||Dr. Brock explains that the Ombudsman's Office at MD Anderson is not alone in finding it very difficult to assess the financial impact of mediating conflict.



Chapter 08  (Overview)
Thoughts on the Culture of MD Anderson   (listen/read)

Codes

  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Institutional Processes
  • Working Environment
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Critical Perspectives

In this chapter, discusses his impressions of MD Anderson culture as he took on different roles. He explains that non-faculty "carry the culture here" and the majority take great pride in working at MD Anderson. He contrasts this with how the faculty relate to the culture (the institution as a means of furthering their careers).||Next, Dr. Brock talks about changes that occurred once Dr. Ronald DePinho became president. (noting that he was retired to part time service in the Office at that point). He recalls he was excited about Dr. DePinho's scientific credentials, but saw new themes arising in conversations with individuals who came to the Office with concerns, notably complaints about fairness, a growing elitism, salary inequity, and bullying/belligerent behavior.||Dr. Brock then comments that he is happy to see Dr. Peter Pisters' focus on civility, but is waiting to see the outcome of some of the new initiatives to build culture. He talk about faculty "super bullies," explaining that it is difficult to shift culture when problem people are very powerful. In his view, training for leadership is key.



Chapter 09  (Overview)
On the Long-Term Relevance of the Ombudsman's Office and Retirement   (listen/read)

Codes

  • Post Retirement Activities
  • Contributions
  • Working Environment
  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion

Dr. Brock begins this chapter by explaining that the Ombudsman's Office will always be relevant because institutions always confront conflict. The Office has a lot to offer because so much can be done to teach people how to manage conflict. He gives some examples. Next, he talks about his current work on the Office's database. He then gives his view of the Ombudsman's Office in the future.||Next, Dr. Brock talks about his retirement and his travels to see the United States.||Finally, Dr. Brock talks about his proudest accomplishments: his focus on science and his role in establishing the Ombudsman's Office.||