This Digital Audio Tape (DAT) contains an interview with Albert E. (Al) Gunn, MD former Dean of Admissions at the University of Texas Medical School in Houston. The interview took place on September 18, 1995. The interviewer is unnamed, and the recording runs 1:07:04.
(0:01) As the recording begins, Dr. Gunn and the unnamed interviewer discuss the recording and sound quality and muse on perfectionism.
(1:45) Dr. Gunn recounts starting as Medical Director of the Rehabilitation Center at M. D. Anderson Hospital in 1975, having been recruited by Dr. R. Lee Clark. He describes coming to Medical School Grand Rounds to hear Dr. Kuykendahl, and how he met Dr. George Whalen, Chair of the Department of Gastroenterology, who was about to step in as Acting Chief. Dr. Gunn says he wanted to get involved in the School, and in 1976 started as an Assistant Professor teaching the Introduction to Clinical Medicine course. He recounts trying to get more students into M. D. Anderson. He claims Hermann had too many students, and that he wanted to bring students into Rehabilitation Center to make it more academic. But he got “infected” with teaching, students, and the fun of it.
(7:30) He describes being recruited for and taking on the position of Dean of Admissions for the Medical School. Starting the position in June 1979, Dr. Gunn notes that many of the School founders were still there and names the department chairs.
(10:18) Dr. Gunn outlines what the Medical School was like when he arrived. He mentions the Freeman Building, Dr. Charles Berry, and Dr. Truman Blocker. He details construction and emphasizes student-friendly building design. He fondly recalls that students were fun-loving—“rambunctious”—and says he appreciated their honesty and outspokenness. He highlights the common bond, improvisation, and shared experiences that set the atmosphere of the school.
(22:52) He discusses his work in admissions, saying it had been “a dream.” He names colleagues who facilitated the admissions process and made it fun. He does claim that medical school faculty could be uncomfortable with religious commitment, and he says that religion was removed from admissions discussions.
(26:12) He suggests they fostered a “Houston type” of student, and pitched the School’s faculty and atmosphere to prospects. He asserts they wanted students who saw medicine as a people-oriented-- not purely scientific – profession.
(29:30) He recalls a shortage of applicants when he first arrived. He credits Betty Murphy, Coordinator of Admissions, with ideas such as the first Parents Night at a medical school. He also credits Dr. Henry Strobel with the idea for a retreat, which came after flooding of the anatomy room. He says these things have persisted as traditions and made School what it is.
(31:53) He speaks about Dr. Louis Failliace, crises, and politics around the School. He claims students are too busy learning to worry about such things. He asserts the School survives because of the students.
(35:55) He discusses academic standards, noting the contributions of M. D. Anderson faculty. He discusses the University of Texas, funding, and the State Legislature. He considers the tension between focusing on primary care versus research.
(42:27) He says Admissions is looking for students whose picture of medicine is being with people, listening to people.
(49:07) He says one of their goals is to have the School in harmony with the racial and ethnic make-up of Texas. He says the School tries to do problem-based learning, not just memorization.
(52:00) Asked about student criticisms, he cites parking. He says at one point students felt there wasn’t enough clinical material, but the affiliation with Lyndon Baines Johnson Hospital helped alleviated that.
(54:15) He offers his impressions of personalities from the Medical School: Dr. Bob Tuttle, Dr. Ernst Knobil, Dr. Louis Faillace, Dr. Frank Webber, and Dr. John Ribble.
(1:03:06) He addresses the questions “why did you become a doctor?” and “What is a doctor?” He cites the appeal of an “immediate” way to help people. He says a doctor deals with dis-ease and the most important thing a doctor can do is alleviate pain.
Gunn, Albert E.