The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Research Medical Library

Making Cancer History Voices Collection

John Mendelsohn, M.D. Oral History Interview 1, January 3, 2005

Descriptive Summary

Collection: Making Cancer History Voices Oral History Collection:
Interviewee: Mendelsohn, John, 1936-
Interviewer: Olson, James Stuart and Lesley Williams Brunet
Title: John Mendelsohn, M.D. Oral History Interview 1
Dates: January 3, 2005
Abstract Dr. Mendelsohn talks with James S. Olson and Lesley W. Brunet regarding the numerous influences and career decisions which led to his decision to study the field of oncology. His career path leading to his appointment of president of M.D. Anderson is also recounted. His ideas and beliefs regarding cancer prevention and treatment, patient care, and the future of oncology are discussed as well. Several of Dr. Mendelsohn’s major accomplishments regarding cancer-related research are highlighted including his work with signal transduction and molecular biology. The interview also covers the growth and expansion of M.D. Anderson under Dr. Mendelsohn’s visionary leadership and direction. A discussion concerning the development of biotechnology in the Houston area ends the interview. The significant role his wife, Anne Mendelsohn, plays in impacting his professional life is also shared.
Collection ID: Mendelsohn_John_20050103
Original Format: Audiocassette
Format: 1 streaming video file and 1 interview transcript
Interview Length: 2 hours, 32 minutes
Language: Materials are in English
Repository: Historical Resources Center, Research Medical Library,The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

Biographical Note

John Mendelsohn, M.D. is the third person who has served as president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Under his leadership and direction, the institution has emerged as the nation’s premier cancer center. It has more than doubled in size and has been named the top cancer hospital in the nation seven out of the past nine years in U.S. News and World Report's "America's Best Hospitals" survey, including 2010.

Born in Cincinnati, Ohio on August 31, 1936, Mendelsohn earned both bachelor’s and medical degrees from Harvard University and spent a year in Scotland at the University of Glasgow as a Fulbright Scholar in biochemistry. Following his residency training in internal medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, he completed a research fellowship at the National Institutes of Health and completed a fellowship in hematology-oncology at Washington University Medical School.

In 1970, he joined the faculty at the University of California, San Diego, becoming founding director of the National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center there. In 1985, Mendelsohn moved to New York where he chaired the Department of Medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center for 11 years. In addition he held the Winthrop Rockefeller Chair in Medical Oncology, served as co-head of the Program in Molecular Pharmacology and Therapeutics, and served as professor and vice chairman of medicine at Cornell University Medical College. Mendelsohn accepted the appointment of president at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1996.

Dr. Mendelsohn has received multiple honors and awards for his contributions and advancements in cancer research and patient care. Past honors include the David A. Karnofsky Memorial Award from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (2002), the Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal (2005), the Dan David Prize in Cancer Therapy (2006), and the Dorothy P. Landon-AACR Prize for Translational Research (2008). He has been on numerous editorial boards as well as serving for ten years as the founding editor-in-chief of Clinical Cancer Research. Mendelsohn has also authored more than 250 scientific papers and articles for journals and books.

After guiding and directing MD Anderson during many years of remarkable growth and expansion, Dr. Mendelsohn announced on December 6, 2010 his plans to relinquish his position as president until a new successor is appointed. He will continue to have an active role in carrying out the institution’s mission by remaining on the faculty as co-director of the new Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy.


Restrictions on Access

Portions of this interview have been redacted for privacy concerns. Please see Archivist for details.

Restrictions on Use

All requests for copying of materials must be submitted to the Historical Resources Center in writing for approval. All reproductions will be handled by HRC staff.

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Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Mendelsohn, John, 1936-
Braunwald, Eugene, 1929-
Subjects (Organizations)
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center -- History
University of California, San Diego. School of Medicine. Cancer Center
United States. National Cancer Act of 1971
Universities --organization and administration -- Texas
Hospital Administration -- organization and administration -- Texas
Fund Raising
Clinical Trials as Topic
Faculty, Medical -- Texas
Laboratories, Hospital
Hospital Departments
Hospitals, Special
Economics, Hospital
Antigens, Neoplasm
Molecular Biology
Neoplasms -- therapy
Pathology, Molecular
Signal Transduction
Houston (Tex.)
Oral History

Administrative Information


Interview with Dr. John Mendelsohn conducted by James S. Olson and Lesley W. Brunet

Preferred Citation

John Mendelsohn, M.D. Oral History Interview 1, January 03, 2005, Research Medical Library, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Processing Information

Oral history was edited by Michele Wilson, HRC Intern, Spring 2011.



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