Newswise — Charles Aubrey “Mickey” LeMaistre, M.D., past president of The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center and a pioneering crusader against the harmful effects of tobacco use and catalyst of the field of cancer prevention, died today in Houston. He was 92. LeMaistre came to MD Anderson as president in 1978 after serving seven years as chancellor of The University of Texas System.
“Mickey was one of the great icons of 20th century medicine who pushed boundaries, drove innovation and positioned MD Anderson to be the world’s most impactful cancer center,” said Ronald A. DePinho, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “His excellence is reflected to this day in the halls of our institution and in the countless lives saved around the globe.”
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. One of LeMaistre’s early decisions as MD Anderson president was establishing a cancer prevention program, which developed into an international model of research and service initiatives that advanced the science and application of cancer prevention and population sciences. He also pioneered multidisciplinary care.
Dr. DePinho reflected that “many individuals for generations to come will never experience the pain and suffering of cancer due to Mickey’s efforts in cancer prevention.”
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. He 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 Runyon-Walter Winchell Cancer Fund.
“Mickey’s passing causes us to pause and remember his tremendous contributions to the growth and scope of MD Anderson,” said John Mendelsohn, M.D., MD Anderson’s third full-time president and director of the Khalifa Institute for Personalized Cancer Therapy. “MD Anderson experienced happy and productive years under Mickey’s leadership, and I was fortunate to have the privilege of building upon his legacy when I succeeded him as president in 1996.”
LeMaistre combined his skill as a physician, educator and academic administrator with a confident and charismatic style in guiding the cancer center during considerable change in the American 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.
After retiring in 1996, LeMaistre was named a life member of MD Anderson’s Board of Visitors, a gesture of affection bestowed by the community volunteers he had recruited to help advance the institution’s mission. He also was recognized with the honorific title of chancellor emeritus by the UT System Board of Regents in 1994.
In early 2006, LeMaistre returned to MD Anderson as a part-time professor of behavioral science in the Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, which he founded years earlier. He spent the next two years writing about tobacco-related issues, including the evolution of public policies on tobacco control. The book will be published later this year.
LeMaistre is survived by his wife, Andreae. Other survivors are four children from his first marriage to Joyce, who died Dec. 5, 2003, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. They include two sons, C. Frederick LeMaistre, M.D., of Nashville and William S. LeMaistre of Houston; two daughters, Anne Philo LeMaistre, M.D., of Austin and Helen Meyer of San Antonio.
Funeral service information is pending. Memorial gifts may be made to the Charles Aubrey and Andreae LeMaistre Fund at MD Anderson: MD Anderson Cancer Center, P.O. Box 4486, Houston, Texas 77210-4486 or www.mdanderson.org/gifts.