James Holland Oral History Interview - Office of NIH History

embryonic incubator for most ofwhat's happened that's really good in clinical cancer in the country. And ifyou look at the ...... leaders and NIH became the embryo breeding ground . . . it became the incubator for academic .... led him to stimulate the IBM executive whose son had leukemia to design the centrifuge, for which he ...
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September 27, 2000 and January 25, 2001

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National Cancer Institute Interview with James Holland Conducted on September 27, 2000, by Peggy Dillon At the Cloisters on the National Institutes of Health Campus In Bethesda, Maryland


I would like to discuss with you your involvement with the National Cancer Institute over the course of your career, as well as your broader contributions to cancer policy, research, and treatment. The first question that I'd like to ask you is about your upbringing, your education, and the time before you came to the National Cancer Institute.


I was brought up in a family of four boys. My father was a judge, my mother was a housewife. Three of the sons became doctors and one was an engineer. I went to high school in Morristown, New Jersey, and then attended Princeton University on the accelerated basis, starting in September 1941. The War came in December 1941, so we were accelerated: no vacations, went all year round. I came to Medical School at Columbia on January 1, 1944, in the Navy program, having been enlisted as a midshipman in the Navy, in the V-12 program.

I went through Columbia, which was then also on the accelerated schedule, and started there in 1944. When the War ended, we were demobilized from the Navy and the school decelerated. I interned at the Presbyterian Hospital in New York and took a residency. Then, because of my Navy service, was importuned relentlessly by the Secretary of Defense, that they were short of doctors in the Army and Navy. I get terribly seasick, so I joined the Army in 1949 and went to Europe for two years, having been extended because

James Holland Interview, September 27, 2000


of the Korean War. Ordinarily I should have gotten out on June 30 but was extended until sometime in September 1951.

Before I came back, I had letters from Dr. Robert F. Loeb, one of my great idols, the Chairman of Medicine at Columbia. He indicated he couldn't save a place on July 1, 1951, for me because I was extended but that when I came back I could go to the Francis Delafield Hospital, which was a new hospital opened on the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center campus by the city of New York for cancer. One of the house staff would certainly drop out from tuberculosis or psychiatric disease-they always did-and I could be called back to come to Presbyterian Hospital. About December, indeed, a man did develop tuberculosis. But by that time, when Dr. Loeb said, "All right, Jim. Now you can come back," I said, "Thank you, Dr. Loeb. I think I'll stay."

Under my mentor Dr. Alfred Gellhorn I had been able to treat a child with acute leukemia and the child had gone into remission. This was new and exciting and really enormously important to me. Alfred Gellhorn, who's still alive at about age eighty-five or eighty-six, and a very important man in cancer research, recognized that I wanted to do cancer activities. The salary I was getting at the Delafield Hospital was $4,000 a year. I had just been divorced and needed more money. He arranged that I meet Dr. G. Burroughs Mider, who was then the scientific director of the National Cancer Institute, and it was arranged that I would come to the Cancer Institute, where the salary was a fantastic $7,200.

James Holland Interview, September 27, 2000


I did come and opened the Clinical Center, as part of the original senior contingent, on July 2, 1953. Some of the junior colleagues who were residents at Columbia Presbyterian who came with me were John Fahey and Donald Tschudy. There were about a dozen of us who opened the clinical service. I was in charge of the particular segment of chemotherapy under Dr. Leonard Fenninger, who was the chief of gener