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Charles A. LeMaistre, M.D.

President, 1978-1996

Charles A. LeMaistre, M.D., came to MD Anderson as president in 1978 after seven years as chancellor of The University of Texas System.

While chancellor, he directed a huge expansion of the UT System that included new medical schools in Houston and San Antonio and new universities in Dallas, Odessa and San Antonio. Previously, he served on the faculties of Cornell University, Emory University and UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

18-year tenure

During 18 years as the second full-time president of MD Anderson, LeMaistre led the institution through a period of substantial growth in programs, personnel, facilities, private philanthropy and reputation.

LeMaistre combined his skills as a physician, educator and academic administrator with a confident and charismatic style to guide the cancer center during considerable change in the U.S. health care system.

He recruited many scientists and clinicians, developed cost-saving outpatient services, implemented a decentralized approach to management and completed a major building program that doubled the institution's size.

LeMaistre enlisted business and civic leaders to help raise funds for MD Anderson. The institution's Board of Visitors grew from 30 members to more than 150 in less than two decades and accelerated private support for new initiatives and building projects.

One example was a $20 million drive to endow faculty professorships and chairs; from four such positions, the number increased to 79 by the time he retired. In 1993, the Board of Visitors undertook "Fulfill the Promise," a capital campaign that raised $151 million in two years.

Focus on smoking issues

As a young physician, LeMaistre served on the first U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory Committee on Smoking and Health, which in 1964 issued its landmark report identifying cigarettes as a major health hazard. Smoking control was an important part of his cancer prevention message when he was national president of the American Cancer Society in 1986.

LeMaistre chaired the 1981 National Conference on Smoking or Health, a coalition of 21 organizations, and the 1985 International Summit of Smoking Control. From 1979 to 1983, he was president of the Damon Runyan-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund.

In the mid-1980s, LeMaistre launched an extensive cost-containment program that resulted in Texas Business magazine editorializing: "MD Anderson has made itself a model of cost cutting without cutting either the volume or quality of its activities."

At the same time, new programs were introduced to provide patient care services in more comfortable, convenient and less-costly outpatient settings.

One of LeMaistre's early decisions as MD Anderson president was establishing a cancer prevention program. It developed into an international model of research and service initiatives that advanced the science and application of cancer prevention and population sciences.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center