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Leeds (Norman), MD, Oral History Interview: Home

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Interview Information:

Two sessions:  30 May 2017, 20 June 2017

Total approximate duration:  3 hours 30 minutes

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:

Dr. Norman Leeds (b. 9 June 1928, West New York, New Jersey) came to MD Anderson in 1991 to serve as Head of the Section of Neuroradiology in the Department of Diagnostic Radiology.  He is one of the pioneering founders of the field of neuroradiology and conducted foundational work on brain anatomy, the use of imaging techniques to enhance tumor diagnosis, and the toxic effects of chemotherapy on brain tissue.  Dr. Leeds retired in 2003 to emeritus status, but at the time of the interview was continuing to come in to MD Anderson to mentor students and otherwise stay connected to the institution’s research and clinical community.  

 

Major Topics Covered:

Personal background and education; two-career marriage

Professional trajectory prior to MD Anderson

Participation in and perspectives on the formative years of neuroradiology

Research contributions to neuro-radiology

Change at MD Anderson

Views on assuming leadership roles

Mentoring

 

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: 30 May 2017

 

A Good Education and an Early Focus on Being an Academic
Chapter 01 / Educational Path

 

Choosing Neuroradiology at the Field’s Infancy
Chapter 02 / Professional Path

 

A Detailed Understanding of Brain Circulation
Chapter 03 / The Researcher

 

An Evolving Field; Dealing with Patients; Leadership Advice
Chapter 04 / Overview

 

A New Opportunity at MD Anderson
Chapter 05 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

 

 

 

 

Interview Session Two: 20 June 2017​

 

 

Early Research that Leveraged the MD Anderson Team Approach
Chapter 06 / The Researcher

 

Research on Brain Necrosis and Work in Neuro-Pediatrics
Chapter 07 / The Researcher

 

More Research on Techniques to Determine Physiology
Chapter 08 / The Researcher

 

Perspectives on Serving as an Expert in Lawsuits
Chapter 09 / Overview

 

Educating the Next Generation and Concerns about the Future of Healthcare
Chapter 10 / Overview

 

Some Views on Change and a Big Vision for the Future of the Neuro-Services
Chapter 11 / Institutional Change

 

Reflections on a Marriage and Family
Chapter 12 / Personal Background


Chapter Summaries

Interview Session One: 30 May 2017 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00A
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 01 (Educational Path)
A Good Education and an Early Focus on Being an Academic (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Military Experience

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds sketches his family background and his educational path up to his decision to focus on neuroradiology.  He begins by explaining that his father was a pediatrician who ran his practice from the family home, giving Dr. Leeds the opportunity to observe the demands of clinical practice.  For that reason, he explains, as well as the fact that he was drawn to teaching and leadership, he always wanted to be an academic.

Next, Dr. Leeds talks about the education he received at preparatory school and in college at Yale College [University, BA, 1948], and why he wanted a broad education.  He then talks about applying to medical school [MD, 1953, New York Medical College, New York, NY] and his work for the U.S. Public Health Service as a Senior Assistant Surgeon in Memphis [1955-1957], then he return to New York City, where he had an opportunity to work in clinics.

 

Chapter 02 (Professional Path)
Choosing Neuroradiology at the Field’s Infancy (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Mentoring; On Mentoring
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Discovery and Success
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds explains why he chose to specialize in neuroradiology when the field was in its infancy. He notes that he was one of the founders of the American Society of Neuroradiology (ASN) in 1960 and that he was the first individual to receive an NIH Fellowship in this new field.  He talks about his mentor, Dr. Tavares.

Next he sketches the state of the field and the challenges involved in diagnosing neurological issues.  Dr. Leeds notes that he and Dr. Tavares wrote a book on the veins in the brain; he describes brain angiography and talks about the importance of understanding anatomy.

[The recorder is paused.]

Next, Dr. Leeds notes that three of the original fourteen founders of the ASN are still living.

He then briefly sketches his career track and major colleagues from his 1961, when he was hired as an assistant professor in the Department of Radiology at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles until his role as Director of Department of Radiology and Radiation Therapy at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York [1985-1991].

 

Chapter 03 (The Researcher)
A Detailed Understanding of Brain Circulation (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • The Researcher
  • Discovery and Success
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Technology and R&D

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds talks about his early research contributions to neuroradiology.  He began his work with a focus on understanding the circulatory system of the brain in detail and he achieved expertise in brain angiography and brain circulation time, which led to other discoveries.  He notes that he was the first to do a magnification angiograph and the first pediatric radiologist.  He also notes his work on genetic abnormalities and pattern in neuroradiology.

 

Chapter 04 (Overview) 
An Evolving Field; Dealing with Patients; Leadership Advice (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Mentoring; On Mentoring
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Patients; Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Leadership; On Leadership

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds recalls finding out about an opening for a neuroradiologist at MD Anderson and explains the process he went through to decide to take the position.  As his wife, Betty, preferred not to leave New York City, they set up a long-distance marriage.

Next, Dr. Leeds also notes that he wanted to give up chairmanship of neuroradiology at Beth Israel Medical Center and believed that focusing on brain tumor radiology offered a good opportunity for him.  He notes that he came to MD Anderson as Head of the Section of Neuroradiology.

 

Chapter 05 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas) 
A New Opportunity at MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Overview
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas
  • Personal Background
  • Technology and R&D
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • On the Nature of Institutions
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • The Institution and Finances

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds recalls finding out about an opening for a neuroradiologist at MD Anderson and explains the process he went through to decide to take the position.  As his wife, Betty, preferred not to leave New York City, they set up a long-distance marriage.

Next, Dr. Leeds also notes that he wanted to give up chairmanship of neuroradiology at Beth Israel Medical Center and believed that focusing on brain tumor radiology offered a good opportunity for him.  He notes that he came to MD Anderson as Head of the Section of Neuroradiology.

Dr. Leeds then recalls that he attended the first talk about the new CT technology in the U.S.  He comments on the administrations reluctance to invest in the new technology because of the prices, rather than focusing on the revenue it might generate.  

Interview Session Two: June 20, 2017 (listen/read)

Chapter 00B
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 06
Early Research that Leveraged the MD Anderson Team Approach (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Discovery and Success
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • Personal Background
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Technology and R&D

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds begins to trace the history of the research he conducted at MD Anderson. 

He begins by talking about his work (1998-2000) on imaging techniques to differentiate brain tumors from trauma and other causes.  He discusses three-dimensional imaging and functional imaging and their roles in this process.

Next he talks about a landmark investigation of the use of dynamic contrast enhancement to identify malignant brain tumors.  He notes that this technique became a significant factor in brain surgery.

Dr. Leeds next praises the team, multidisciplinary approach that was important to his research advances and which he says makes MD Anderson unique.  He talks about the breadth of experience that MD Anderson faculty bring to research teams, the number of cases they have access to.

He briefly speaks about losing his wife to ovarian cancer.

 

Chapter 07 (The Researcher)
Research on Brain Necrosis and Work in Neuro-Pediatrics (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • The Researcher
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Discovery and Success
  • Patients; Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Cancer and Disease
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Education; On Education
  • Research

Dr. Leeds begins this chapter with the statement that his “real contribution” was in studying the impact of cancer therapy on brain necrosis and its effects on brain tissue.  He gives the example of a twenty-two year old patient who died from treatment induced brain necrosis. 

Dr. Leeds then comments on how work of this kind demonstrates the value of specialty hospitals that bring together people, teams, and materials.  He then talks about the impact of Dr. Raymond Sawaya, chair of Neuro-Surgery.

Dr. Leeds then talks briefly about the difficulty of treating brain cancers, particularly glioblastoma, the successes that have been achieved.

Next, Dr. Leeds turns to his work in neuro-pediatrics.  He summarizes his professional path to neuroradiology then explains that he met Dr. Kenneth Schulman who asked him to come to University of Pennsylvania Children’s Hospital [CHOP].  Dr. Leeds explains how children’s cancers differ from those seen in adults, a subject he has investigated.  He notes that he helped create a strong pediatric neurology program at CHOP, one that eventually became a leading program in the nation.  He notes that MD Anderson’s pediatric neuro-oncology program became stronger over time.

 

Chapter 08 (The Researcher)
More Research on Techniques to Determine Physiology (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • The Researcher
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Discovery and Success
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Education; On Education
  • Research;
  • Technology and R&D

Dr. Leeds explains that after his work on brain necrosis, he returned to studies focused on physiology.  He talks about a book he published with Dr. Juan Tavares on identifying dynamic changes with cerebral angiographs.  He notes that angiography created the foundation of his knowledge in the field.

He then turns to more recent work on physiological questions, including interpretation of data from stains.  He notes the importance of distinguishing tumors from lesions created by stroke.

Next he talks about the fellowship program and his continued interest in passing on his valuable depth of knowledge to others.

 

 

Chapter 09 (Overview)
Perspectives on Serving as an Expert in Lawsuits (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview;
  • Critical Perspectives
  • The Professional at Work
  • Activities Outside Institution
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Funny Stories

Dr. Leeds begins this chapter by expressing his concerns about the impact that lawsuits brought against physicians can have on research.  He discusses two cases in which he was called to provide expert testimony.

 

Chapter 10 (Overview)
Educating the Next Generation and Concerns about the Future of Healthcare (listen/read

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Education; On Education
  • Research;
  • Technology and R&D
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Post Retirement Activities
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • The Business of MD Anderson; The Institution and Finances

Dr. Leeds explains that now that he comes to MD Anderson only one day a week, he focuses on educating fellows and students.  He comments on the high quality of the next generation of physicians and researchers. 

Next he explains his concern over the rising cost of medicine and the specter of a single-payer system which, he feels, would not offer quality people the financial incentives to stay in medicine.  

 

Chapter 11 (Institutional Change)
Some Views on Change and a Big Vision for the Future of the Neuro-Services (listen/read

 

Topics Covered

  • Leadership; On Leadership
  • Portraits
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Snapshot
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson
  • Working Environment

Dr. Leeds begins this chapter by talking about changes in Neuroradiology when Dr. William Murphy stepped down as chair, succeeded by Dr. Donald Podoloff [oral history interview].  He compares the temperaments and leadership styles of the two men.

Dr. Leeds then talks about a vision he shares with Raymond Sawaya [oral history interview]: to develop a neuro institute that would bring together all the fields working in neuro and would also feature a dining room to bring back some of the congenial feel of the older MD Anderson. 

Dr. Leeds expresses the opinion that MD Anderson is too big, and the size creates obstacles to communication and collaboration.  He tells a story about successfully getting money for an MR by talking to the CFO over lunch.

 

Chapter 12 (Personal Background)
Reflections on a Marriage and Family (listen/read

 

Topics Covered

  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Post Retirement Activities
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

In this chapter, Dr. Leeds shares recollections of his wife, Betty, a woman for whom he had great love and respect.  He also talks about his children and grandchildren, sharing advice he gives them.