Skip to main content

Pollock (Raphael), MD, Oral History Interview: Home

Interview Navigation Materials

Interview Navigation Material

 

Interview Profile

 

 

Submitted: 15 July 2014

 

Interview Information:

Three interview sessions: 8 October 2012, 10 October 2012, 19 November 2012
Total approximate duration: 5 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:

Surgical oncologist Raphael E. Pollock, M.D., Ph.D., (b. 25 Dec. 1950, Chicago, Illinois) came to MD Anderson in 1982 as a Fellow in Surgery and became an assistant professor in ’85. In 1990 he received his Ph.D. from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (Dissertation Title: "Mechanisms of Surgical Stress Impairment of Murine Natural Killer Cell Cytotoxicity"), expanding his research interests into the molecular biology of soft tissue sarcoma.  He is a Professor in the Department of Surgical Oncology, with joint appointments in Molecular and Cellular Oncology and the Department of Surgery. 

From 1994 to 2010 Dr. Pollock served as Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology and from 1997 – 2012 he was Head of Division of Surgery.  He was instrumental in establishing the Sarcoma Research Center at MD Anderson in 2005. He has been active in defining the field of Surgical Oncology, and it was recently established as a board certified specialty.  Dr. Pollock left MD Anderson in 2013 for another opportunity.

 

Major Topics Covered:

Personal and educational background

Surgical Oncology: the field, evolution, accreditation, future of

Research: surgical techniques, surgical stress, natural killer cells, molecular approaches to soft tissue sarcoma; angiogenesis, chemoresistance, novel therapeutics

Servant leadership: philosophy and examples

MD Anderson Tissue Bank

The Department of Surgical Oncology: history, evolution, accomplishments

The Division of Surgery

MD Anderson presidents; the change in administration, J. Mendelsohn to R. DePinho

Surgery and technology

Minority patients at MD Anderson

 

Regarding the Transcript and Audio Files

In accordance with oral history best practices, this transcript was intentionally created to preserve the conversational language of the interview sessions.  (Language has not been edited to conform to written prose).

The interview subject was given the opportunity to review the transcript.  Any requested editorial changes are indicated in brackets [ ], and the audio file has not correspondingly altered. 

Redactions to the transcript and audio files may have been made in response to the interview subject’s request or to eliminate personal health information in compliance with HIPAA.

 


 

Table of Contents

 

Interview Session: 8 October 2012

 

Surgical Oncology as a Specialty
Chapter 01 / Overview

 

Discovering Burn Surgery
Chapter 02 / Educational Path

 

From Burn Surgery to Cancer Surgery
Chapter 03 / Educational Path

 

Discovering a Mentor and a Specialty at MD Anderson
Chapter 04 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

 

Surgical Stress, Natural Killer Cells, A Mentor and a PhD
Chapter 05 / The Researcher

 

Shifting Research Focus from the Host to the Tumor
Chapter 06 / The Researcher

 

Interview Session Two: 10 October 2012

 

Sarcoma Studies
Chapter 07 / The Researcher

 

The Largest Sarcoma Tissue Bank in the World
Chapter 08 / Building the Institution

 

The Elements of a Researcher’s Life: From Research Approaches to Novel Ways of Supporting Patients
Chapter 09 / The Researcher

 

Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology: Practicing Servant Leadership
Chapter 10 / The Administrator

 

Moving the Department of Surgical Oncology into National Prominence
Chapter 11 / Building the Institution

 

The Department of Surgical Oncology: Some History, Accomplishments, and Critical Evaluation
Chapter 12 / An Institutional Unit

 

 

Interview Session Three: 19 November 2012

 

Removed as Head of the Division of Surgery
Chapter 15 / Professional Path

 

Building Excellence and Therapeutic Promise
Chapter 16 / Contributions to MD Anderson

 

Research and the Future of Surgical Oncology
Overview / Chapter 17

 

Surgical Oncology, Board Certification, and Working to Define the Field
Chapter 18 / An Institutional Unit

 

A Philosophy of Teaching –and Leadership
Chapter 19 / The Educator

 

A Medical Practice Enhanced by Explorations in History, Religion, and Spirituality
Chapter 20 / Character and Personal Philosophy

 

Welcoming Minority and Ethnic Patients to MD Anderson
Chapter 21 / Institutional Mission and Values

 

Editorial Positions: Cancer and Other Publications
Chapter 22 / The Administrator

 

The MD Anderson Presidents
Chapter 23 / Key MD Anderson Figures

 

A New SPORE Grant Focused on Sarcoma; Grateful to Work at MD Anderson
Chapter 24 / Professional Path

 


 

Chapter Summaries

 

Interview Session 1: 8 October 2012 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00A
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 01 (Overview)
Surgical Oncology as a Specialty (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • The Researcher
  • The Clinician
  • On Research and Researchers
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock explains that Surgical Oncology is both a technical discipline (that uses surgical techniques to intervene in cancer) and also a cognitive discipline that requires knowledge of 1) the etiologies of different cancers and 2) the therapies that other disciplines can offer a patient. He summarizes: a surgeon knows how to operate on a cancer, whereas a surgical oncologist knows when it is best to operate.  Surgical Oncologists serve in a consultative role with general surgeons, and Dr. Pollock also lists other specialties that partner with surgical oncologists.  He summarizes the training the specialty requires and notes that Surgical Oncology was only recognized as a Board Certified Specialty during this past year.  He describes why it took so long for the field to be recognized and says that the field will now be more attractive to bright young surgeons.

 

Chapter 02 (Educational Path)
Discovering Burn Surgery (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Formative Experiences
  • Patients
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help

Here Dr. Pollock talks briefly about his family background and then describes the path that took him to study medicine.  He was born in Hyde Park on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois.  He grew up in a family with five siblings.  His father was an M.D. Ph.D. in psychiatry and his mother was a social worker. Dr. Pollock also notes that his father had grown up during the Depression and knew poverty and had selected medicine, in part, because of its guarantee of employment.  (Dr. Pollock senior grew up in the same area of Chicago as Dr. Emil J Freireich of MD Anderson, and they were friends.)  Dr. Pollock recalls wanting to be a physician when he was a child, but became uncertain as he entered his college years, majoring in history instead.  He describes how his father found a clever way to demonstrate the lack of jobs in that profession, prompting Dr. Pollock to go medical school instead. 

Dr. Pollock recounts how he became interested in surgery during his third-year rotation at St. Louis City Hospital when he treated a patient burned with lye.  He says that this “was the first time he ever felt truly needed by another human being,” and threw himself into the study of surgery with a mind to becoming a plastic surgeon.  He was particularly gratified, he says, to discover that there were aspects of surgery that would allow him to use his personality in the therapeutic process –this is a continuing theme in Dr. Pollock’s descriptions of this professional values, and he speculates that this value shows the influence of his father on his life.

 

Chapter 03 (Educational Path)
From Burn Surgery to Cancer Surgery (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Formative Experiences
  • Patients
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock narrates his shift in focus from burn patients and plastic surgery to cancer surgery.  He begins, however, by underscoring that the connections he made with patients reinforced his belief that he had made the right decision in going to medical school.  (He tells a funny and touching anecdote about treating the mother of boxer Leon Spinks.)  During his residency at the University of Chicago, he did not care for the competitive atmosphere of the program. 

[The recorder is paused.]

Dr. Pollock also describes being called to treat two badly burned little girls, a case that taught him he would not be able to endure a specialty where he had to treat burned children without sacrificing a part of himself.  He transferred to Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago, where some surgeons were interested in surgical oncology.  He began to see that surgical oncology was about working with other specialties and establishing connections with patients.

 

Chapter 04 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas)
Discovering a Mentor and a Specialty at MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Formative Experiences
  • Patients
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • MD Anderson History
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Personal Reflections on MD Anderson
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Joining MD Anderson
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations

Dr. Pollock talks about coming to MD Anderson in 1982 for a surgery fellowship, in the process making many observations about the culture of the institution.  He begins by describing the process of applying for his fellowship.  He made a trip to Houston some months prior to beginning his fellowship to attend an MD Anderson conference (Cancer Care in the Year 2000). 

Dr. Pollock tells an anecdote about a security guard who gave him a one and a half hour tour –only the first instance of the culture of care he would come to value.  Dr. Pollock says that people at MD Anderson feel they have a calling, and the institution has a mission that people believe in and can act on.  He notes that he has been offered positions at seven other institutions and describes why he has always turned them down. 

Dr. Pollock next continues with his description of the conference, where he met Dr. Richard Martin (his “hero in modern surgery), with whom he would establish “one of the most important relationships in his professional career.”  Dr. Martin was interested in soft-tissue sarcoma, which became Dr. Pollock’s specialty as well.  

Dr. Pollock defines sarcomas –a rare type of cancer representing only 1% of adult solid tumors, and “a true teamwork disease,” as he describes it.  Dr. Pollock explains that he had no experience of sarcoma as a resident.  Just before coming to MD Anderson of Fellowship, he saw one patient with an osteosarcoma in the emergency room at Rush Hospital –and scheduled him for a radical amputation.  When he arrived in Houston, he began on the sarcoma service and followed a sarcoma patient’s treatment through chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, and artificial joint implantation. 

 

Chapter 05 (The Researcher)
Surgical Stress, Natural Killer Cells, A Mentor and a PhD (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Professional Path
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Portraits
  • Mentoring
  • Ethics
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock covers the period when he became an assistant professor at MD Anderson and explains the research he began to conduct on the link between surgery and immune functions.  His fellowship at MD Anderson (extended to three years) included six-months of research work in the laboratory of Dr. George Babcock, who was interested in surgical stress (stress created by surgical procedures).  Dr. Pollock was interested in how surgical stress might effect on natural killer cells that could protect against tumor dissemination.   He was encouraged to apply for the NCI’s new KO8 Clinical Investigator Program (and was awarded a grant) and also received a grant through the Institutional Grant Program.  During the latter grant process, he met immunologist Dr. Eva Lotsova, who became another of his mentors.  She told him that in order to learn how to design long-term studies, he would have to get a Ph.D.  Though Dr. Pollock was teaching a full load as an assistant professor, seeing patients, and managing his family responsibilities with young children, he began a degree program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.  (He tells an anecdote about being rejected 24 hours after submitting his application.) 

At the end of this Chapter, Dr. Pollock talks about how MD Anderson helped (and helps) faculty to grow.  “It was Camelot,” Dr. Pollock says when speaking of the intellectual environment he enjoyed in the eighties and nineties.

Chapter 06 (The Researcher)
Shifting Research Focus from the Host to the Tumor (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • The Leader
  • Leadership
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Discovery and Success

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock gives an overview of the types of studies he has conducted.  In response to a question from the interviewer, he begins with his first paper, published with his psychiatrist father in 1974, on the connection between the Cretan myth of the Minotaur and modern bullfighting.  He then explains that after working on surgical stress and natural killer cells, he received a FIRST Award (First Independent Research Support & Transition Award) to shift his focus to the molecular biology of sarcoma.  He notes that Dr. Josh Fidler and Dr. Garth Nicholson were both instrumental in shaping his thinking in this new research area.  He also observes that renewed interest is growing in natural killer cells, and his early papers are being cited again.  He insists, however, that the main contribution he has made has been in following a career path that can serve as “a template” for other young surgeons who wish to become surgeon-scientists; he has also provided leadership in his administrative roles to support new scientists.  Dr. Pollock explains his belief that researchers also have a responsibility to address problems of technique that arise in the operating room.  For ten years he has been involved in refining how sarcomas are staged (how their features are described and how scientists think about them).  He notes that in collaboration with three investigators from other institutions, he has received a SPORE grant for sarcoma, the largest award ever granted.  At the end of this Chapter, Dr. Pollock underscores how important collaboration is to surgical oncology and talks about how he interviews fellows to determine their willingness to collaborate.

 

 

Interview Session II:  10 October 2012 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00B
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 07 (The Researcher)
Sarcoma Studies (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Collaborations
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • MD Anderson Impact

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock talks about his shift in research focus to the molecular biology of sarcomas, discussing along the way two significant programs built as a result of his work.

He begins by talking about his 8-9 year collaboration with Dr. Dihua Yu, which began as a sarcoma-oriented laboratory, but eventually evolved to be a more encompassing initiative.  In 2006, Dr. Pollock explains, he approached John Mendelsohn with the idea of creating a Sarcoma Research Center Program, as those studying the diseased were dispersed over the entire institution.  The Program was created so researchers could share researchers and trainees.  Dr. Pollock then explains that his study of sarcoma tumors initially looked at the role of the tumor suppressor gene p53, commonly mutated in this disease.  He learned that p53 controls or influences many processes, including the regulation of angiogenesis.  He explains how p53 regulates angiogenesis.  He also sketches a few discoveries: angiogenesis can be reversed by restoring normal p53 genes to the tumor, a therapy that also restores cell cycle regulation and diminishes the invasiveness of the sarcoma.  He notes that these studies did not go into clinical trials because of his increasing administrative responsibilities.

 

Chapter 08 (Building the Institution)
The Largest Sarcoma Tissue Bank in the World (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Collaborations
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care

In an important collaboration, Drs. Pollock and Yu created what would become the largest sarcoma tissue bank in the world, with fifty different cell lines and twenty-five animal models for studying the disease.  In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock sketches the value of understanding the molecules the drive nearly 100 sarcoma subtypes and notes the possibility for therapy that come from this research.  (He gives an example of how understanding molecular processes in the tumor can lead to physicians to reduce chemotherapy in sarcoma patients, and notes that the Bank has collaborations with several industrial concerns.  The research group is made up of about twenty faculty, fellows, and students from the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences who focus on investigating the basic biology of sarcoma.  He underscores the need for such groups, as sarcoma is underfunded even in relation to its incidence in the population and understanding how it works can contribute greatly to the understanding of cancer in general.

 

Chapter 09 (The Researcher)
The Elements of a Researcher’s Life: From Research Approaches to Novel Ways of Supporting Patients (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Researcher
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Collaborations
  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • On Research and Researchers
  • The Life and Dedication of Clinicians and Researchers
  • Volunteers and Volunteering
  • Donations, Gifts, Contributions
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research
  • Human Stories

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock comments on the life of a researcher, beginning with his personal experience of working alongside his (second) wife, Dr. Dina Chelouche Lev, in a laboratory established around a core set of values they share as surgical oncologists.  He describes Dr. Lev’s working style and commitment to surgical oncology as both a vocation and avocation, noting shifts in his role vis a vis his field as his administrative demands increased.

Dr. Pollock also mentions an unusual step he has taken to secure support for sarcoma research: bringing interested patients about to have sarcoma surgery into the research laboratory.  It’s important, he says, so patients can see how their tissue is actually going to be studied and also so that researchers (some with no clinical training) actually connect tumor tissue to real human beings.  In addition, patients can become interested in supporting sarcoma research financially.  He tells a touching anecdote about a patient (with metastatic liposarcoma) asked to volunteer in the lab.  He eventually died and the entire laboratory was invited to attend his funeral –and did attend.  At the end of this Chapter, Dr. Pollock observes that the life of a full-time researcher can be very lonely.

 

Chapter 10(The Administrator)
Chair of the Department of Surgical Oncology: Practicing Servant Leadership (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • The Leaders
  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • On Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock discusses the strategies he used to build morale in the Department of Surgical Oncology and build the department’s national reputation after becoming Chair in November of 1993.  He begins by noting that in 1986 or ’87, Dr. Charles Balch (his predecessor) changed the name of Department of General Surgery to the Department of Surgical Oncology (a formality that did not express any change in department philosophy or direction).

 NOTE: the recorder is turned off for about 15 minutes at this point.

Dr. Pollock gives several examples of choices he made to set the tone for his Chairmanship and address low morale in the Department.  (For example, he remained in his own small office rather than take over a large that was earmarked for him, but in use by physician’s assistants.)  He points out that he didn’t know much about leadership, but wanted to make connections with department members as people first, and as employees second.  For information, he contacted his brother, who had been to business school, for some readings and discovered Robert Greenly’s Servant Leadership.  The message that leaders should provide service to people who report to them resonated with Dr. Pollock.  He conducted “walk around research,” talking to Department members to find out what was important to them.  He secured resources and got out of the way as people put them to use, never taking credit for others’ work.  He notes that he also admires the leadership principles of Colin Powell, who advocated respect for the chain of command without being a slave to it.

 

Chapter 11 (Building the Institution)
Moving the Department of Surgical Oncology into National Prominence (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation
  • Collaborations
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • MD Anderson Past
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • MD Anderson Culture

Dr. Pollock describes how he led the Department to “bring visibility to this group of young people” who were doing stellar work.  In an anecdote, he describes how the Department worked together to “colonize” the Society of Surgical Oncology conference.  By helping one another with abstracts and how experiments were conceptualized, MD Anderson’s Department of Surgical Oncology went from having 3 papers accepted per conference, to 27 papers, wresting control from Sloan Kettering researchers and dominating the podium at this major event in the field for 2-3 years.  This raised the Department’s national profile and demonstrated its commitment to attracting fellows who could compete for academic positions.

 Dr. Pollock points out that during his fifteen years as Chair, 85-90% of the Departments fellows have entered academic positions, with 20% holding positions as department chairs or sections chiefs.  This is evidence that the department has had a real impact on academic surgery, and he points out the concurrent commitment to clinical care as well.

 

Chapter 12 (An Institutional Unit)
The Department of Surgical Oncology: Some History, Accomplishments, and Critical Evaluation (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • MD Anderson History
  • Collaborations
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Business of Research
  • Donations, Gifts, Contributions
  • The Life and Dedication of Clinicians and Researchers
  • The Leader
  • On Leadership
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson

Dr. Pollock begins this Chapter by pointing out that acquiring resources was a challenge during his chairmanship, so he convinced established faculty members to set up a pool of their overage dollars to help young professors fund clinical trials –many of which have evolved into major lines of research.

Dr. Pollock reviews contributions of previous chairs: Dr. Richard Martin stressed the importance of excellent clinical care; Dr. Charles Balch understood that the group needed to transition from being a unit in the Texas System to being an academic unit; Dr. Pollock combined the two perspectives, emphasizing that one could do both research and clinical care, as he himself demonstrated by being only the second M.D. on faculty to complete a Ph.D. program at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences.

Dr. Pollock expresses his pleasure that his Department has emerged as “a dominant force in American Surgical Oncology.”  He also notes that assuming the role of Chair as an assistant professor “short-circuited” his own research opportunities.  He then talks about his evolution as a leader over his fifteen years as chair, giving examples of how he would handle situations differently now.  He also expresses concern that the current MD Anderson administration is shifting focus away from collaboration between faculty.  He tells an anecdote that stresses the value of interaction and collaboration among faculty.

 

Chapter 13 (The Administrator)
Becoming Head of the Division of Surgery (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • Institutional Processes
  • MD Anderson History

Dr. Pollock explains the process that led to him assuming the role as Head of the Division of Surgery, noting that the Division’s structure enabled him to remain as Chair of Surgical Oncology.  He did not switch offices, to underscore the equality of all units within the Division.  He notes that as an individual, he had roles in four administrative levels.  This enabled him to bring a broad viewpoint to Division matters.

 

Chapter 14 (Devices, Drugs, Procedures)
Technology in the Division of Surgery (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Clinician
  • The Researcher
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • Technology and R&D 
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Growth and/or Change

In this section Dr. Pollock explains several Division initiatives that are improving surgical processes for the patient. 

Dr. Pollock talks about MINTOS (Minimally Invasive & New Technology in Oncologic Surgery), an interdepartmental program that finds technologies to pair with laparoscopic surgery to make oncology surgery is less burdensome on the patient.  He also discusses how advances in surgery had enabled a new field, oncoanesthesiology to emerge (he will be speaking on this subject at a conference).

Next Dr. Pollock explains robotic surgical techniques, describing how it helps surgeons perform more accurately.  Robotic surgery can also be performed at a distance (tele-surgery), which could influence care in distant areas of Texas and among the medically underserved.  Dr. Pollock mentions that Southwest Bell has given MD Anderson a grant of one million dollars to explore tele-surgery and that NASA is also interested. 

Dr. Pollock then talks about BrainSuite, an operating suite that is also an imagining unit: MD Anderson is one of the 1st two places in the world where a surgeon can see an image of a tumor as s/he is operating on it.  He describes the benefit of this to the patient and the surgeon and talks about the training processes needed to use these new technologies.

 

 

Interview Session Three: 19 November 2012 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00B
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 15 (Professional Path)
Removed as Head of the Division of Surgery (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Professional Path
  • Institutional Politics
  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Past
  • On Leadership
  • On the Nature of Institutions
  • Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson  
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • Contributions

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock speculates on why he was removed from his position as Head of the Division of Surgery on October 2012.  The ostensible reason, he explains was that the administration was concerned about budgeting issues within the Division.  However he believes that upper levels of the institution wanted to replace him with an individual whose leadership philosophy more closely matched the new administration.  Dr. Pollock explains that he adheres to a model of servant leadership that has also influenced the matrix-model governance structures he has favored over “command and control” leadership.  He cites growth statistics within the Division as evidence of the success of decentralized leadership. 

Leadership at MD Anderson is coalescing around the “driving vision” of an individual, Dr. Ronald DePinho, who is organizing resources on behalf of the Moon Shots initiative.  Dr. Pollock explains his belief that this program will succeed if the faculty spontaneously embrace the refocusing of resources.  He characterizes the spirit of the MD Anderson faculty and reports some faculty reactions to the Moon Shots program. 

 

Chapter 16 (Contributions to MD Anderson)
Building Excellence and Therapeutic Promise (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Contributions
  • Activities Outside Institution
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Leadership
  • The Leader
  • The Administrator
  • On Leadership
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • The Life and Dedication of Clinicians and Researchers
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Growth and/or Change

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock reviews the contributions he feels he has made to MD Anderson and to his field, and also notes the projects he wishes he could have brought to completion.  Beginning with his clinical work, he is very gratified that he worked with the Department Chairs to assemble a group of surgeons who are not only the best in the world, but can “sublimate their egos” and work together toward larger initiatives, including a very successful research program.

Dr. Pollock notes that he had wanted to shepherd some sections (orthopedics, ophthalmology, dental oncology) to becoming separate departments, but was unable to complete that.  He is pleased that tele-surgery initiatives were launched under his leadership, and foresee that MD Anderson is exactly the institution to develop this service and bring it to underserved populations.  An outcomes research program was also instituted under his leadership and has yet to reach national prominence.  A program in nano-technology and surgical applications has also been started.  Dr. Pollock describes several of the exciting possibilities for treatment that this research will yield, and he also notes the first efforts of tissue engineering research.

 

Chapter 17 (Overview)
Research and the Future of Surgical Oncology (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Technology and R&D 
  • Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research
  • Discovery and Success
  • Patients
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson  

In response to a question about areas of cancer research with particular promise for patients, Dr. Pollock cites tumor-based and translational research supported by SPORE grants, as well as Dr. DePinho’s Moon Shots Program addressing specific cancers, includubg melanoma, lung cancer, head and neck cancer, myeloid leukemia and myelodysplastic syndrome, chronic lymphocytic leukemia, prostate cancer, and triple-negative breast and ovarian cancers.  Dr. Pollock notes the challenges of sustaining funding to make real progress in all these areas.  He then talks about the future of surgical oncology, noting that “we are trying to put ourselves out of business.”  Surgery, he explains, will become more localized and increasingly reliant on other specialties.  For example, surgery and interventional radiology are on a “confluence course.”  He explains the potential use of nano-cameras for tumor surveillance and notes that it will also be possible to radio-tag problem genes to monitor metastasis.

 

Chapter 18 (An Institutional Unit)
Surgical Oncology, Board Certification, and Working to Define the Field (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Contributions
  • Activities Outside Institution
  • Overview
  • Education
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Understanding the Institution

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock first explains that the Department of Surgical Oncology is about to move forward with Board Certification.  As a member of the Surgical Oncology Advisory Committee of the American Board of Surgery, he has been involved with defining the field of Surgical Oncology and with determining the parameters for certification.  Dr. Pollock explains how the training of surgeons at MD Anderson has changed –and will change—as a result of this process.  Training periods will be longer, but some of activities that currently generate more income for fellows will be reduced, requiring that the institution hire part time assistants.  Dr. Pollock describes the advantages of certification, despite some disadvantages.  He then notes that he has been a member of the Committee for the past twelve years: he and his collaborators have successfully defined the role of the surgical oncologist as an orchestrator of multidisciplinary care.  The certification process attests to the fact that Surgical Oncology is a full-fledged discipline.

 

Chapter 19 (The Educator)
A Philosophy of Teaching –and Leadership (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Leader
  • The Mentor
  • Mentoring
  • Leadership
  • Education
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Patient
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Human Stories
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Patients
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • Healing, Hope, and the Promise of Research
  • Research, Care, and Education
  • Personal Background

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock notes the range of situations in which he has taught and states that his philosophy of teaching is based on an informal model of mentoring.  In the clinic, he explains, he finds it gratifying to demonstrate by how to build rapport and trust with a patient, how to handle difficult situations and deliver difficult news. 

Dr. Pollock explains that he always gives his patients his cell phone number during a first meeting, and Dr. Pollock explains the significance of doing this for patients, and for fellows who see a physician offering support 24/7.  He describes at length the importance of listening to patients and notes that this does influence the bottom line, increasing the number of patients who recommend MD Anderson as a caring institution. 

As a teacher of researchers, Dr. Pollock explains that he had most impact in a support role, editing papers and teaching researchers how to express their ideas and develop skills in public speaking. He notes that he began to develop these skills while on a debate team in high school and by taking seminars as a history major in college.  Dr. Pollock quotes St. Francis: “See ye to listen rather than to be listened to,” and makes the connection between his teaching philosophy and his preferred model of servant leadership.

 

Chapter 20 (Character and Personal Philosophy)
A Medical Practice Enhanced by Explorations in History, Religion, and Spirituality (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Personal Background
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Faith
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work

In response to a question about the link between professional practice and spiritual/religious belief, Dr. Pollock explains his belief that human intelligence is an organic, collective entity “that is getting smarter all the time.”  In his small way, he has tried to contribute to that growth and he comments on his own evolution as a person over his lifetime.  He also explains that his interest in European and Jewish history had fed a more general fascination with how people have coped historically with extreme circumstances and emergencies.  His reading on the experiences of immigrants, Holocaust victims and other groups has made him a more sensitive cancer physician.

 

Chapter 21 (Institutional Mission and Values)
Welcoming Minority and Ethnic Patients to MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Religion
  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson  

In this Chapter Dr. Pollock explains that African-American and Middle Eastern patients can wonder whether they are truly welcome in a “majority institution” such as MD Anderson.  Dr. Pollock tells some anecdotes to show how he has tried to welcome minority patients and further the institutional mission of serving all patients equally.

 

Chapter 22 (The Administrator)
Editorial Positions: Cancer and Other Publications (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Contributions
  • Activities Outside Institution
  • Career and Accomplishments

In this Chapter, Dr. Pollock describes his role as editor-in-chief of the American Cancer Society’s journal, Cancer, a position he was nominated for and held from 2000-2011.  He task was to bring the journal back from some “hard times,” and he notes that the American Cancer Society was pleased with what he accomplished.  Under his leadership, Cancer became one of the first biomedical journals to accept submissions electronically.  Dr. Pollock notes some of the surgical oncology manuals and textbooks he has editing and explains that editing and writing are another outlet for his educational impulses.

 

Chapter 23 (Key MD Anderson Figures)
The MD Anderson Presidents (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Portraits
  • Leadership
  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Institutional Mission and Values

Dr. Pollock reviews the MD Anderson presidents he has worked with.  He begins with a few comments on Dr. R. Lee Clark, a visionary who say the promise of multi-disciplinary care.  Dr. Charles LeMaistre, he says, had an unparalleled understanding of how central clinical care is to the mission of the institution.  He protected and helped the institution grow during difficult times.  Dr. Pollock says he was “smitten” by Dr. LeMaistre’s style, particularly his ability to listen, and is grateful to Dr. LeMaistre for his support when he transferred his interests to molecular biology.

Dr. Mendelsohn, he says, was a builder with a strong vision for the institution growth.  It was Dr. Mendelsohn who selected Dr. Pollock for the position of Head of the Division of Surgery.  He offers an anecdote to demonstrate Dr. Mendelsohn’s style of dealing with differences of opinion within senior leadership.  He also recalls a meeting in 2005 that led to the creation of the Sarcoma Research Center and notes the original investment of $400,000 has given rise to $25 million in philanthropy and grants.  Dr. Pollock then says that he has not had enough interaction with Dr. Ronald DePinho to comment on him.

 

Chapter 24 (Professional Path)
A New SPORE Grant Focused on Sarcoma; Grateful to Work at MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • The Administrator
  • The Researcher
  • Contributions
  • Overview
  • Activities Outside Institution
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson
  • Giving Recognition

Dr. Pollock reflects on the fact that he has more time now that he has stepped down from his role as head of the Division of Surgery.  He would like to focus on sarcoma for the next decade, and describes the $16 million SPORE grant (a SARC grant –Sarcoma Alliance for Research through Collaboration), that he was awarded in October 2012 in collaboration with researchers from many other institutions.  He describes the projects included in this grant, explaining that the array of projects represents an integrated and multi-faceted attack on sarcoma.

In the last minutes of the interview, Dr. Pollock expresses his gratitude to MD Anderson for providing a research and clinical career that exceeded his “wildest fantasies.”  He notes that “when you are finished changing, you are finished.”