Everyone knew Charles “Chuck” Koller, M.D., a valued member of MD Anderson’s Leukemia department for nearly three decades.
They knew him by his bow ties, the bike he rode to work daily, his humility and the grin his widow, Paula Bottecelli, describes as “silly but cute.” Most important, they knew him for his compassion and love for patients.
In 2009, Koller shared the news with Bottecelli and their five children — he’d been diagnosed with kidney cancer.
“Chuck tried to minimize it, but it was all pretty scary,” Bottecelli recalls. “He always insisted he was here to help the patients, not to worry about himself.”
Koller had surgery at MD Anderson and lived a normal life for a few years before the cancer returned and spread to his lungs. He was determined to continue seeing his patients throughout his treatment.
“He took complete care of the patients, taking the time to listen and tend to all of their needs,” says Bottecelli. “He took care of their leukemia, but he also supported every other aspect, including the spiritual and the psychological.”
Shortly before he died in July 2013, Bottecelli spoke to Hagop Kantarjian, M.D., chair of Leukemia, about starting a stipend for fellows in her husband’s honor. Since then, patients, colleagues and friends have donated more than $35,000 to the Charles A. Koller Leukemia Endowment Fund.
“Chuck was a special kind of doctor who loved mentoring others and caring for patients,” Bottecelli says. “My hope is to award fellows who exhibit the compassionate care my husband provided.”