Skip to main content

Holleman (Warren L.), PhD, MA, Oral History Interview: Home

Interview Navigation Materials

Interview Navigation Material

 

Interview Profile

 

Date submitted: 26 October 2017

Interview Information:

Three sessions: 12 April 2017, 20 April 2017, 27 April 2017
Total approximate duration:
Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.

 

For supplementary materials:

Please contact, the Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library:
Javier Garza, MSIS, jjgarza@mdanderson.org

 

 

About the Interview Subject:

Family therapist Warren L. Holleman (b. 20 October 1955, Apex, North Carolina) came to MD Anderson in 2010 to direct the Faculty Health & Well-Being Program and take up a faculty position as an Associate Professor in the Department of Behavioral Science [Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences].  Dr. Holleman he continued to direct the program until his retirement in September 2017.

 

Major Topics Covered:

Personal background and education; interests in storytelling, playwriting

Roles prior to coming to MD Anderson

The Faculty Health and Wellbeing Program; offerings, analysis of, evolution of to support  shared governance system

Faculty Health and Wellbeing programs; Anti-Bullying Task Force; Faculty Health and Wellbeing Committee

Needs of faculty at MD Anderson

Faculty burnout

MD Anderson work environment and work culture: changes to, challenges of

Faculty morale under Ronald DePinho; resignation of Ronald DePinho; the transitional leadership team after the resignation; changes in progress during transition

 

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.

 


 

Table of Contents

 

Interview Session One: 12 April 2017

 

The Importance of Addressing Faculty Health
Chapter 01 / Overview

 

Growing Up in a Small Town in North Carolina
Chapter 02 / Personal Background

 

A Strong Mother Tells Stories with Impact
Chapter 03 / Personal Background

 

Developing an Ability to Deal with Psychological Turbulence
Chapter 04 / Personal Background

 

A History Major at Harvard and a Desire to Make a Positive Difference
Chapter 05 / Educational Path

 

PhD Program and a Professional Focus on Ethics
Chapter 06 / Educational Path

 

Discovering Work with Underserved Populations
Chapter 07 / the Clinical Provider

 

An MA in Counseling to Develop Expertise
Chapter 08 / Personal Background

 

 

 

Interview Session Two: 20 April 2017

 

 

Time for a Change in Work Scene
Chapter 09 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

 

Discovering the Severity of Burnout at MD Anderson
Chapter 10 / Overview

 

The Faculty Health and Wellness Program: History and Evolution
Chapter 11 / Building the Institution

 

Learning about MD Anderson Culture Inspires a Different Perspective on Burnout
Chapter 12 / Building the Institution

 

Advocating for Faculty with a Blog under Ronald DePinho
Chapter 13 / Contributions

 

Changes to MD Anderson’s Culture and Ronald DePinho’s Resignation
Chapter 14 / Institutional Change

 

A Role as “Toxin Handler”
Chapter 15 / Overview

 

 

 

Interview Session Three: 27 April 2017

 

 

Faculty Health and Wellness: Programs and the Anti-Bullying Task Force
Chapter 16 / Building the Institution

 

Uncovering Surprising Situations in MD Anderson’s Work Cultures, Some Comments on Trust, and Views of Leadership Training
Chapter 16 / An Institutional Unit

 

Faculty Senate and Changes to the Shared Governance System
Chapter 17 / Building the Institution

 

Faculty Health and Well Being: Programs and the Faculty Health and Well Being Committee
Chapter 18 / Building the Institution

 

Looking Ahead to Writing
Chapter 19 / Post-Retirement Activities

 

 


 

 

Chapter Summaries

 

 

Interview Session One: 12 April 2017  (listen/read)

Chapter 00A
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 01 (Overview)
The Importance of Addressing Faculty Health (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • The Business of MD Anderson; The Institution and Finances
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Working Environment

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman sketches the range of reasons why it is important for institutions to address faculty health.  He mentions the economic reasons as well as moral reasons.  He sketches the sources of stress for clinicians and notes that physicians have conducted studies to understand how institutional pressures exert stress.  He sketches the stressors for research faculty, noting that this population has not been significantly studied.

 

Chapter 02 (Personal Background)
Growing Up in a Small Town in North Carolina  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • In this chapter, Dr. Holleman describes the working class, racially diverse community of Apex, North Carolina, where he grew up. 
  • Chapter 03
  • A Strong Mother Tells Stories with Impact
  • Personal Background
  • Topics Covered
  • Personal Background
  • Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Formative Experiences

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman talks about his mother, a strong woman with a strong impact on him.  He notes that her very difficult background formed her into a very strong woman who would speak her mind and stand up for what is right.  She would also tell Dr. Holleman and his brother stories that captured lessons as they were growing up.  He offers three stories that influenced him and that he says had an impact on the work on faculty health that he is doing at MD Anderson.

 

 

Chapter 03 (Personal Background)

A Strong Mother Tells Stories with Impact (listen/read)

 

Topic Covered

Personal Background;

Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity;

Influences from People and Life Experiences;

Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents;

Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose;

Formative Experiences;

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman talks about his mother, a strong woman with a strong impact on him.  He notes that her very difficult background formed her into a very strong woman who would speak her mind and stand up for what is right.  She would also tell Dr. Holleman and his brother stories that captured lessons as they were growing up.  He offers three stories that influenced him and that he says had an impact on the work on faculty health that he is doing at MD Anderson.

 

 

Chapter 04 (Personal Background)
Developing an Ability to Deal with Psychological Turbulence  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

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

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman talks about graduating from Apex High School [1973] and attending Harvard University.  Dr. Holleman explains how he made that choice, unusual for his community.

Next, Dr. Holleman explains more about the dynamics in his family.  Growing up in this environment, he says, enabled him as a counselor to treat people with personality disorders and depression.

 

Chapter 05 (Educational Path)
A History Major at Harvard and a Desire to Make a Positive Difference  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

Personal Background

Experiences Related to Gender, Race, Ethnicity

Influences from People and Life Experiences

Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman provides background for his desire to study history and possibly enter politics.  He explains that he has skills much like his father, whom he admired.  He recounts formative experiences with desegregation and political action that shaped his desire to address inequality and suffering and make a positive difference for people.  He gives more insight into his family’s progressive values.

 

 

Chapter 06 (Educational Path)
A PhD Program and a Professional Focus on Ethics  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Professional Path
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Formative Experiences
  • The Clinician
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Ethics
  • The Researcher;
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Patients; Patients, Treatment, Survivors

Dr. Holleman begins this chapter by explaining that his educational path took a turn because of his fiancée, Marsha Cline, who wanted to go to medical school: he explains how they made the choice to come to Houston.  Next, he explains that while looking for work and a course to take, he was offered the opportunity to begin a doctoral program in the Department of Religious Studies at Rice University [Ph.D., 1986, Religious Studies].  This program led to his focus on medical ethics, a specialization he pursued with a Fellowship in Ethics at Baylor College of Medicine [1987-1988].  He developed expertise in primary care medical ethics.  He gives examples of ethical issues that can arise and explains that his work changed practice at Baylor.

Completing his fellowship, Dr. Holleman explains, he advanced to faculty status as an Assistant Professor in the Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine [1988-1998].  He describes the theoretical and philosophical focus of the department, whereas his strength centered in communication with patients.  He was tasked with starting the Medical Humanities program at and founded the Compassion and the Art of Medicine lecture series/course [in 1989] that is now in its 27th year.

 

Chapter 07 (the Clinical Provider)
Discovering Work with Underserved Populations  (listen/read)

 

  • Topics Covered
  • Professional Path
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • The Clinician
  • The Administrator
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Ethics
  • The Researcher;
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Experiences of Injustice, Bias
  • Discovery and Success
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Patients; Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Formative Experiences
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman talks about a third formative experience that shaped his professional focus.  He explains that he decided to volunteer at Ben Taub Hospital, a hospital for the underserved where Baylor medical students and residents were trained, in order to understand what his students in the humanities program were experiencing.  He tells some anecdotes to show how his time there opened his eyes to the suffering of both patients and young doctors and led to his conviction that this was the population he should be working with.

Based on this, he explains, he started a home visit training program for residents and eventually added a program for conducting health visits for the homeless.  He talks about the evolution of these programs and how they led to his decision to go back to school, as he was effectively running a community health center [the Search Center] and functioning as a coordinator and counselor.

 

Chapter 08 (Professional Path)
An MA in Counseling to Develop Expertise  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • The Clinician
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Formative Experiences
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Dr. Holleman explains that he “found himself” when he began his master’s program [M.A., 1996, Marriage and Family Therapy] in counseling at the University of Houston -Clear Lake.  He explains how earning credentials in counseling altered his roles at Baylor Collect of Medicine, where he became an Associate Professor in Family and Community Medicine [1998] and founded the Baylor-Star of Hope Center for Counseling [1998] in addition to fulfilling his previous roles.

He notes that the Department of Family and Community Medicine developed an expertise in psychosocial medicine because of the vision of the chair at the time, Robert Rakle.

 

Interview Session Two: 20 April 2017 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00B
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 09 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas)
Time for a Change in Work Scene  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • The Administrator

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman explains decisions that led to him taking the job of Director of the Faculty and Health and Wellness Program at MD Anderson.  He first summarizes the roles he was serving at Baylor College of Medicine in the 2000s, then explains why he quit that job in 2007. 

Next he explains how he had become acquainted with staff in MD Anderson’s faculty health program through collaborations with the “Compassion and the Art of Medicine” series he established.  He talks about his reasons for taking the position at MD Anderson, including his interest in seeing the differences between working with homeless individuals and physicians.  He explains how he discovered it was actually easier to work with the homeless.

 

Chapter 10 (Overview)
Discovering the Severity of Burnout at MD Anderson  (listen/read)

 

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • On Research and Researchers
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Professional Practice; The Professional at Work

Dr. Holleman notes that he started at MD Anderson in January 2010, then discusses the severity of the burnout he discovered among the physicians and researchers (also a national problem).  He details the sources of burnout among physicians that stem from turbulence in the healthcare environment and at MD Anderson: increased time spent on paperwork, sense of losing autonomy in the clinic, the need for child care, loss of a sense of meaning in the workplace.  He notes that no formal studies have been done of faculty scientists, but summarizes findings from an informal survey: increased grant paperwork, shrinking grant funding, drop in morale, conflict with institutional leadership.

 

Chapter 11 (Building the Institution)
The Faculty Health and Wellness Program: History and Evolution  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Overview
  • MD Anderson History

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman sketches the history of the Faculty Health and Wellness Program and briefly describes the initiatives he set in place, including the Stressbusters Program designed to address physician burnout.  He first notes that when he arrived at MD Anderson he saw the effects of faculty burnout, but has also never worked at an institution with more employee commitment to the institutional mission. 

Next he talks about how he did a needs assessment through informal focus groups and began to hear about the serious morale issue among faculty, a problem that intensified when Dr. Ronald DePinho [oral history interview] assumed the presidency.

 

Chapter 12 (MD Anderson Culture)
Learning about MD Anderson Culture Inspires a Different Perspective on Burnout  (listen/read)

 

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • MD Anderson History
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • The Researcher
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Working Environment

Dr. Holleman begins this chapter by explaining that he was effectively offering the faculty resiliency training.  He then devotes the rest of this chapter to explaining the “epiphany” he had as his experience of MD Anderson culture evolved.

Dr. Holleman recounts that, during training sessions, faculty would be “boiling” and would state that offering resiliency training was effectively “blaming the victims”: defining burnout as a personal problem and individual responsibility, when in fact it had been created by systems within the institution.  On realizing this, Dr. Holleman explains, he began to research burnout and mentally redefined his role as being an advocate for faculty to the administration.  He confesses that he didn’t feel comfortable in this role.  He gives examples to demonstrate that burnout is a systemic rather than a personal problem.

 

Chapter 13 (Contributions)
Advocating for Faculty with a Blog under Ronald DePinho  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • MD Anderson History
  • Working Environment
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • Institutional Politics
  • Controversy
  • MD Anderson History
  • Contributions
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman describes how he started the first faculty happy hours to create time for faculty to build connections.  He then tells the story of the blog he started to give voice to faculty concerns, The Faculty Voice.  A primary reason, he explains, was the strong fear among faculty of expressing their critical views of the institution and its leadership.  He explains why this sentiment took root among the faculty.

Next he explains the reasons why the administration under Ronald DePinho demanded that the blog be taken down after he published an anonymous post on nepotism focused on Dr. DePinho’s wife, Lynda Chin, MD.  He explains his editorial standards in writing and publishing posts.  He explains the reasons that the Legal Department gave for demanding that the blog be removed.  He also talks about conversations he had with colleagues in the Department of Behavioral Science, in which they expressed concerns that his blog would have repercussions for his department.  Dr. Holleman conferred with the Faculty Senate and a plan was made that it would be taken over and renamed, The Sentinel, but the publication foundered after a few months.

 

Chapter 14 (Institutional Change)
Changes to MD Anderson’s Culture and Ronald DePinho’s Resignation  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Leadership
  • Working Environment
  • Institutional Politics
  • Controversy
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Snapshot
  • Ethics
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives

Dr. Holleman sketches the faculty’s concerns about Dr. DePinho and Dr. Chin.  He also sketches changes in MD Anderson culture that were created after Dr. DePinho assumed leadership of the institution.

He then notes that Drs. Emil J Freireich and Emil Frei are “veteran physician-scientists” who represent the old culture of MD Anderson.  He talks about the first impressions of Ronald DePinho and then explains how Dr. DePinho’s decisions shifted the culture.

Next, Dr. Holleman talks about Dr. DePinho’s resignation and what appears to have led up to it.  He notes that he is hearing a lot of optimism from the faculty now that Dr. Marshall Hicks has been named interim president.  He also notes that the selection of the interim team represents a return to the old values of MD Anderson:  a focus on patient care and clinical research under the stewardship of servant leaders.

Dr. Holleman and the interviewer discuss how, during this interim period, the institution will be rediscovering its core values.  Dr. Holleman then sketches the positives as well as the negatives that Dr. DePinho brought to the institution.

 

Chapter 15 (Overview)
A Role as “Toxin Handler”  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • The Clinician
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Working Environment
  • Ethics
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman reflects on the role he has served vis a vis the faculty during the last five and a half years.  He notes that his job has been to listen to the faculty and reflect back what they are saying.  He also tells an anecdote about learning the phrase, “toxin handler” to describe what his real job is.  He defines this role more fully.

 

Interview Session Three: 27 April 2017 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00C 
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 16 (An Institutional Unit)
Faculty Health and Wellness: Programs and the Anti-Bullying Task Force  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • The Clinician
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Leadership
  • Working Environment
  • Building the Institution
  • Institutional Politics
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Institutional Politics

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman begins to sketch the range of traditional and non-traditional programs that Faculty Health and Wellness offers, then turns to one initiative in particular, the Anti-Bully Task Force.  He defines what shapes bullying can take in the workplace and stresses the “emotional immediacy” that victims of bullying experience.  He then clarifies that the Task Force was created in 2013 in response to the way Dr. Ronald DePinho handled his policy of raising the standards for promotion and tenure.

 

Chapter 17 (Building the Institution)
Faculty Senate and Changes to the Shared Governance System  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

Working Environment

Building the Institution

Institutional Politics

Growth and/or Change

Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson

MD Anderson Culture

Critical Perspectives

Understanding the Institution

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman observes that representatives of the University of Texas System intervened in Dr. DePinho’s style of addressing the promotions and tenure system.  He explains that Dr. DePinho had diminished the role of the Faculty Senate, and UT System’s Chancellor McCrave expanded its original powers under the reorganized shared governance system.  Dr. Holleman notes that the Faculty Senate continues to discuss and refine how this system should work.  He praises Faculty Senate and observes that this new system has allowed new faculty leaders to emerge.  He cites studies that have found that the effectiveness of leaders is dependent on burnout, and that empowering faculty leaders is key to reducing burnout at the institution.

 

Chapter 18 (Building the Institution)
Faculty Health and Well Being: Programs and the Faculty Health and Well Being Committee  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Working Environment
  • Building the Institution
  • Institutional Politics
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Critical Perspectives
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Funny Stories
  • On the Nature of Institutions
  • Leadership; On Leadership

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman returns to the topic of the Program’s offerings, then focuses on the Faculty Health and Well Being Committee, which he chairs.  Formed in 2010, this committee is designed to “multiply the effect” of the Program by bringing together faculty who are interested in providing additional programs to faculty and to conducting research on topics related to health and well-being.  He talks about the activities of several committee members.  He then talks about the areas that he and the committee would like to see expanded, notably social events for young faculty and for young faculty and spouses/families.  He tells stories to demonstrate how successful and needed social events have been in the past.

Next, Dr. Holleman notes that the Committee has recently included a new dimension in its mission: supporting the Faculty Senate and the Shared Governance System.  He explains that such processes can address the problem of faculty health from the institutional level.  He explains that the Committee wants to work more closely with Faculty Senate and that the Faculty Health and Well Being Program in general needs to develop its role in advocating for the faculty to leadership.

Finally, he talks about the current environment of change, created when Dr. DePinho tendered his resignation.  He observes that interim leaders are focusing on “what the institution’s calling is really about.”

 

Chapter 19 (Post-Retirement Activities)
Looking Ahead to Writing  (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Discovery, Creativity and Innovation;
  • Faith, Values, Beliefs
  • Activities Outside Institutionz
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Post Retirement Activities
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Personal Background

In this chapter, Dr. Holleman talks about his long love of playwriting.  He talks about the plays that have been performed and his plans to work on others.  He also talks about his plans to continue his academic study of physician burnout and he would like to write a book on life balance.