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 Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

PINK PALACE OF HEALING

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald Ph.D.
There is one place in Texas you don't want to go - unless you really need its expertise; then, it is the best place on Earth for you. I am talking about the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The state legislature authorized a state cancer research and treatment facility in 1941 and appropriated $500,000 for its construction. The legislature placed the center under the supervision of the University of Texas. The M.D. Anderson foundation offered a site and a supplement of another $500,000 to locate the facility in Houston.

UT regents accepted the offer and decided to name their cancer center in honor of Monroe Dunaway Anderson in recognition and appreciation of the foundation's support. Dr. Ernest W. Bertner became acting director, and the research center began functioning on the estate of James A. Baker, a gift of the Rice Institute, and the first patient was received on March 1, 1944.

Dr. R. Lee Clark became director in 1947, and held the post for thirty-two years. Clark led M.D. Anderson to national prominence in the field of research and treatment of cancers. In 1948 the center moved to a twenty-two acre campus in the new Texas Medical Center. Its initial building was constructed of George Etowa pink marble, hence the nickname "Pink Palace."

In the decades to come M.D. Anderson experienced growth in facilities and prestige. By 1980 its physical plant for research, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer consisted of twin towers connected at the first floor. Essentially, one tower housed a clinic for outpatient services; the other functioned as a full-service hospital, especially for surgery treatment. Additional facilities for research and living quarters for outpatients and families were added as M.D. Anderson's patient load and role in research increased.

In a little more than six decades, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center has treated hundreds of thousands of patients, trained over forty thousand medical providers, and offered continuing educational opportunities for many thousands of its own alumni and those trained elsewhere.

During that time, a referral to M.D. Anderson has changed dramatically because of its good work in research and treatment of cancer. In the 1940s, many considered a referral to M.D. Anderson evidence of imminent mortality. Before the twentieth-century ended, going to M.D. Anderson represented hope-not just of survival but also of recovery and normality.

One thing impresses every client or family member who has intimate experience with M.D. Anderson - the cheerfulness and helpfulness of everyone who works there. That is the legacy of Dr. Cooper, who insisted on interviewing everyone who worked there, and insisted that they remain cheerful and encouraging to everyone who came through the doors of the Pink Place.
Archie P. McDonald
All Things Historical

May 8, 2006 column
A syndicated column in over 40 East Texas newspapers
(This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and author of more than 20 books on Texas.)
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This page last modified: May 8, 2006