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Emil Frei, MD, Interview, April 23, 1976: Home

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Interview Information:

Total approximate duration: 29 minutes

About the interview subject: 

Dr. Emil “Tom” Frei, III, attended St. Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri before attending Colgate University through the Navy’s V-12 program during WW II. From there, Dr. Frei attended Yale Medical School and graduated in 1948. Dr. Frei also served during the Korean War as a physician. He began his civilian career as the Chief of Medicine at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1955 before moving to MD Anderson in 1965. During his time at MD Anderson, Dr. Frei became the first Head of the Department of Development Therapeutics, which evolved into the Clinical Research Center. He continued at MD Anderson until 1972, upon which time he moved to Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. During his career, Dr. Frei has authored many articles regarding the treatment of cancer, particularly the areas of Hodgkin’s disease. He has also been noted for his successful combinations of chemotherapy in children’s leukemia as well as post-surgical chemotherapy treatments. Dr. Frei has also received many awards during his career. Some of them include: Mary Lasker Foundation award (1973); Jeffrey A. Gottlieb Memorial Award (1978); NIH Distinguished Alumni Award (1990); Fellow, American Academy of Arts and Sciences (1999); Pollin Prize (2003); and AARC Lifetime Achievement Award (2004). In 2007 the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society’s Southern Nevada Chapter held the inaugural Dr. Emil Frei III Symposium, which is a continuing medical education program for oncologists, hematologists and other personnel. Dr. Frei passed away on April 30, 2013.

Interview abstract:

Dr. Frei discusses the work he did at the Sidney Farber Institute (formally the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, and currently the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute), the National Cancer Institute with Dr. C. Gordon Zubrod, and MD Anderson. These projects and research revolved around drug testing and drug development such as using Methotrexate and Prednisone to treat patients.  He also talks about the Department of Developmental Therapeutics at MD Anderson and its significance.

Major Topics Covered

Therapeutics
Drug Therapy
Drug Design
Chemicals and Drugs Category
National Cancer Institute (U.S.)
Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor

Methotrexate
Prednisone

Interview Processed by: 

Jennifer Stockton, University of North Texas, November 2017 (Dr. Frei's bio was composed by Elvira Lynn Alayon, UNT Intern, Summer 2011)

 


 

Table of Contents

 

Interview Session One: April 23, 1976


Interview Identifier
Segment 00A

The Founding of the Sidney Farber Institute
Segment 01 / Professional Service beyond MD Anderson

An Artistic Upbringing Leads to Medicine
Segment 02 / Personal Background

A Friendship with Dr. Gordon Zubrod Leads to the National Cancer Institute
Segment 03 / Professional Path

MD Anderson Provides an Opportunity in Developmental Therapeutics
Segment 04 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

A Formative Experience Canoeing Down the Missouri River
Segment 05 / Character and Personal Philosophy

Developing New Ways of Using Methotrexate
Segment 06 / Contributions

Key Figures and Influential People
Segment 07 / Influences from People and Life Experiences



 

 

Chapter Summaries

 

 

Interview Session One: April 23, 1976

 

Segment 00A
Interview Identifier

 

Segment 01 (Professional Service beyond MD Anderson)
The Founding of the Sidney Farber Institute (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences

Dr. Frei begins by briefly discussing the history and founding of the Sidney Farber Institute (formally the Children's Cancer Research Foundation, and currently the Dana–Farber Cancer Institute), and discusses his work with Dr. Sidney Farber.

 

Segment 02 (Personal Background)
An Artistic Upbringing Leads to Medicine (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Educational Path
  • Military Experience
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences

Dr. Frei then discusses his childhood in St. Louis and personal background coming from a family of German artists. Next, Dr. Frei discusses his internship in St. Louis while serving in the military in the Navy College Training Program.

 

Segment 03 (Professional Path)
A Friendship with Dr. Gordon Zubrod Leads to the National Cancer Institute (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Educational Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences
  • Contributions
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Discovery, Creativity, Innovation
  • Evolution of Career

Dr. Frei discusses his training in Internal Medicine at St. Louis University with four teachers from John Hopkins one of which was Dr. Gordon Zubrod. He then talks about how Dr. Zubrod left the school to become head of the National Cancer Institute Cancer Division and brought Dr. Frei with him in 1954. Next, Dr. Frei discusses the work he did at the National Cancer Institute with Dr. Zubrod involving drug testing and drug development such as using Methotrexate and Prednisone to treat patients.

 

Segment 04 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas)
MD Anderson Provides an Opportunity in Developmental Therapeutics (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Professional Path
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences
  • Contributions
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • Evolution of Career
  • Discovery, Creativity, Innovation

Dr. Frei discusses working with Dr. Emil J. Freireich and Dr. Ti Li Loo after he came to MD Anderson in 1965. Next, Dr. Frei talks about the start of the Department of Developmental Therapeutics.  He then discusses what attracted him to MD Anderson including, the reputation of MD Anderson, city of Houston, and Dr. R. Lee Clark as a leader.

 

Segment 05 (Character and Personal Philosophy)
A Formative Experience Canoeing Down the Missouri River (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences
  • Personal Background
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

Dr. Frei discusses his canoe trip down the Missouri River in 1943 when he was 17 years old with his friends. He talks about the many formative experiences he had on this trip including when they were unaware of flood warnings and became stranded in the middle of the river on the canoe unable to dock.

 

Segment 06 (Contributions)
Developing New Ways of Using Methotrexate (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Discovery, Creativity, Innovation
  • Evolution of Career

Dr. Frei discusses his time in Boston, and his work in Clinical Science. Next, he talks about how he has been working with Dr. Issac Djerassi and Dr. Norman Jaffe, on developing new ways to use the drug Methotrexate, such as in bone cancer in children. He then discusses varying degrees of emphasis, depending on the time, for particular drug research.

 

Segment 07 (Influences from People and Life Experiences)
Key Figures and Influential People (listen/read)

Topics Covered:

  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Collaborations

Dr. Frei discusses the others doctors who have impacted his life and career. Next, Dr. Frei discusses the opportunities and outlook of the then present day students compared to himself as a student.