Interview Subject: Elizabeth A. Grimm, PhD
Date submitted: August 2019
Collection: The First 50 Years of Surgery at MD Anderson (1945 – 1995)
Charles Balch, MD, lead
Assisted by Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.
About the Interview Subject:
Dr. Elizabeth Grimm joined the faculty of MD Anderson in 1986 as an Associate Professor with a joint appointment the Departments of Tumor Biology and of Surgical Oncology. Her main appointment is currently in the Department of Melanoma Medical Oncology, where she holds the Waun Ki Hong Distinguished Chair in Translational Oncology. Dr. Grimm and her laboratory study novel efforts in the science of human melanoma inflammatory processes. She was awarded the first ever National Cancer Institute SPORE in Melanoma, which she kept funded for over a decade.
Major Topics Covered:
Research at NIH; comparison of NIH and MD Anderson research environments
Research, translational: risk-taking, collaboration; development of multi-disciplinary collaborations
Education: development of fellowships; mentoring
MD Anderson culture, Division of Surgery and Division of Medicine: attitudes regarding research and surgery; old guard versus newer attitudes; shifting tradition; difficulties of changing cultural norms
Women faculty: experiences of, needs of, hopes for
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.
Drs. Balch and Grimm begin this chapter by sketching how they first met in the 1970s and the affinity of the immunology-focused research they were both conducting at that time. Dr. Grimm notes that she had first considered a position at MD Anderson in 1984, explaining the reasons why she turned it down, then explains why she accepted an offer for a joint appointment the Departments of Tumor Biology and of Surgical Oncology when Dr. Balch recruited her and her husband, Jack Roth, MD, in 1986 She explains how the research environment provided possibilities to positively develop her career through work on human tissue and collaborations with clinicians. She compares the working environments of the NIH and MD Anderson. She also comments on the fact that she was the only woman in her departments, and describes the freedom she felt to assert herself. Dr. Balch explains his commitment to furthering women’s careers.
Dr. Balch begins this chapter by commenting that he hired Dr. Grimm and Dr. Roth because they were risk takers and then sketches his vision for the growth of research in the Division of Surgery and at MD Anderson. Dr. Grimm confirms the alignment of her vision with his, and goes on to sketch some research successes. She discusses her receipt of a training grant for a fellowship program in Cancer Biology, notes that she received the first SPORE in melanoma in 2012, and describes her early translational research activities at MD Anderson.|Next, Drs. Grimm and Balch talk about differences in attitudes toward research expressed by the older members of the faculty and the newer hires. Dr. Grimm explains her sense of responsibility to conduct research advancing oncology treatments and care of the citizens of Texas.
Dr. Grimm begins this chapter by talking about the evolution of her career in the Department of Tumor Biology. She sketches the history of her working relationship with the chair, Garth Nicholson. She then talks about her work in the Department of General Surgery (soon to be renamed, Surgical Oncology). She talks about her first collaborations with surgeons and collaborative work on cytokines and notes resistance to some of this translational work. She sketches the process of its acceptance. She names individuals who trained in her laboratory.|Dr. Grimm then talks about the significance of her collaboration with Waun Ki Hong, MD [oral history interview], who helped shift the research culture into acceptance of collaborative, translational work. She sketches the sources of resistance of medical oncologists to translational work. Dr. Balch adds comments on how Dr. Hong helped effect change.
Dr. Grimm begins this chapter by mentioning several people she collaborated with when she moved to the Division of Medicine. She and Dr. Balch discuss surgeon, Raphael Pollock, who was the first faculty member to earn a PhD while employed at MD Anderson, and who represented the changing research spirit at the institution.|They next discuss the role of women on the faculty, with Dr. Grimm noting the continued need for child care.|In response to a question, Dr. Grimm talks about the personal qualities that have enabled her to stay on the cutting edge of translational research. Dr. Balch adds his observations on qualities that enabled her success. He then talks about how her qualities also reflect a commitment to “collective wisdom and collaboration” essential for translational research and team science. Dr. Grimm also notes that she has continuously focused on developing her own independent lines of research, despite changes in administration around her.|Dr. Grimm makes final statements about her pride in the work she has done in training and mentoring new scientists.