Living Archives: Women in Medicine
(needs editing – no paras, and no attribution of speaker after early bits)
Dr. Dianna Redburn and Dr. Edith Irby-Jones,
interviewed by Ruth SoRelle (of the Houston Chronicle)
Nov. 12, 1996 at the Menil Collection
SoRelle: Obviously, we have some very distinguished guests today, and I would like them simply to tell us -- to start out by simply telling us in their own words their stories. Dr. Jones came to Houston before many of the people in the audience were born and has actually gone through many of the changes, has seen many of the changes that we've seen here in the city of Houston, and I'd like you to start if that'd be possible.
Irby-Jones: Let me just start -- I'm going to start earlier than that.
Irby-Jones: I'm going to start when I think that I remember when I first awakened as to who I am and what I should be doing and where I should be going. I would say I was approximately seven years old when I recognized that I could not just slope along with just no place to go, no one to be concerned about but myself. I had the opportunity of being born black. I had the opportunity of being born a female, and the greatest opportunity of all, of being poor. And when you are all three of those, you get an opportunity to look at the world from a very different viewpoint than you would if you did not have those advantages as challenges. I recognize, though, I had to do something different and I had to work at perfecting myself to meet the challenges that, at that time, I thought would be ahead of me. And I read, and I read. Because I was poor and didn't have the radio and didn't have the other luxuries, and I grew up in a fantasy land of reading. To make this very short, I excelled academically in school. I worked at it. And then I wanted to participate in all of the activities, and it was so much fun to me. I mean life was so exciting, as it is now, exciting. And I got through grade school. I managed to get through high school, and everybody was talking about they were going to college, they were going to college and how much tuition would be and where they were going and, you know, I start thinking, Hey, I'm going too. No money, no previous contact with college persons except those who taught me in school. Well, I did go to college. I went to college after having worked for three months in Chicago, having gotten to Chicago from Arkansas. Believe me, that's a long ways. And having worked their in the Chicago [Aldine] House and having made all of sixty dollars over and above my expenses, I left out to college, and that's where I ended up in Knoxville College in Knoxville, Tennessee--still a long ways. And tuition at that time was three hundred dollars. Now I had sixty dollars. And when they got to me, They said, Okay three hundred dollars. I said, I don't have three hundred dollars. I have sixty dollars. They said, Stand aside. We can't help you. I said, Well tell me somebody who can help me. And the story is indeed I got help. I got in and I worked. And then I said, You know, it's just not enough for me to serve my selfish self. I need to get involved in an area in which I can help others recognize who they are and what they can do and how they may not be limited by where they came from, how they were born, and all the other circumstances over which we have no control. And I said, I'm going to medical school. What? I filled out all the applications that I could get the medical schools to send me, and I spent my sixty dollars in application fees, twelve schools, sixty dollars. And lo and behold I went off again after finishing college saying, You know, I'm going to get in medical school, I don't know where, but I believe I will do something that will help others while I'm waiting to get in medical school, because I know that my chances may be slim. It's just all when I get in. After all World War II veterans are returning, and they had the preference to get in there. So I trotted off, trotted off up to Northwestern University and said I wanted to go into clinical psychology. Eh! I could hardly spell. I got in the class, and about midway the class I got this notice that I had been accepted at the University of Arkansas School of Medicine. Well-- And I got accepted in some others, too, but that seemed to have excited a whole lot of people and I guess I should have been excited about it too, and I was because that was the lowest tuition, five hundred dollars. But I didn't have five hundred dollars. You know, but, you know, so what? You haven't had any money before. So they asked they asked me if I was going. By all means I'm going. In fact I got my notice-- The Time magazine is how I got my notice. They called me up and said Miss Irby I hear you've been accepted for medical school. Oh, I have? Where? University of Arkansas. You going? Sure I'm going. I called home and I says, Mama, I'm coming to medical school in Little Rock. I'll be there in about two weeks. She says, We don't have any money. Oh, that's somebody else's problem. The long story, short. The town of Hot Springs collected, literally passed the hat, and I went to the University of Arkansas. It was a delightful four years. Oh it was like Alice in Fairyland, you know. You couldn't miss me. You couldn't miss me in class. I added color to everything I was in. And I got out of the University of Arkansas. You know, with honors. Amazing. With honors. Did everything everybody else did. You know, went to the ball games and stood up and yelled. They wondered who I was, you know... Everybody turned around went, What's going on? Anyway, then I decided I owed the people in my hometown something. So I said, They passed the hat, they got me into medical school, I'm going to go home and I'm going to practice. Oooo I practiced. I saw mamas and classmates, and I was just Edith. And as Edith -- I had a baby by then. I was married, I forgot to tell you that. I did marry. It wasn't so acceptable then to have babies without marrying. So I -- by this time I had gotten the first baby and they would call me and they says, We'll come over and baby sit with the baby while you come down and see grandma. And I was working fourteen and sixteen hours a week. And I said, You know, must be a better way than general practice. You know. I'm the only woman in town. I'm the only black in town. I thought I was seeing everybody in town. So when my husband got an offer to leave the University of Arkansas and Pine Bluff and come to Houston, I says, Now is my chance. I will now do a residency. I'm going to go to a profession where there isn't much work. And I went into internal medicine. And the first thing the residency program was -- and I meant some color to their program too. I brought color into it, you know. They were not accustomed to having the darkness that I created when I made rounds. And so it was enchanting to have me in their presence, and I was a novelty. But I got out of the program. And then I say, Well the one I'm going to do, I'm going to go into private practice because I will have all the time I want then. I will be able to rear my children and spend lots of time with my husband and it will just be one grand time. Well I've done that, and this is now since 1959--don't count the years--I have been doing that. I'm working now sixteen, seventeen, eighteen hours a day, and I'm lucky if I can get two or three hours of sleep. That's the price of being a woman's physician. Now that's, that's the price. I didn't tell you the joy though. The joy of being is to see that you have helped someone. To see that you have restructured some child, that you have brought joy into the pain of some elderly person, that you have encouraged someone to be somebody when they thought that they could not be. The joy of being a woman physician, of being able to do all the nurturing and show all the emotions and not be concerned that somebody's going to say, Ah, she isn't quite right. The joy of being a woman's physician. It is so challenging. Yes, there are challenges, challenges because, number one is, that even now -- you can not even think of what it was in 1948 when I went to medical school and there were only two other physicians-- two other women in the class with me, in a class of ninety-one -- It would have been a class of ninety but so that I would not take some aspiring young man's place in class and that there would be no complaints, they enlarged that class since then. So I have the credit of being sure that I was the one that had the class enlarged from ninety to ninety-one. And so they still take ninety-one students. So that's, that's one of my stars. But then a woman's physician has been one fairy playground game, joy. I don't know how else to say it except that I wake up every day looking forward to having a party, and it is a party all day long. And every person I come in contact with is my playmate. And I dance a little while with this one and that one and whatever the situation is I share and I take and it makes for me at three score and ten. Everything that I would have had, my three-fourths and ten, would be at this time.
SoRelle: Thank you. [applause] That's amazing. That is an amazing story. Dr. Redburn you have a different view. You have the view from the laboratory and the view from academia. Could you give us a little bit of that?
Redburn: I, I'd be delighted to. I'm, I'm still sort of in awe of this wonderful story. My story is quite different. My experiences are different. And as I was thinking about the opportunity to come here and be involved in this living archives experiment or activity, I was just really, really very thrilled. I think it's, it's a wonderful opportunity to sort of celebrate lives such as Dr. Jones and others and not, not to forget the wonderful history of women and their accomplishments and their challenges and their opportunities. So I think it's wonderful. I'm really delighted to be, be part of this. I feel very honored to do that. I was thinking about my experiences here in Houston in these last twenty years, and I was reminded of an exhibi-, exhibition a number of years ago, about ten years ago at Paris, and it was an exhibit showing all of the great post modern architecture in the world, and they highlighted high-rise architecture, and highlighted a city that was touted to have the best collection of high-rise postmodern architecture in the world at that time. And the name of the exhibit was "Why Houston?" Because Houston was the city they chose to acknowledge for all this wonderful architecture that they had and that we still should be very proud of. When I look back at my experience here and the experience of my female colleagues in science and what I consider to be tremendous strides and quite a wonderful environment where many of us have flourished, the question is still there. Why Houston? What's good here, what has allowed us to flourish and enjoy each other and our careers to do so well? And I think it's a combination of things. Number one I would put on the list would be women like this. We didn't start de novo. We didn't come, as I, well as I did in the early seventies, and just break on the scene, because at that time we didn't do all the firsts that you did. We didn't have quite as many opportunities as you. But you had gone before and the opportunities and challenges that you faced and others like you created such a fertile ground that I think that's one reason why I think science, research, the Medical Center, and women in medical research -- really by almost any standard has done so well. I think there are other factors, too, which made the-- which answer the question, Why Houston? When I came in the early seventies, it was a new school, many parts of the Medical Center were new, and it was the right time to be new. So many changes going on. Sort of a feminist revolution going on. I think a tremendous interest in research in general and this tremendous Houston going through such an economic boom and Texas Medical Center just growing like Topsy. I think another key ingredient of why this has been such a special place, which I do, I do think it is, is that there were key leaders sort of at the right time. And those leaders who were willing to take chances, willing to look at different ways of organizing things like health science centers. One name that comes to the forefront here is Roger Bolger, one of the early presidents of the Health Science Center who actually changed a lot of things for women and made a lot of opportunities for us. One of the, one of the sort of statistics, if you will, I think is very interesting when one looks back at what women in research have accomplished here in Houston, is to look at the firsts that we have racked up here. I came in '74. We were one of the first groups to form the Association for Women in Science, the local chapter here, the first chapter. Now Edith, you were involved--
Irby-Jones: Yes, uh hmm.
Redburn: --in some of the very early activities we had. 'cause I -- that's where I remember you first from. And it's so one of the first chapters of that organization. I think we were -- The University of Texas Health Science Center was one of the first academic institutions, major academic institutions to have a committee on the status of women. And we have been involved for many years here in a lot of issues that are not only associated with women but just human issues. Salary equity, sexual harassment. All those were very early issues that the administrators saw at that time with enough foresight to address and to take care of and I think has made a much more comfortable climate for all of us here. Now in addition to being first on a lot of things, I think the even more impressive statistic is that all of those organizations and all of those activities are still active today. That's even much more of an accomplishment. We talk to other people around the country, and yes you have a goal, you have an activity, you have an organization, and perhaps you can get people interested for a while, but to sustain it for twenty years is quite an accomplishment. And I think that has been an underpining of something that has created an environment here that has affected my own research career a great deal. I was absolutely thrilled, Lillian [Pooshell] came in the door at the beginning. Lillian was at the very beginning, sort of a hallmark of my early career here at Houston. And just thrilled that she came in tonight to be part of this sort of celebration, if you will. But in, in the beginning I came as a very young and wet-behind-the-ears researcher from the University of California, and came to the new, newly formed medical school, University of Texas medical school here. Again a very, very exciting time, and for the one reason because it was so new those of us that came at that time had so many opportunities that we would not have had in a more established or older institution. And so part of the fun was building a medical school sort of out of nothing. And there were those wonderful early days and perhaps I don't get in too much trouble by telling the story about the flood in 1976. You were here *.
SoRelle: Oh, I had just had a baby, yeah.
Redburn: It flooded. Rained eight inches in twenty minutes. The medical center, medical school building at the University of Texas was just under construction. The floors were there, no walls, and so there were seven stories. They were like seven funnels stacked right on top of each other that gathered in this eight inches of rain in thirty minutes and filled the basement. And now the not-so-funny part, that's where all the expensive equipment that we were going to put in the building was. Very sadly, all our experimental animals were housed there. And the most critical thing was that all of the cadavers which we were going to use for a gross anatomy course were there too and all of our very precious human material that medical students have to rely on, they were all in the basement. Flooded. Totally flooded. They called seven of us on the faculty to put on miners, lamps because the electricity was gone and to send into the flood waters to see what we could do to recover this priceless material for the medical students. Now it was a ghastly experience.
SoRelle: I'll bet.
Redburn: Except for the fact that we were all there. The faculty, all the medical students came. They formed a human chain. We rescued all of that, got everything taken care of, re-embalmed. We didn't lose anything. And the camaraderie that grew out of that gruesome experience was just one thing that I think has really influenced the medical school and gave it a flavor. We had tee shirts made in honor of the flood and so forth. But it was a small group. And again, I think very supportive. There were women like Dr. Jones who made the environment seem so much more friendly to young women who were just joining the faculty. [Benjie] Brooks is someone everybody knows and everybody -- with the same name and smiling face. It's the energy of women like [Benjie] Brooks and Kay [Anreolli] who is one of our major women leaders in the Health Science Center, was dean of the School of Nursing for a number of years, who fought those battles and created, like Dr. Jones, this whirlwind of activity, adding color and energy and ideas and creativity wherever they go. These were some of the real founders of the whole medical school and the whole Medical Center. I feel that I came in indeed like a fairyland or part of a fairy tale with every, every kind of opportunity. And the theme of finding female colleagues and enjoying the mentors that went before me has really sustained me in my research career, from the first grant award, which was twenty years ago, and just got it renewed this past week--
Redburn: --from the NIH. That's a sustaining line. And to find an institution such as we have here in Houston who has brought together the women, sustained them, supported their careers, gave us the opportunities and challenges has really made all the difference. I think one reason that we have been so successful here in the programs has been the fact that there have just been too many of us for there to be -- for you -- for something to start in and die out. With The University of Texas and Baylor, our friends at M.D. Anderson, the University of Houston, Rice University, Kathy Matthews, Katherine Peak who's this wonderful bridge now between I think every institution in the city of Houston. There are always outstanding women to look at and to model after. And, and I think the history has been that they've taken the time and the interest to look after each other and it's made a tremendous difference in what I was able to achieve. And I think it's colored my whole view of research and biomedical research, in that I think my burning interest now, one reason I was attracted to another institution after twenty-one full years here is a chance to try to mold science and the future of scientific research in more of a cooperative mode, basic scientists and clinical scientists working together--centers that cut across disciplines and cut across departments to focus on problems of general interest. And so I was able to do it here in creating a vision center here, and now I am very excited about the new challenge in Tennessee to do the same there.
SoRelle: You know one of the things that we forget when we look back at the Texas Medical Center is really how young it is. It just celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, its fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Its really a very young institution as a medical center itself. And I wonder what role you see women playing in the future in the Texas Medical Center and in Houston medicine.
Irby-Jones: Well I like to tell young women, particularly young women who are aspiring for being in medicine, is that we just keep coming. And the young women now are so pretty, so brilliant, so willing to work, and so supportive of each other that we cannot fail. Women who pass had a role of possibly having to feel alone, don't have to have that feeling any more. As you, as you stated, there are so many of us, and I'm so happy to say that. I've been here a long time. I was here and I helped to select the first faculty at The University of Texas here in Houston. That's been a long time ago. But the women -- we had women then. We didn't have as many, but we were equally as enthused and we knew that they would keep coming and at that time there were only about maybe four point seven percent at the most in the average medical school class of women. That was a large number. And now we have thirty, forty, and in some classes fifty percent. And if it wasn't for all of the other maneuvering and so forth women probably would make up a great majority of all of the incoming classes. So yes the young women, brilliant, pretty, still feminine are still coming and they are still encouraging each other. And they will continue in Houston. Houston is a beautiful place to be. But, you know, I want the men to know here, we couldn't do as much if it was not for their support also. The men in my world, professionally, medically, have been most supportive. The men in Houston, particularly the men in the medical center-- oh sure they are professional, they are striving to be excellent, and they are competitive. But they certainly use other criteria to exclude other than gender. And if when we do that that we know we must do and, let's face it, if you are in a man's world and medicine has been previously predominantly a male's world, you may have to do a little more a little longer and a little better than your competition. And women have learned to do that. And they have learned to do that well. They have done that on the job. They have gone home and they have assumed the roles of being a mother, and I'm happy to say I am a mother of three children and seven grandchildren and I have many who I did not birth who that I sponsored through school. There are many women who are doing the same thing, and we still have our social lives and we're able to do the things with other women because other women who do not want necessarily to be professional have accepted us as we are. And we live in a world in which we are saying, You want to be stay at home and you want to be there or you want to be in medicine, but we're all achieving that which we would have achieved and we have support from everywhere. And so it's easy. It's fun and it's a challenge, but a pleasant one.
Redburn: I think in the area of research this is a great--
SoRelle: Uh huh.
Redburn: --great time for women to enter the field and to be active in the field. I mean they are really needed. There's been a real revolution in the biomedical research arena with the realization that, that we simply don't know a lot about the use of medicines by women. Most of the research -- the standard protocol for a drug study for example, was white male under the age of forty.
Redburn: And that's because it was a homogenous -- I mean there are scientific reasons for wanting a homogenous sample size. But the point is--
SoRelle: But you could go to Sweden and get that.
Redburn: Yes. The other statistic is that the major user of drugs in the United States are women. So the drugs were developed for and tested on a population which was not the major user. Women live longer. In fact, even though they live longer, the quality of their lives, I mean the kinds of illnesses that they get are more diverse, more than the male population. So just from a scientific point of view, it is extremely important to do more research on women's health. And women need to be involved in that and I think they are getting involved in that. The National Institute of Health is this tremendous initiative now at the Texas Medical Center, University of Texas, and all the institutions here are either directly or indirectly involved in this tremendous initiative to broaden their research activity to include looking at gender differences and differences in ethnicity in terms of drug metabolism and so forth. There's just one example of what I think is going to be one reason or an impetus for women to really join, play a major role in and be sought after in the research arena. I think scientific research is getting -- is sort of being assaulted from many different fronts now that the budget squeeze from the federal government really cutting down research dollars as well as what I think is a misunderstanding by the public about what research is about. The use, the ethical use of animals in research when they're needed and when they're cared for in the best possible way and are absolutely necessary for making advances in our understanding of health and disease. So I think these are some other issues that have negatively impact, impacted by medical research at a time when it's at the most exciting time that I think for medical research, with the human genome project and so forth. So it's an exciting time. I think women have a very important role and they're making up about a half of the medical school class and half of the graduate school class and so I think they have every opportunity to be involved.
Irby-Jones: Don't you think though that part of the emphasis for women's health is the very fact that there are a significant number of women who are entering the medical profession in one way or other and heretofore it is not unusual for like persons to be concerned about like, and the men in the medical world before were white, under forty, male, and this was their orientation. But with more women coming into the profession and having more contact with other women and being concerned about the illnesses that occur with other women, it is only natural that we would now have more research and more concern about the issues and disorders that tend to affect women.
Redburn: I think that's absolutely true. I think you're right. Not only -- and we've been talking about the students coming in and that's, that's a very, very important influence here. But I think, you know, the glass ceilings are beginning to break a little bit. And as the women become trained and experienced and move up the ladder so they're in positions now to make sort of administrative decisions about where the areas of research--
Redburn: -- ought to be. So I think all up and down the ladder the number of women entering that field has made a tremendous difference. Bernadine Healy heading NIH I think was a real turning point in terms of having everybody sort of sit back and look and say, What are some of these important issues that we've been ignoring all of these years. I think she really changed the emphasis there. So the students at one end and women leaders at the top I think--
Redburn:--are two important pressures.
Sorelle: You know you came here just about the time that they passed the referendum establishing the Harris County Hospital District.
SoreLLe: At that time, I mean you were talking about it was a white male world.
Irby-Jones: Uh hmm.
Sorelle: Did you ever think that the president of the Harris County Hospital District would be an African-American woman?
Irby-Jones: I did not consider it, but I certainly feel that it certainly could happen and did happen. I didn't consider it. I don't know. Maybe I was in a fairy land. I see no limits on anyone. If that person, no matter, as I say, circumstance in which you are born or circumstance in which there are controls that you do not have the control of causing things to happen, those are not the limits. The limits are within the persons. Now we can teach individuals, how we can break down the imagined walls and fences may be a difficult situation. I think this forum is one way of doing it. I hope someone will go out of here tonight and say, I saw two women up there, and you know they were just women -- or three women -- they were just women and they're doing and they seem to be enjoying what they are doing, I believe I want to do something. I believe I have an aspiration. Gender is no limitation. Being in from the south or north or any other area or with or without money are not limiting circumstance. And those who aspire and are willing to make the necessary strides, you don't call them sacrifists, because it's not a sacrifice when you're doing those things that you enjoy. They're strides. Can move in any direction that you want to move. Yes, we're going to break all of those glass ceilings, because when you are standing on the shoulders of women who are here to give you a foundation and women continue to stand on those shoulders, after a while the glass ceiling must go out or we're going to pop it out. So there are no limits. There are not limits to what we can do. The best is yet to be seen. The best -- when, when -- the best is when all of us, when all of us--gender, race, countries--when all of us recognize the best is yet to come. And the way to really bring the best about is to be the best that I can be and help you be the best and expect the best of you that you can be. That's when we will break all ceilings, when all of us will be living in a utopia, when there will be not limits, when there will really be no wants and no needs that will be unsatisfied. I expect to live for that day. I see it coming. I see it where there will not be a need for any person to suffer for the need of health care. I see the day coming when women out of their emotionally and nurturing nature will get into high places and make certain policies and motivate certain people so that there will be no hunger, there will be no diseases that we can remedy by giving immunizations, by being able to teach nutrition, by being able to supply the adequate housing--all of that is under my umbrella of practicing medicine. You may think I'm sitting there at the desk and passing over a prescription, but with that prescription comes a philosophy. With that prescription comes that you got to be a better you because you got to make a better world. And you can't be a better you until you get you in condition to be a better you. Yes, that was a long way of answering that question.
Sorelle: But it was a wonderful way of answering that question.
Irby-Jones: But there will be all kinds of no exceptions. There will be no exceptions when anybody anywhere excelled to any place because that is a place that they desire to be and they are the best for that job.
Redburn: There is --- you know you were talking about utopia, and there is a very realistic side to what you're talking about.
Irby-Jones: Oh you don't think it was real?
Redburn: No, no, I didn't say that. There's another side of that. Medical research is making strides at a rate that's just mind boggling. We are un-, unleashing all the power of the genome, if you will. We know where genes are that regulate how our body works. What that's going to place in everybody's hands and hopefully in the right hands and the thoughtful hands are ways to really change who we are as people and, and our children and our grandchildren. The control over which the genetic constructions that we pass on or we can sort of invent and insert new genes in our own body. This is such a powerful tool that everything is going to be, quote, possible, I think in my lifetime. But what we have to do is figure out how we want to do that. What do we want to change about ourselves? What's ethical and what's reasonable? What's rational? I think that research is handing us such powerful tools that I hope women and men alike sit down very carefully and think about what they're going to do with all this power that we're giving ourselves. Tremendous, tremendous opportunity to change our very nature. And I do hope women are active and knowledgeable and participate very strongly in those kinds of decisions and I think we have a lot to say. But that's a, that's a real utopia on the horizon.
Sorelle: And there are other decisions that are being made that I think I would like to see women, and particularly women physicians, have more of a say in. And right now we're undergoing sort of a revolution in health care. And it's a revolution that has the potential of excluding the poor, of excluding people with real health problems. And I'm talking about the managed care revolution. And it also has the potential for cutting off some of this cutting edge research, for cutting off the funding for it.
Reburn: I think that's the third sort of assault on biomedical--
Redburn: --research, you know, in terms of priorities. It's the effect of managed health care. And as the dollars now, the flow of dollars change from the traditional streams, much of what was fed into medical education and research now are going into the private sector, insurance companies and so forth. The question looms large: Who is going to pay for medical education and who is going to pay for medical research? We had a system that in this country produced the best biomedical research in the world in, at an astounding, astounding pace. And now to see the funding source, in that the funding structure changed so dramatically, really is a pretty scary prospect, and one wonders why we're doing this, where it's going to lead. And I think you're absolutely right. The adjustment that's going to have to take place to kind of take care of some of the gaps that are being formed in research and taking care of those that aren't in the managed health care now, where do they belong? That's going to have to be thoughtfully decided, hopefully by the * including women.
Sorelle: And by people like Dr. Jones who has been filling a lot of gaps for many years.
Sorelle: She practices in the Third Ward.
Irby-Jones: Yes, but involvement will be the answer. Involvement as we are here. Education, information of -- free people are an informed people. When we have adequate people informed regarding managed care -- Now there are some good things about managed care. And I think over the next few years that we will be able to select those things that are good and hopefully to rid managed care of those exclusive kinds of things that tend to exclude. Somewhere, if we are going to be in the managed care arena, those of us who are able to pay for our care and pay for other things involved with just living will have to come up with a kind of managed care for those who cannot pay. A managed care, not so much a managed cost. And I said there is a difference. Managed health care is good. Managed cost care may sometimes not be so good because sometimes it's exclusive of those things that might be for better health care. But, you know, as I sit here and I think about it, it never, never dawned on me that for fifty years you have been doing this, it's a different world. When, when I started practice, I can hardly remember anymore what we did to do a diagnostic study. You know, like the MRI, you walk in, it's like having your organs in your hand and you're able to, to, to look here and say this is what this means. It took us weeks sometimes to find out what some of the more advanced technological advances and instruments and programs have brought. Things can't help but get better. And, yes, it does being, and I agree that you have great responsibility, but this is why we're here tonight is to bring about the forum in which we can talk about what there is and that those will concerned would be informed. And I wouldn't doubt that somebody here tonight is going to go tell somebody tomorrow where they were last night and what they talked about. I just bet you somebody here. And if we can get one person to tell one person, and that person tell another person and inform, we will have enough involvement to bring about good.
Sorelle: And as this is a forum, does anybody in our audience have any questions of our two guests?
??: You gave * write some questions down *
Sorelle: Well this lady had a question.
??: Okay *.
Audience member: I come from a medical family * grew up * certainly believe that today things are much, much, much better than they were fifty years ago. There's no doubt in my mind. My question is, So much abuse takes place and has taken place, I mean * alcoholic comes in the emergency room five times and is taking the money away from someone else who is a perfectly good citizen and the resident that's on the emergency says, You know I've told this man five times, or this woman, how to take care of themselves. They refuse to do it. And yet they want in the emergency room instant care, no questions asked, without paying anything, and after they got out of the hospital they want to try to do service to the community. And we had a lot of people like that. And they were that way also sixty years ago and I'm sure six thousand years ago. But I can't quite cope with how we're going to handle people who are not responsible for themselves. Response-ability as [Colby] says.
Irby-Jones: Then we're going to have to be responsible for them. When we have people who are n--
Audience member: We have been responsible for them.
Irby-Jones: Yes, but we're going to have to rethink and redo the things for which we have been doing for them. We're going to have to bring about programs in which we bring that alcoholic, if we're going to use that as an example, into not just telling that alcoholic you should not drink. We are going to need to set up systems where we can involve this alcoholic not just on an emergency basis but on a day-to-day way--
Audience member: Have you tried to do that? Because I've done it.
Irby-Jones: Well, would you believe it's almost a new area for me. I have gotten involved by giving my services to a methadone clinic. It's probably one of the most, at this point, my feeling of being unproductive in that setting of anything that I've done. But I'm not going to let them dry me out. Because I think that there must be something that can be done the same as if we're going to consider the alcoholic the same as a diabetic, I can give a diabetic person a diet and tell that diabetic person that you should eat eighteen hundred calories and forty grams of, of carbohydrates and sixty grams of proteins and so many fats, but if that diabetic, number one does not understand what I'm talking about, can I even buy food, let alone the food that I'm talking about, and cannot understand, then I have lost that tie. If I take this alcoholic and I tell that alcoholic you should not drink, you're a problem, you should not drink, I have done the same thing. But if I can build a program of people to give that alcoholic support, to find something that will be constructive in employment and something where that alcoholic can earn a self-esteem and do some other things that we know are necessary--
Audience memeber: We've done that.
Irby-Jones: Yes, but we're going to have to keep doing it. We're going to have to keep doing it. We're going to have to change our way of looking at those who are lost or we think are lost, who are unproductive. We are going to have to make them productive, for if we do not, we are going to have to continue to pay the big price.
Sorelle: This one is for Dr. Redburn. Are there men's fields that are higher status than women's fields of research? Are women mainly expecting to go into women's health research and is this prestigious?
Redburn: It's a good -- That is a very good question, the notion of prestige. I think that indeed that studies on women's health issues have been viewed a little bit askance in some, in some circles and that, it's sad to say, it's, it's prestige has been heightened as more and more male investigators have entered the field. I think that's just kind of a normal progress at this point. I certainly would not think that all women going into research should be or would be attracted into women's health issues. What's happened with the studies on women's health is that it has quickly changed into a very, very interesting scientific field looking at gender differences. Okay, gender differences doesn't mean let's look at women's health. It means understanding the physiological difference between men and women, which we can all make lots of jokes about, but in fact there's a real physiological basis for those differences, and that's very interesting scientific stuff. And it's hot, it's on the cutting edge, it has a lot to do with the readout of the genome, what makes for sexual differences in metabolism. There are differences in men and women's brains, how they're wired together. One interesting caveat is that the two sides of the brain are connected by some fibers called the corpus callosum, and studies indicate that women have as many as twenty percent callosal fibers than men. This is interesting anatomical difference, and one wonders if that does influence or give a basis for what appears to be a slightly different way of handling problems or approaching problems that men do than women. There's a lot to learn about the physiology of the human body by looking at the, by looking at sex differences. And I think that excitement is attracting both men and women and the field indeed will be certainly highly prestigious as these discoveries come to fore. I think, I see more and more women in, in all, all fields. In my own fields, which one area could be described as developmental neuroscience, has a large female contingency in it. Went to a meeting a year and a half ago, and it was involving -- scientific meeting. I was one of the speakers. And it was the first time that I had to stand in line to go to the women's restroom. And we were all commenting. You know, this is, this is great. This is a step forward.
Sorelle: I thought you would say this is typical.
Redburn: Yes, at the same time maybe it is, but at, at a meeting to have--
Redburn: --such a large group contingency was, was an awfully good sign. I think women are going into all fields, and we should.
Sorelle: I think this is a very good question. What organizations for women in medical research and in medicine are there in Houston and in the Texas Medical Center?
Irby-Jones: In Houston, we have, and let me just give the part for medicine. We have the Medical Women who are part of the American Medical Women Association. We have in the medical schools now organizations for medical female students, in which we as physicians, women physicians, mentor those students. We are of course a part of all of the other organizations--the Harris County, the Houston Medical Forum, the specialty medical organizations. And I'll let you talk about the research and other. There are a large number. We have women for special concerns, particular -- Well, I'm going to let you do the re--, the research, the concerns, the particular the breast oriented cancer concerns, in which they're predominantly women in the profession who have formed an organization to be able to reach out to other women.
Redburn: In research there are, there are a number of organizations and biomedical research and there are certainly organizations that sort of cut across the Texas Medical Center and The University of Texas. The one I mentioned earlier was the Association for Women in Science. It's been around, and I think this audience has several of the past presidents in it, and this is an organization open to men and women. It's an association for women in science not of women in science, has both student and faculty members. It's a national organization, very strong, been very active for a long time. There is the Association for Women Faculty at The University of Texas--
Irby-Jones: And at Baylor.
Redburn: --and there is one at Baylor and there's one at M.D. Anderson and other organizations at the University of Houston. So the women faculty groups get together. AMWA which you were mentioning is a good organization for students, for female medical students, Association for AMWA. American--
Sorelle: American Medical Women's Association.
Redburn: Thank you, thank you. So there in fact are a number of organizations that are locally here. Another thing that is really nice that's happened on the national scene is that almost every major society, whether it's the AMA or the Society for Neuroscience or the Science Society for Cell Biology or whatever the discipline is, virtually every one of them has Women in Neuroscience group or Women in Cell Biology, so that the women in this field have got together and formed organizations. They give scholarships to young women students. They give advice, mentoring, et cetera. So these are, these are wonderful, sort of subspecialty organizations that are active in all the different national organizations. The questions that, that's always asked of me by some of my male colleagues, some of them well meaning, is, Why do you need to have a women's organization? I mean why don't you just join-- I mean why do you get together? And my answer to that, I think it's an obvious one, is that, as women, and we're meeting our own challenges here, we can't look to men to solve all our problems. Right? We can't say, Make the world right for us before we enter. The problems and the challenges of raising a family. How do you include marriage and other responsibilities, whether you're taking care of your child or your mother and we are the the Imajor caregivers of the society. How do you do that? How do you take care of a sick child? What are all these other issues that are particularly important, importance to women. The best way to answer that is to get together and look at other women and talk about it, and we'll solve our problems. We really have. Mentoring is the greatest thing that's ever been invented for women getting into occupations such as ours and advancing. Because we don't have to be quote, given the answer, out of a book. You go A, B, C, D. Just give us some examples to look at, and we'll pick and choose. This way's gonna work for me, this way is not gonna work for me. And women's organizations do that. It's a way to celebrate who we are, celebrate our accomplishments and learn from each other. It's, it's a wonderful thing, and it has nothing to do about bashing men. It's a way for us to work together and get some of the questions answered.
Sorelle: You know there's a very good question on this piece of paper. And I think the two of you seem to demonstrate this. And what are the secrets for really feeling great, physically, spiritually, mentally? Because you both have exuded feeling great tonight.
Irby-Jones: I don't know. I think maybe when I am feeling my greatest, my best -- Can I say bestest? -- is when I have helped somebody else feel their greatest and when I have brought out the potential in someone else it tends to give my soul something. It -- I guess it's-- because I was given so much, because there were women before me, few, but they were there, who gave me the encouragement and mentored me and that -- I feel that this is a, a thing that I must do. But my real reward is being able to get someone else to do that which she or he really feels that they're living out their potential. Nothing else. I don't need anything else. That's it.
Redburn: I've really been interested in obviously those things you share with us tonight and it seems to be a real theme here. When you're talking about your life it's like you, you allowed us to hear a little bit of this monologue that goes on it your head. Well I think I'll do this and why not do that. What that means to me is that you know yourself. And that must be one of your major strengths. You know who you are, you're comfortable with who you are and you examine that, routinely. And that's what I try to do as well. There are all these external factors. And * control over those. I mean you can try to change the world and you may or may not succeed, but there's one thing you have control over. You can know yourself. You can have that little dialog with yourself or monologue with yourself and ask yourself routinely, Am I having a good time? Is this fun? And if it's not, don't do it.
Irby-Jones: Don't do it.
Redburn: Just don't do it. Life takes so much energy.
Irby-Jones: It does.
Redburn: Takes so much enthusiasm. I think the only things that you're really able to achieve that people-- the real advances-- are achieved by champions. Someone who really champions something. And that takes energy. And that energy has to come from self knowledge, a confidence of, Yes I know who I am and I know what I want and I know what makes me happy. And from that inner joy you get the energy to really do something great.
Sorelle: And tonight I think we have seen two champions, and I think we should give them *.