Three interview sessions: 7 May 2015, 21 May 2015, 5 June 2015
Total approximate duration: 5 hours 20 minutes
Interviewer: Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D.
For supplementary materials:
Please contact, the Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library:
Javier Garza, MSIS, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Interview Subject:
Ms. Villejo came to MD Anderson in 1982 as a health educator in the Patient Education Office. She advanced quickly to Director and has been known in the institution for creating innovative, patient-responsive educational materials and for imbedding patient education into the provider culture. Until her retirement this year, she served as Executive Director of the Patient Education Office.
Major Topics Covered:
Personal and educational background
Development of leadership and activist perspective
The Patient Education Office: history, evolution, functions
Patient-centered educational materials; the goal of cancer education; impact on patients
Building collaborations; challenges for educators in the healthcare environment
The Learning Centers
Electronic Health records and educational materials
Growth of the institution
Interview Session One: 7 May 2015
A Family that Modeled Service to Others
Chapter 01 / Personal Background
College, Activism, and a First Taste of Leadership
Chapter 02 / Educational Path
Working with Community Health Centers
Chapter 03 / Professional Path
A Masters in Public Health and a Focus on Education
Chapter 04 / Educational Path
The Patient Education Office in the Early Eighties; An Innovative Philosophy of Patient Education
Chapter 05 / An Institutional Unit
The Patient Education Office in the Eighties; Services Provided and Funding Challenges
Chapter 06 / An Institutional Unit
Expanding the Patient Education Office: The Learning Centers
Chapter 07 / Building the Institution
The Patient Education Office: Raising Awareness of the Support Services Provided for Patients
Chapter 08 / Building the Institution
Interview Session Two: 21 May 2015
Inspired by Family Members
Chapter 09 / Personal Background
The Minority Faculty and Administrators’ Committee
Chapter 10 / Diversity Issues
Patient Education --Developing Programs by Involving Patients; CancerWise
Chapter 11 / An Institutional Unit
Developing Education Materials that Reflect a Deep Understanding of Cancer Care
Chapter 12 / Building the Institution
Interview Session Three: 5 June 2015
A Culinary-Nutrition Education Program in the New Mays Ambulatory Clinic
Chapter 13 / Building the Institution
How Cancer Education Can Benefit a Patient’s Life and Experience
Chapter 14 / Overview
Integrating Cancer Educators into a Healthcare Environment: Theory and Practice
Chapter 15 / An Institutional Unit
The Patient Education Office Supports MD Anderson Initiatives
Chapter 16 / An Institutional Unit
Building Collaborations and a Discussion about Education and Electronic Health Records
Chapter 17 / Building the Institution
Significant Committee Work
Chapter 18 / The Administrator
The Patient Education Office in MD Anderson’s Organizational Structure, Past and Present
Chapter 19 / An Institutional Unit
A Perspective on Recent Change in Administration and MD Anderson’s Growth
Chapter 20 / Institutional Change
Key Accomplishments and Retirement Plans
Chapter 21 / View on Career and Accomplishments
Interview Session One: 7 May 2015 (listen/read)
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 01 (Personal Background)
A Family that Modeled Service to Others (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo sketches her family background and early education at Catholic Schools and the grounding this gave her in faith and values. She explains that her mother, in particular, provided her with a model of service to others.
Chapter 02 (Educational Path)
College, Activism, and a First Taste of Leadership (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo explains her activist roles at the University of Houston where there was strong presence of the Women’s Movement, the Black Movement, and the Chicano Movement.
Ms. Villejo notes that she was interested in community empowerment and explains her work in the Chicano Movement, where she began to take a leadership role. She reflects on her impulse to speak her mind and the lessons about leadership she learned.
Chapter 03 (Professional Path)
Working with Community Health Centers (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about her first job after college, working with the Rio Grande Federation of Health Care Centers. She explains the lessons she learned working with individuals with very limited access to health care. She also comments on what she learned from watching ineffective leaders.
Chapter 04 (Educational Path)
A Masters in Public Health and a Focus on Education (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about her decision to return to school for her Masters in Public Health (1982, M.P.H. Health Administration, University of Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health, San Antonio, TX). She describes her growing focus on education. She also notes the absence of formal mentors during her education and early career.
Ms. Villejo then talk about the impact of her National Cancer Institute Internship (1981-1982, University of Texas Health Science Center, School of Public Health), which allowed her to see educational programs developed at a national level. She also talks about the professional skills she learned in this training period.
Chapter 05 (An Institutional Unit)
The Patient Education Office in the Early Eighties; An Innovative Philosophy of Patient Education (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo explains how, in 1982, she came to MD Anderson as a Health Education Specialist in the Office of Patient Education at MD Anderson. She then provides a portrait of the Office’s scope and approach to education at that time.
She explains the types of educational materials and how they were organized by treatment areas. She talks about how educational content was developed and explains the main goal of the educational materials –to involve the patient as a decision maker in his/her own treatment.
Ms. Villejo explains how her view of patient education was shaped by her mother’s experience with breast cancer in 1980.
Chapter 06 (An Institutional Unit)
The Patient Education Office in the Eighties; Services Provided and Funding Challenges (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo notes in this chapter that, at MD Anderson, “everyone is a patient educator.” She covers the process of integrating educational content from different sources. She also explains a major challenge: the Patient Education Office must secure its own funding for educational materials.
Chapter 07 (Building the Institution)
Expanding the Patient Education Office: The Learning Centers (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo begins by talking about her promotion to Director of the Patient Education Office in 1986/87 and the reporting structure in which she worked at this time, when the Office was made part of the Public Affairs Office.
She then tells the story of creating the first Learning Center in 1987, a forerunner of patient and family centered care that is now the focus of the institution. She then explains how two more centers were created. She notes a few programs held at the Centers and also underscores that thirty thousand people per year use the Centers.
Chapter 08 (Building the Institution)
The Patient Education Office: Raising Awareness of the Support Services Provided for Patients (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about other activities of the Office: supporting development of the Place of Wellness, bringing in speakers, helping to plan the kitchen in the Mays Clinic.
She next explains that the Office must work constantly to raise awareness of the services and materials that are available for patients. She talks about a survey done of the Patient Education Program in 2000 and the Patient Orientation Class created as a result. She also talks about an overview of psychosocial services available and a 1990s assessment of educational materials. She notes that staff are unaware of many of the materials available for patients.
Interview Session Two: 21 May 2015 (listen/read)
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 09 (Personal Background)
Inspired by Family Members (listen/read)
In this chapter, Ms. Villejo describes why her grandparents and parents served as inspirations and role models for her work ethic and personal values. She explains how these generations provided models of strong women and people who worked together and provided services to their communities. She recalls her father’s inspiring reaction to white flight from their neighborhood in the Third Ward of Houston when African American families began moving in. He refused to be part of that and decided to keep the family in the community.
Ms. Villejo recalls reactions to her gender and ethnicity and comments on her parents’ support for her ambitions. She tells a story about her father giving her a briefcase to take to grade school.
Chapter 10 (Diversity Issues)
The Minority Faculty and Administrators’ Committee (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about the Minority Faculty and Administrators Committee (member 1990-96, chair 1992-93). She recalls that the Committee was formed to address “vestiges of racism” and increase recruiting of minorities. She explains how the committee was founded, talks about the contributions of Lovell Jones, MD [Oral History Interview]. She tells an anecdote about blatant racism, also noting that she had no person experience of being held back because of race. She tells an anecdote about producing bilingual educational material.
Ms. Villejo talks about the mentoring program she organized via the Committee. She then talks about the Diversity Committee and the Women and Minority Faculty Committee. She also describes her work with community schools and young professionals.
Chapter 11 (An Institutional Unit)
Patient Education --Developing Programs by Involving Patients; CancerWise (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo first talks about the community education program, CancerWise, then speaks at length about her Office’s policy of involving patients when educational materials and programs are developed.
She sketches the different ways in which patients are involved to provide feedback and guidance in order to tailor materials to different age groups and cultural backgrounds. She notes that MD Anderson’s Patient and Families Advisory Committee has reached its first anniversary and she sketches results of its work.
Ms. Villejo talks about her work with Kathy Meade on the Cancer, Culture, and Literacy Conference, including running sessions on developing educational materials for Hispanic audiences.
[The recorder is paused]
Chapter 12 (Building the Institution)
Developing Education Materials that Reflect a Deep Understanding of Cancer Care (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo first speaks briefly about assuming directorship of the Patient Education Office in 1985, noting that MD Anderson was the first cancer center to form such an office (1979). She notes that this set the priority to focus on patients and the development of materials was facilitated by the institution’s multi-disciplinary focus on disease sites.
Ms. Villejo then talks about the personal view on cancer that she developed as projects took her to various clinics at MD Anderson and as family members were diagnosed with cancer. She talks about the challenges of providing appropriate educational materials to patients who are going through and emotionally confusing period.
Interview Session Three: 5 June 2015 (listen/read)
Interview Identifier (listen/read)
Chapter 13 (Building the Institution)
A Culinary-Nutrition Education Program in the New Mays Ambulatory Clinic (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo discusses the nutrition education program developed as the new Mays Ambulatory Clinic was being built and a suite of patient amenities were created. She worked with architects to include a demonstration kitchen. She describes the cooking classes offered by local chefs and how they were turned into nutrition education with a cancer focus. She discusses other programs with a culinary focus and explains why food is an important issue for cancer patients.
Chapter 14 (Overview)
How a Patient’s Life and Experience Can Benefit from Cancer Education (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about the impact that cancer education can have on a patient’s life and experience of cancer.
Chapter 15 (An Institutional Unit)
Integrating Cancer Educators into a Healthcare Environment: Theory and Practice (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo first explains the challenges of working collaborative with care providers at MD Anderson. On one hand, educators can be intimidated by content experts. On the other, content experts can be suspicious that educators want to “tell us what to do.” She explains the importance of establishing fields of operation when working with experts and continually clarifying the services that educators provide.
Next, Ms. Villejo talks about a chapter she and others are contributing to a book on how to develop health promotion programs. She notes how important multi-disciplinary teams are to this and how MD Anderson was a forerunner in creating this approach.
Chapter 16 (An Institutional Unit)
The Patient Education Office Supports MD Anderson Initiatives (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about support that her office provides to the Patient and Family Advisory Committee, Nursing, the Advanced Care Planning initiative, the Psychosocial Council, and the Survivorship Program.
In the process she shares a personal story about insights she has gained from witnessing her mother’s battle with cancer. [Clip about two minutes.]
She notes that she led the Networking Committee as the Survivorship Program was being established (2007) to look at similar initiatives at other cancer centers.
Ms. Villejo tells the story of how Patient Education was invited to create a learning center in the new Cancer Prevention building.
Chapter 17 (Building the Institution)
Building Collaborations and a Discussion about Education and Electronic Health Records (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo first talks about working with the head of Public Affairs, Steve Stuyck [Oral History Interview], to build collaborations with care providers and leaders within MD Anderson. She then goes into detail about how Patient Education dovetails with the institution’s move to bring in EPIC, electronic health records.
She explains how electronic health records can identify the educational/informational materials required as a patient’s diagnosis and treatment evolves. She explains that executive leadership was interested in hiring a vendor to provide educational materials [Gemmi]. Patient Education performed a ‘gap analysis’ to discover significant overlap between their materials and the vendor’s, so the vendor was unnecessary. [redacted]
Chapter 18 (The Administrator)
Significant Committee Work (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo first discusses her work on the Integrated Patient and Referring Provider Experience Team. She explains how MD Anderson began providing many additional materials when the NCI stopped providing their materials due to budget cuts. Many of these are still in use.
She next explains that her work on the Clinical Ethics Committee “opened her eyes” to issues that clinicians face. She describes Clinical Ethics Consults to illustrate.
Chapter 19 (An Institutional Unit)
The Patient Education Office in MD Anderson’s Organizational Structure, Past and Present (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo describes organizational restructuring that has led to Patient Education reporting to the administrative director of Radiotherapy. She critiques the administration’s decision to hire her replacement in a Directorship position rather than as an Executive Director. She notes that as the institution expands, the Patient Education Office does not have the staff to take on projects that would make a difference.
Chapter 20 (Institutional Change)
A Perspective on Recent Changes in Administration and MD Anderson’s Growth (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo talks about the vision Dr. Ronald DePinho has brought to MD Anderson and comments on how Patient Education fits into the recent spurt of institutional growth.
She offers the opinion that the Moon Shots Program is understandable for the public and brings excitement to the “war on cancer.” She discusses different metaphors used to describe research discoveries in cancer.
Next she notes that Patient Education must always stay connected to the institution’s strategic plans.
She observes that, with growth, heads of departments and offices have less immediate access to MD Anderson’s president. She notes that all the presidents have supported the Patient Education Office and credits Steve Stuyck [Oral History Interview] with bringing awareness to the Office’s contributions.
Chapter 21 (View on Career and Accomplishments)
Key Accomplishments and Retirement Plans (listen/read)
Ms. Villejo begins by noting her key accomplishments. She talks about helping to shape the institution as a learning environment and integrating patients into the conversation about what that should be.
She reflects on how dramatically different today’s education materials are from those of the past. She notes that Nutrition Program as a key accomplishment.
Next she talks about her plans for travel during her retirement. She also explains why purple boas were a decorative theme at her retirement party. In the process, she describes the pleasant working environment of the Patient Education Office.
Ms. Villejo concludes her interview with comments on working at MD Anderson.