Texas Monthly Talks with John Mendelsohn

Program: Texas Monthly Talks
Time: 7 p.m.
Date: Thursday, Feb. 26
Also airs: Sunday, March 1, at 12:30 p.m.
Watch episodes online at klru.org/texasmonthlytalks

If you are unlucky enough to be in need of the services provided by the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, then you know all you need to know about this extraordinary facility. At what may be the most frightening, most emotionally wrenching moment of your life — when you or a loved one is diagnosed with a disease that may well be fatal, one that kills, it is estimated, 1,500 people each day — one of the nation’s two premier institutions with expertise in the causes, treatment, and prevention of every conceivable form of cancer is able and eager to assist you. Last year, M.D. Anderson welcomed nearly 80,00 patients to its Houston campus — more than a third of them new patients, and about one-third coming from outside Texas — where a staff of more than 17,000 tended to their every need. More than 11,000 of those patients were part of clinical trials in what it is the largest such program in the nation. More than 4,300 students studied there in 2008 to be doctors, nurses, scientists, and health professionals; another 1,000 clinical residents and fellows, more than 500 graduate students, and more than 1,3000 research fellows also received training. At the top of that massive institution, whose budget hit $2.8 billion last year, sits this week’s guest, M.D. Anderson’s president, Dr. John Mendelsohn. A native of Cincinnati, 72-year-old Mendelsohn has bachelor’s and medical degrees from Harvard and spent a year in Scotland as a Fulbright Scholar. Following his residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in Boston, he joined the faculty of the University of California at San Diego, rising to be a full professor of medicine in less than nine years and founding a National Cancer Insitute-designated cancer center there. In 1985, he moved to New York, where he chaired the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center for eleven years. In 1996 he assumed the presidency of M.D. Anderson, only the third person to hold that position in its 55-year history. On Mendelsohn’s watch, M.D. Anderson has been named the top cancer hospital in the national five out of the last eight years by U.S. News and World Reports, but it’s ultimately the mother, the brother, the daugher, the neighbor who passes judgement on the quality of its care and the sincerity of its compassion. By that measure, M.D. Anderson is without peer, and so is Mendelsohn’s visionary leadership. A conversation with Dr. John Mendelsohn, on this edition of TEXAS MONTHLY TALKS.

— Evan Smith, host of Texas Monthly Talks