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Stuyck (Stephen C.), MPH, Oral History Interview: Home

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Interview Profile

Submitted: 11 July 2014 

 

Interview Information:

Three interview sessions: 11 June 2013, 13 June 2013, 27 June 2013
Total approximate duration: 4 hours 10 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:

Stephen [Steve] C. Stuyck, (b. 1 July 1941, White Plains, New Jersey) came to Houston in 1972 to take a job as Director of Public Information for the University of Texas Medical School and for MD Anderson. In 1975 the Information Office was reorganized, and Mr. Stuyck came to work exclusively for MD Anderson. During his forty years of service to MD Anderson Mr. Stuyck served successively as Director of Public Information and Education (1975 – 1985), Principle Investigator for the Cancer Information Service Contract (NCI, 1975 – 2012), Assistant to the President (1981 – 1986), Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs (1985 – 1988), Associate Vice President for Public Affairs (1988 – 1999), and Vice President for Public Affairs. (He received his Masters of Public Health in 1999.) Mr. Stuyck served in the latter role from 2000 until his retirement at the end of 2012.

Under Mr. Stuyck’s leadership, the Public Affairs office was twice awarded a Premier Performance Award by the Association of American Medical Colleges (in 1992 and 1997, one of only three institutions at the time to receive the award twice).

 

Major Topics Covered:

Personal and educational background

The Department/Office of Public Affairs: history and evolution of; services developed and encompassed; innovative activities to serve faculty, administration, patients

Public Affairs and support of cancer prevention, education, philanthropy/development

Working relationships with MD Anderson presidents

MD Anderson identity, branding: developing the Mission Statement, Core Values, and the publication, Making Cancer History.

 

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 One: 11 June 2013

 

Inspired By Work at a Medical Institution
Chapter 01 / Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas

Public Affairs: Working Closely with MD Anderson Presidents
Chapter 02 / Overview

Early Developments in the Department of Public Information and Education
Chapter 03 / Building the Institution

The Faculty: The Intellectual Engine of MD Anderson
Chapter 04 / MD Anderson Culture

Expanding the Scope of Public Affairs: Increasing Services for Faculty, Patients, and the Public
Chapter 05 / Building the Institution

Public Affairs: External Communications
Chapter 06 / An Institutional Unit

Public Affairs: Internal Communications
Chapter 07 / An Institutional Unit

Public Affairs: Writing the MD Anderson Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics
Chapter 08 / Building the Institution

 

Interview Session Two: 13 June 2013

 

Public Affairs at MD Anderson: Supporting Cancer Prevention and Education
Chapter 09 / An Institutional Unit

R. Lee Clark and Charles LeMaistre
Chapter 10 / Key MD Anderson Figures

John Mendelsohn: MD Anderson’s Secret Weapon
Chapter 11 / Key MD Anderson Figures

The Changing Organization of Public Affairs
Chapter 13 / Institutional Change

Public Affairs and Communication Tools
Chapter 14 / Overview

 

Interview Session Three: 27 June 2013

 

A Key Publication: Making Cancer History
Chapter 15 / Overview

Changes at MD Anderson
Chapter 16 / Institutional Change

The Murder of Dr. Fred Conrad: A Challenge for Public Affairs and the Institution
Chapter 17 / MD Anderson Past

Departments Within Public Affairs
Chapter 18 / An Institutional Unit

A Fun Job at an Institution that Inspires Commitment
Chapter 19 / View on Career and Accomplishments


 

Chapter Summaries

 

 

Interview Session One: 11 June 2013 (listen/read)

Chapter 00A
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 01 (Joining MD Anderson/Coming to Texas)
Inspired By Work at a Medical Institution (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Personal Background
  • Professional Path
  • Inspirations to Practice Science/Medicine
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Joining MD Anderson
  • Military Experience
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents

Mr. Stuyck explains that he came to work for MD Anderson’s Department of Public Information and Education in 1975. (Prior to that he worked in a University of Texas Medical School Information Office that served both the Medical School and MD Anderson.) He then offers some background information, including how he came to spend his “formative years” in Houston. He notes that he spent his undergraduate years at University of Texas at Austin majoring in advertising and journalism. He secured a job in public information at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston after graduation. Seeing the caring dimension of medicine inspired him to continue to work with the medical field, however he was drafted in 1969, going to Vietnam in 1970 as a public information specialist who wrote for the Army until his discharge in 1971. Though he returned to the University of Texas at Austin for graduate work, he left because for a job in the Public Affairs office at the University of Texas Houston.

 

Chapter 02 (Overview)
Public Affairs: Working Closely with MD Anderson Presidents (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Definitions, Explanations, Translations
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Portraits
  • Leadership
  • On Leadership
  • Collaborations
  • MD Anderson History
  • Evolution of Career
  • Professional Path
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Influences from People and Life Experiences
  • Skills, Talents, Gifts
  • Portraits
  • Professional Values, Ethics, Purpose
  • Professional Practice

Mr. Stuyck describes the work he did promoting awareness of the new medical school (University of Texas Medical School) until 1975, when he was made Director of MD Anderson’s Department of Public Information. He explains why the rapidly growing institution needed such a Department at that time and why Dr. R. Lee Clark offered him the job [the letter mentioned is reproduced in Steve Stuyck: The MD Anderson Years]. He talks about Dr. Glen Knots, to whom Mr. Stuyck reported, and the lessons he learned from him about management and leadership. He then explains why, in 1981, Dr. Charles LeMaistre arranged for Mr. Stuyck to report directly to him. He tells a story about a speech he volunteered to write for Dr. LeMaistre when he had to testify in Washington D.C. about the deaths of several patients, and how pleased Dr. LeMaistre was with his work.

Mr. Stuyck explains the particular abilities he was able to bring to MD Anderson and to the institution’s presidents. In addition to being a good editor of others’ work, Mr. Stuyck describes himself as a strong writer about MD Anderson and about cancer, with a skill to commit issues to paper. He had a special sense of Dr. Charles LeMaistre’s way of expressing himself and could capture it. (Mr. Stuyck says that “I could hear him saying the words from the podium.) He notes that the archives have about 700 speeches that he wrote over the course of his career.

Mr. Stuyck describes the exhausting schedule of working with Dr. LeMaistre’s speech trips and notes that, when Dr. John Mendelsohn arrived, it was agreed that Mr. Stuyck would not write his speeches. Mr. Stuyck then tells several anecdotes to demonstrate what he learned about leadership from Dr. Charles LeMaistre. In particular, he mentions Dr. LeMaistre’s habit of encouraging people who worked for him. Mr. Stuyck recalls that Governor Bill Clemmons shouted at him during a visit, and Dr. LeMaistre phoned him later in the evening to tell him not to worry about it. Next he speaks briefly about Dr. John Mendelsohn, noting that he was just what the institution needed at the time. Dr. Mendelsohn promoted Mr. Stuyck to Vice President of Public Affairs. Mr. Stuyck notes that he had thirty years of working with great bosses and great leaders.

 

Chapter 03 (Building the Institution)
Early Developments in the Department of Public Information and Education (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Discovery, Creativity and Innovation
  • The Professional at Work
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Information for Patients and the Public
  • Education
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Cultural/Social Influences
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • MD Anderson History

This segment opens with the interviewer providing an overview of the three story threads told in Mr. Stuyck’s interview: the story of his career, of the Public Affairs at MD Anderson, and a story of what public affairs encompasses. Mr. Stuyck asserts that he had a direct effect on the broad scope of Public Affairs, citing the gradual absorption of Volunteer Services into the Department.

Mr. Stuyck next explains that he was able to secure a contract to set up the Cancer Information Service in 1974. This was the first NCI-funded initiative to create a public information call-in line, and it was controversial, as most professionals did not believe that laypersons could be sufficiently trained to provide medical information. Mr. Stuyck explains how he became principle investigator, and what was involved in setting up the service on this grant, which has run for 30 years for a total of twenty-six million dollars.

Mr. Stuyck then provides historical context. He notes that the CIS was part of a larger national effort to open up communication about cancer, to develop advocacy for many groups, and to increase the role patients could play in their health decisions. He also notes that the President Nixon signed the National Cancer Act in 1971 and that knowledge in the sciences was growing at a tremendous pace during this time. He also cites the culture of excellence that existed at MD Anderson in the seventies.

Mr. Stuyck gives several examples to demonstrate how far cancer treatment has come since the seventies: the first BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) trials that required patients to be scarified; “gruesome” chemotherapy treatments; and treatments that required extreme surgical damage to a patient. He also recalls the first outpatient clinic at MD Anderson, which was very primitive by today’s standards.

 

Chapter 04 (MD Anderson Culture)
The Faculty: The Intellectual Engine of MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Giving Recognition
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • The Life and Dedication of Clinicians and Researchers

Mr. Stuyck expresses his appreciation for the MD Anderson faculty who are the “intellectual engine” of the institution even though they represent only twenty percent of employees. He says he has always tried to understand faculty issues and “speak their lingo.” He traces his support for faculty back to his experiences at University of Texas Medical Branch, where he loved attending Grand Rounds. He sketches how issues have changed for faculty and lists the pressures upon them. He also characterizes MD Anderson faculty as possessing great intellectual curiosity.

 

Chapter 05 (Building the Institution)
Expanding the Scope of Public Affairs: Increasing Services for Faculty, Patients, and the Public (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Overview
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Institutional Processes
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • On Research and Researchers

In this segment, Mr. Stuyck talks about the expansion of the idea of public affairs at MD Anderson. Mr. Stuyck explains that after he secured the NCI contract for the Cancer Information Service, “Public Education” was added to the name of the Department of Public Information, going on to detail what education can do for an institution. Next, Patient Education came under the scope of Public Information, and he explains what sorts of educational materials the department produced. Volunteer Services was next folded into Public Affairs, and Mr. Stuyck explains that he wanted to bring together in one unified division all the functions that would reach out into the public. Next he explains why Public Affairs was sequentially identified as a Department, then an Office, and finally a Division. He comments on the perception of Public Affairs within the institution then goes on to explain some of the many services provided to MD Anderson. He begins by explaining Creative Services then talks about the role Public Affairs played when Dr. Jordan Gutterman [Oral History Interview] and his work on Interferon attracted tremendous media attention. He explains that Dr. Gutterman received 7,000 to 8,000 letters from people begging to participate in his trials. Public Affairs set up a service to answer all of these letters. Mr. Stuyck talks about preparing faculty to deal with media appearances. Then he identifies the sections within Public Affairs and notes that he and his management team produced both monthly and annual reports to document the contributions they made to the institution. At the end of this segment, Mr. Stuyck notes that MD Anderson has generally received very good press. Most of the negative press has come during the last year.

 

Chapter 06 (An Institutional Unit)
Public Affairs: External Communications (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • The Business of MD Anderson
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • MD Anderson History
  • The Business of MD Anderson
  • The Healthcare Industry
  • Portraits
  • Collaborations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Discovery and Success

Mr. Stuyck explains the changing role of Public Affairs since the seventies. At that time, physicians were not concerned about public relations. He then points to Dr. John Mendelsohn’s arrival as a turning point in the institution’s dealings with the publi Mr. Stuyck explains how he and others worked with Dr. Mendelsohn to draw greater attention from national and international media, eventually hiring a New York public relations firm, The GabbeGroup (which still works for MD Anderson). He also explains that the single greatest factor to change the institution’s media needs was the passing of the self-referral legislation in 1994. Mr. Stuyck describes the challenges created when the bill went into effect in 1995 and forty percent of patients could suddenly request their own appointments. He explains that the information service, Ask MD Anderson, was created to help patients navigate the complex institution: it takes 100,000 calls per year.

Mr. Stuyck next describes several strategies used to raise the institution’s profile. He describes the trips that Public Affairs planned for Dr. Mendelsohn, designing them to create more exposure for cancer and the institution. The GabbeGroup suggested that Public Affairs submit profiles on cancer issues to the US News and World Report website. Public Affairs also published surveys on attitudes about cancer and attitudes about breast cancer in Prevention Magazine.

Mr. Stuyck explains that departments that heavily use Public Affairs services fund positions within the Department. This insures that Public Affairs serves their needs. Mr. Stuyck points to the important and productive link between Development and Public Affairs. He then identifies some key moments in the institution’s relationship to the publi achieving status as a cancer center; the change in the institution’s name in the 1980s; the impact of the Internet.

 

Chapter 07 (An Institutional Unit)
Public Affairs: Internal Communications (listen/read)

 

Story Codes

  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • MD Anderson History
  • Collaborations
  • Institutional Processes
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Understanding the Institution
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Discovery and Success
  • Portraits
  • Discovery, Creativity and Innovation

In this segment, Mr. Stuyck gives an overview of internal communications in the institution. He notes that, in 2001, MD Anderson was at a crisis point in communications and Public Affairs hired the management group, Deloitte &Touche, to analyze the issues. At this time he proposed to the Management Committee of Public Affairs to establish a section for internal communication. As an example of communication difficulties, he talks about the mistrust created by layoffs in the early to mid-nineties, describing the publications created to address the issue. He compares the paper communications of past decades with the online communications of today. He then talks about new technologies that communications specialists must master today, noting that “it’s fun to be around” the new media specialists and to strategize how to use new technologies. He notes that Communications has “reinvented itself” six or seven times in the past decades.

 

Chapter 08 (Building the Institution)
Public Affairs: Writing the MD Anderson Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • Understanding the Institution
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • MD Anderson History
  • Institutional Processes
  • Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • Understanding the Institution
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Discovery and Success

In this segment, Mr. Stuyck next talks about his work on two key documents: the Vision and Mission Statement and the MD Anderson Core Values. He explains why there was controversy over the core values.

Mr. Stuyck gives an example of why the word “hope” was controversial in the Core Values, saying that he was “never a fan of hope,” but other committee members convinced him it was key to MD Anderson. He then talks about the impact of the two documents, citing a survey of employees that revealed almost 100% satisfaction with the institution values.

Next Mr. Stuyck briefly compares Public Affairs at MD Anderson to analogous departments at other institutions. He comments on the role of the Management Group within Public Affairs and its strategic work in guiding the departments activities and evolution. He briefly comments on how Public Affairs is working with the current controversies surrounding Dr. Ronald DePinho.

 

 

Interview Session Two: 13 June 2013 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 09 (An Institutional Unit)
Public Affairs at MD Anderson: Supporting Cancer Prevention and Education (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Discovery, Creativity and Innovation
  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • The Administrator
  • Funny MD Anderson Tales
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Multi-disciplinary Approaches
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Industry Partnerships

Mr. Stuyck begins this segment talking about a joint project between Public Affairs and the Division of Cancer Prevention. He provides context, explaining that Dr. Bernard Levin (Vice President of Cancer Prevention, [Oral History Interview]) was approached by Channel 13 to do a promotion of the new fecal test for colon cancer screening. He explains how the project turned into a research project supported by SmithKline as well as a public service initiative. Nine thousand people participated in a study to compare fecal testing methods. Laboratory Medicine helped, but Public Affairs organized volunteers to read the cards. This study was eventually published. Next Mr. Stuyck describes another cancer prevention project that involved taking measurements of ultra-violet light at five locations four times per day.

Mr. Stuyck explains his axiom that “good public education is the best public relations. He then describes how he used that axiom to make decisions about public affairs issues.

Mr. Stuyck mentions an article that appeared in Prevention and gives background on how this research started as a survey conducted by a collaborating group of people from marketing, education, and research.

He confirms that the partnership between Public Affairs and Cancer Prevention was unusual, but notes that part of the mission of Public Affairs is to support faculty. He then gives background on how the Division of Cancer Prevention was founded at MD Anderson, going back to a group of researchers who met for lunch once a month for several years and educated other interested faculty and staff. Public Affairs would convert the research ideas into education ideas, and continued when Bernard Levin was head of the Division of Cancer Prevention. He notes that Dr. Levin was the first administrator to fund a full-time communications specialist. He also notes that the lunch group is still meeting.

Mr. Stuyck explains that the staff in the Department of Patient Education all have Master’s degrees and they are involved in attracting patients to clinical trials. He describes the challenges of this work and mentions Louise Villejo, who a range of education tools designed to help patients understand trials.

 

Chapter 10 (Key MD Anderson Figures)
R. Lee Clark and Charles LeMaistre (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Portraits
  • MD Anderson History
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Past
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Patients, Treatment, Survivors
  • Institutional Processes


Mr. Stuyck notes that MD Anderson has been strong because of the continuity of its CEOs. He notes that the institution’s first full-time president, Dr. R. Lee Clark, had a solid public relations staff; he also focused on international activities. Mr. Stuyck tells an anecdote about accompanying Dr. Clark to a television interview prior to his retirement.

Mr. Stuyck then talks about Dr. Charles LeMaistre [Oral History Interview], noting that he was erudite and chose his words carefully. Dr. LeMaistre also improved the look of MD Anderson and enhanced the clinical environment. Mr. Stuyck notes that paying patients would go to other institutions, but Dr. LeMaistre’s initiatives made MD Anderson more attractive, and turned that around. He says that Dr. LeMaistre was very effective at representing the institution to the public. He also contributed to the institution in many ways. One was by making the controversial move of starting the Division of Cancer Prevention. Dr. LeMaistre also led the initiative to change legislation to patients could self-refer. He explains why attitudes of physicians outside of MD Anderson made self-referral controversial at the time. Mr. Stuyck notes that the transition to self-referral was very smooth.

 

Chapter 11 (Key MD Anderson Figures)
John Mendelsohn: MD Anderson’s Secret Weapon (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson History
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Controversy
  • Institutional Politics
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Past
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation

Mr. Stuyck begins this segment on John Mendelsohn [Oral History Interview] by noting that he was a “dark-horse candidate” for president. He describes the interview process and how administrators were invited to participate. During an interview session, Mr. Stuyck found Dr. Mendelsohn to be very “energetic and wiry.” 

Mr. Stuyck notes that MD Anderson had been ranked second to Memorial Sloan Kettering, but that changed under John Mendelsohn. He says the Dr. Mendelsohn arrived at just the right time in the institution’s history: he describes Dr. Mendelsohn as “MD Anderson’s secret weapon.” He tells an anecdote about giving Dr. Mendelsohn advice—which he ignored.

Mr. Stuyck then talks about Dr. Mendelsohn’s difficulties with the media during two conflict of interest cases involving his involvement with Imclone and Enron. Mr. Stuyck explains how he prepared Dr. Mendelson for interviews with the media. He then describes how Dr. Mendelsohn handled his interview with a reporter from KTRK-TV, Channel 13, Wayne Dolcefino, about expenditures for furniture and art: Dr. Mendelsohn was very forthright and convincing, and the reporter let the story slide without publishing it. He then tells a story about a trip to Washington, D.C. for interviews at the Washington Post and PBS.

 

Chapter 13 (Institutional Change)
The Changing Organization of Public Affairs (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Understanding the Institution
  • On the Nature of Institutions
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work

A conversation about Cancer Bulletin, published through Scientific Publications, leads to a discussion of how and why Public Affairs has been reorganized over the years. Mr. Stuyck says there are rumors that it will be reorganized again, under Dr. DePinho. As an example of reorganization, Mr. Stuyck talks about the Place of Wellness, which he originally managed until he decided he was not in a position to make the necessary medical decisions, so it became the Integrated Medicine Program directed by Dr. Lorenzo Cohen. Mr. Stuyck also talks about the unique roles of JoAnn Ward and Louise Villejo [Oral History Interview].

 

Chapter 14 (Overview)
Public Affairs and Communication Tools (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Overview
  • Institutional Processes
  • Philanthropy, Fundraising, Donations, Volunteers
  • Discovery and Success
  • Discovery, Creativity and Innovation
  • Information for Patients and the Public
  • Education
  • Portraits
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • This is MD Anderson

Mr. Stuyck first talks about The Messenger, the first employee communication tool, which has been published for forty years. Next he discusses Conquest, a publication designed to generate awareness of MD Anderson among opinion leaders, donors, and corporate executives. Mr. Stuyck talks about how Conquest was started and how it tells the MD Anderson story. He tells an anecdote about putting a donor envelope inside of Conquest with no accompanying solicitation for funds: the envelope alone has generated three million dollars (never less than $25,000 per issue).

Next Mr. Stuyck talks about Cancer NewsLine, a series of video news releases launched in 1986 to provide media with news about cancer research and treatment. He describes the impact of these on the institution’s reputation. He then talks about the Network Newsletter, launched in 1988 and mailed to all former patients (“a lifeline to the institution”), then moves on to the CancerWise Community Speaker’s Bureau and MD Anderson Ambassadors programs, through which MD Anderson employees go into the community to talk about cancer issues. He notes that many within higher levels of the institution were at first suspicious of employees going out into the community.

Mr. Stuyck then talks about the “Too Cool to Smoke” program for kindergarten through fourth graders. Lastly he talks about Contributions to Making Cancer History (first published in 2007), launched because Dr. John Mendelsohn wanted to address the frequent question What are specific advances that MD Anderson has made against cancer? Mr. Stuyck explains how the approximately 100 advances were compiled and selected, and how Scientific Publications helped edit it to ensure its credibility. Mr. Stuyck notes that this is a unique document among academic institutions: the content is now on the website, with about 150 advances included. At the end of this session, Mr. Stuyck tells a story to demonstrate Dr. John Mendelsohn’s communication skills.

Interview Session Three: 27 June 2013 (listen/read)

 

Chapter 00C
Interview Identifier (listen/read)

 

Chapter 15 (Overview)
A Key Publication: Making Cancer History (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Institutional Processes
  • Understanding the Institution
  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • Devices, Drugs, Procedures
  • The Value of the Oral History Project
  • Institutional Politics
  • The MD Anderson Brand, Reputation
  • Giving Recognition
  • Understanding the Institution
  • The MD Anderson Ethos

In this segment, Mr. Stuyck tells the story of how Making Cancer History, a history of MD Anderson came to be written. Dr. James Olsen, a historian at Sam Houston State University, originally approached Dr. James Bowen with the idea, however the Management Board under Dr. Charles LeMaistre had no enthusiasm for the project. Mr. Stuyck speculates on why this was the case, then goes on to trace how the Historical Resources Committee was created under Dr. Stephen Tomasovic, with a first goal of producing a history of the institution. He explains the lengthy process of looking for a writer and the eventual hiring of Dr. Olsen, as well as securing Johns Hopkins University Press to publish it. Mr. Stuyck recalls that he and Stephen Tomasovic [Oral History Interview] both read the manuscript.

Mr. Stuyck says that Making Cancer History is a great book that tells history in a human way. He also talks about his favorite chapter. Next he next talks about what it meant for the institution to have a book that celebrates the culture. He speaks about the number of documents James Olsen reviewed as part of his research, the committee members who worked on it, and what was done to promote it.

 

Chapter 16 (Institutional Change)
Changes at MD Anderson (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Building/Transforming the Institution
  • Growth and/or Change
  • Obstacles, Challenges
  • Patients
  • Controversy
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • MD Anderson History
  • Understanding Cancer, the History of Science, Cancer Research
  • The History of Health Care, Patient Care
  • Offering Care, Compassion, Help
  • Cancer and Disease
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Past
  • The Business of MD Anderson

Mr. Stuyck gives an overview of the changes he has seen at the institution over the course of his career. He notes that people in the past worked just as hard as they do now, but worked differently. He talks about the dramatic expansions to ambulatory care and patient care in general and the improvement of quality of life issues for patients. He makes some observations on cultural changes and the increasing interest in work/life balance. He then talks about the plan to merge the University of Texas Health Science Center with MD Anderson, a move that was resisted to preserve the institutions mission and resources. Mr. Stuyck also talks about changes that Dr. John Mendelsohn brought to the institution, particularly the dramatic growth, for which the institution is now paying the price, he says.

 

Chapter 17 (MD Anderson Past)
The Murder of Dr. Fred Conrad: A Challenge for Public Affairs and the Institution (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson History
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Portraits
  • This is MD Anderson
  • Professional Practice
  • The Professional at Work
  • Personal Reflections, Memories of MD Anderson
  • MD Anderson Past
  • Understanding the Institution

Mr. Stuyck talks about the day that Dr. Fred G. Conrad, Vice President for Patient Care, was fatally shot (17 December 1982). He recalls Elmer Gilley calling him early Friday morning, and he went to MD Anderson to wait for the police and the coroner and to handle the reporters. Mr. Stuyck recalls how calmly Dr. LeMaistre handled the situation and helped calm the tension. He then talks about how Public Affairs handled the media, noting that the crisis brought out the best in people at the institution. He describes Dr. Conrad and explains why his murder was a “seminal moment” in the institution. He ends with a story about a woman who had flown into town to be interviewed for a job, arriving at MD Anderson to discover “bedlam” so she returned to New York.

 

Chapter 18 (An Institutional Unit)
Departments Within Public Affairs (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • MD Anderson Snapshot
  • Volunteers and Volunteering
  • Institutional Mission and Values
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Portraits
  • MD Anderson Past

In this segment, Mr. Stuyck talks about four departments within Public Affairs: Volunteer Services, the Children’s Art Project, Public Education, and Patient Education. He begins with Volunteer Services, a service within MD Anderson that goes back to the 1950s.

He then talks about Page Lawson, a director who greatly expanded Volunteer Services in the 1970s. He explains how he came to oversee the Department and tells a story about Tommie Stewart, a volunteer known as “the Hug Lady.” He notes that MD ANdserson has 1200 volunteers who contribute the equivalent of 100 full time employees. He mentions the series of directors leading up to Page Lawson, whom he calls “a dynamo.”

Mr. Stuyck explains the lesson he learned from Page Lawson about remembering the names of volunteers.

Mr. Stuyck next talks about the Department of Patient Education, created by Dr. Charles LeMaistre. He explains how it came from the first patient satisfaction survey conducted in the 1980s. Dr. LeMaistre used the results of the survey to add valet parking, patient advocates, and patient education functions. Mr. Stuyck explains changes in the reporting structure that came about with these changes, as well as the database that evolved to support patient education activities. He sketches the types of materials produced and who works on them.

Next Mr. Stuyck talks about the Children’s Art Project, beginning with an anecdote: Page Lawson showed him children’s drawings arranged on an ironing board and asked him which ones would make a good card. He talks about his decision to separate the Art Project from Volunteer Services. Mr. Stuyck describes what the Children’s Art Project contributes to MD Anderson. He explains that it gives the institution a chance to talk about its successes. He notes how the Children’s Art Project has come to be part of the MD Anderson brand.

Mr. Stuyck then tells the story of how the Public Education Department started. He comments on his colleagues in the Division of Public Affairs. Finally, Mr. Stuyck talks about what the Department of Public Education does for ME Anderson.

 

Chapter 19 (View on Career and Accomplishments)
A Fun Job at an Institution that Inspires Commitment (listen/read)

 

Topics Covered

  • Understanding the Institution
  • MD Anderson Culture
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • The MD Anderson Ethos
  • MD Anderson Past
  • MD Anderson History
  • Career and Accomplishments
  • MD Anderson Impact
  • Dedication to MD Anderson, to Patients, to Faculty/Staff
  • Personal Background
  • Giving Recognition

Mr. Stuyck speaks briefly about some constraints he felt for his activities at MD Anderson. He notes the commitment employees at MD Anderson feel for what they do and how much job satisfaction employees have.

Mr. Stuyck speaks briefly about receiving the Anderson Network Award. He also notes that the Division of Public Affairs is one of only three institutions that have twice received recognition as an Outstanding Public Affairs Program. He briefly talks about the book that he received on his retirement, Steve Stuyck, the MD Anderson Years, and clarifies two mysterious references in that book. He then notes that his is most proud to have started the Cancer Information and Public Information services, both of which were groundbreaking at the time. He is also very proud that he engaged the institution’s first public relations group.

Next Mr. Stuyck talks about what MD Anderson has given him over the years: a rewarding and fun job. At the end of the interview he notes that he gave his job “his all” and hopes that MD Anderson will continue to lift the “huge burden” that cancer represents.


 

Original Interview Profile

 

Original Interview Profile #38: Steve C. Stuyck, MPH
Submitted by: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.
Date revise 10 July 2014

This interview with Stephen [Steve] C. Stuyck, (b. 1 July 1941, White Plains, New Jersey) takes place in over three sessions in June of 2013 (total duration, approximately 4 hours 10 minutes). The sessions take place in the Reading Room of the Historical Resources Center in Pickens Tower on the main campus of MD Anderson. Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D. is the interviewer.

Mr. Stuyck received his Bachelor of Journalism from the University of Texas at Austin and secured a job in public information at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston after graduation. The caring dimension of medicine inspired him to continue to work with the medical field. In 1969, however, he was drafted and went to Vietnam in 1970 as a public information specialist. He was discharged in 1971 and returned to the University of Texas at Austin for graduate work, though he left in 1972 to take a job as Director of Public Information for the University of Texas Medical School and for MD Anderson. In 1975 the Information Office was reorganized, and Mr. Stuyck came to work exclusively for MD Anderson. During his forty years of service to MD Anderson Mr. Stuyck served successively as Director of Public Information and Education (1975 – 1985), Principle Investigator for the Cancer Information Service Contract (NCI, 1975 – 2012), Assistant to the President (1981 – 1986), Assistant Vice President for Public Affairs (1985 – 1988), Associate Vice President for Public Affairs (1988 – 1999), and Vice President for Public Affairs. (He received his Masters of Public Health in 1999.) Mr. Stuyck served in the latter role from 2000 until his retirement at the end of 2012. Under his leadership, the Public Affairs office was twice awarded a Premier Performance Award by the Association of American Medical Colleges (in 1992 and 1997, one of only three institutions at the time to receive the award twice).

In these sessions, Mr. Stuyck reveals how Public Affairs at MD Anderson evolved along with the institution, eventually encompassing a unique, broad, and innovative range of activities to serve the many needs of faculty, the administration, and patients. Mr. Stuyck discusses his close working relationships with three MD Anderson presidents, Dr. Charles LeMaistre, Dr. John Mendelsohn, and Dr. Ronald DePinho. He describes working with them to create MD Anderson’s reputation and brand and to manage public relations challenges. Mr. Stuyck is passionate about MD Anderson and what it can offer to patients and to its employees, and he spices his discussions with many revealing stories and articulate expressions of the institution’s mission and values.