By Paul Wallner and Christopher Rose
The following interview of Frances Glica was conducted on December 13, 2016 by Paul Wallner, DO, FASTRO and Christopher Rose, MD, FASTRO.
Good afternoon, my name is Frances (Fran) Glica, retired employee of American College of Radiology. I was born in the city of Philadelphia, and hold a B.A. in English from Chestnut Hill College.
At the end of 1976, the large retail grocery chain for whom I worked, reorganized and moved its top executives and staff to an office building on Rt. 202 in Wilmington, Delaware. I was newly married and declined to make the move as it would have presented many difficulties, including a long daily commute. I elected early retirement and re-entered the job market.
In February, 1977, I was fortunate to be hired by the Philadelphia office of American College of Radiology as secretary to John Curry. This office had been set up in 1975 as headquarters for two large grants from the National Cancer Institute – Patterns of Care Study and Radiation Therapy Oncology Group. Dr. Simon Kramer, chair of Radiation Oncology at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital, was principal investigator of both grants. Dr. Lawrence Davis, a radiation oncologist who reported to Dr. Kramer, was assigned space in the ACR office as did Dr. William Powers, to manage the day to day operations of PCS and RTOG. Dr. Powers was also principal investigator of the Committee for Radiation Oncology Studies.
I had no direct responsibilities with either PCS or RTOG, however, in times of stress, such as preparation for a site visit or grant renewal, everyone on staff took an active role.
Within two weeks of my joining the College, I was asked to staff a meeting of the Committee for Radiation Oncology Studies in Bethesda, Maryland. This became my project as well as staffing CROS -initiated scientific conferences on various subjects and at various locales, including two research plans. In this way, I came to know and work closely with many of the physicians, physicists and biologists whom I would later work with in ASTRO. I knew Dr. Suntharalingam very well, and in fact he had my wedding ring tested for impurities, as my skin was becoming irritated. (the results were negative, but I remain allergic to metals.) I came to know Dr. Kramer very well as he spent a six-month sabbatical in our office. He also helped me personally by examining a growth on my chin and eventually referring me to a plastic surgeon. I was slightly acquainted with Dr. Herring but only through seeing him when he came into the office. In time, I was promoted to project coordinator.
My first encounter with ASTRO (then known as ASTR) was when the Committee on Long Range Planning at a meeting in Philadelphia decided that the society should have a newsletter, and I took on the project at Mr. Curry’s request. Dr. Carlos Perez was the inaugural editor.
ASTR was managed by the ACR through its Chicago, Illinois office, and Mrs. Sheila Aubin was the face of the administration. When the College moved its offices to Reston with Mr. Curry as executive director, responsibilities for ASTR became more formalized. Mr. Nicholas Croce became ASTR executive director, Mrs. Aubin was responsible for all aspects of meeting management, and I became executive secretary. ASTR, now ASTRO, was my sole project.
In the early and middle 80’s, ASTRO was “thinking small” and in fact, a publicity project almost broke the bank. Dr. James Cox was treasurer at the time, and put the society on a severe fiscal diet. David Stockman, President Reagan’s budget director, had a reputation for frugality, and the word was that when the staff were suffering from the heat, they huddled around David Stockman’s heart. So Dr. Cox was teasingly named ASTRO’s David Stockman.
ASTRO was acutely aware of its identity crisis. Medical Oncology and Surgical Oncology were recognized as specialties, whereas radiation oncology was a subspecialty of radiology and certified by the American Board of Radiology. The practitioners were called therapists and confused with radiologic technologists who also called themselves therapists. That was the first controversy which I encountered.
ASTRO did not own its journal, International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology, Physics (the Red Journal), edited by Dr. Philip Rubin. The society moved towards acquiring its own journal, but eventually continued with the Red Journal on a contract basis. ASTRO selected Dr. James Cox as inaugural editor-in-chief.
There was always an undercurrent of feeling that ACR was not the vehicle for maximizing the image of radiation oncology, and eventually, the vision of a self-standing society came to fruition. When that came about, I retired from the College and was not in any way involved in the new society.
In the meantime, ASTRO began to expand its educational efforts, first by expanding the mission of the ASTRO Education & Development Fund (originally established to administer Dr. Anna Hamann’s legacy to the society .) Funding was accomplished by establishing a category of Corporate Membership, contributions by individual members and using a portion of the profit from the Red Journal. In that way, ASTRO was able to award a number of partial fellowships to junior investigators. This program has now expanded handsomely.
ASTRO’s committee structure was also formalized, so that making changes to the bylaws became much easier.
The society decided to establish a Committee on History and Archives, and as a first step, I flew to Tampa and spent two delightful mornings and lunch with the delRegatos to collect the relevant society papers and ship them back to ASTRO headquarters. I cherish a print of a Picasso drawing which Dr. delRegato gave to me.
Some personal reflections – I like to think of myself as ASTRO’s Aunt Fran, as I was deeply involved in the society as it grew in size and prestige. I am most proud of my involvement with the expansion of the ASTRO Education & Development Fund to which I referred earlier, especially to see how it has grown to encourage young scientists. Being named an Honorary Member is also a great source of pride to me as a lay person.
In retirement, my husband Richard and I moved to a retirement community in Upper Gwynedd, PA where we enjoyed the many opportunities for personal enrichment, active social life and exercise. Sadly, my husband died in March of lung cancer, but thanks to his foresight in moving here, I am in a good place, surrounded by many friends.
Christopher Rose: It’s amazing, Fran. I’m sure Paul and I learned a lot, just listening to your connections with the giants in our field from the early days. It is something that the History Committee was very interested in learning more about. I guess the NCI-funded Committee for Radiation Therapy Studies that became CROS was the original linkage between the radiation therapy community and the research at the NCI. Hence, as you say, two studies came out of that. As a baby radiotherapist, the one that I was involved with was the one that Phil Rubin chaired which was that huge misonidazole grant.
Frances Glica: Oh, right.
Christopher Rose: Were you involved with that?
Frances Glica: I was not. I really was not involved in the day to day operation of any of the grants, including PCS and RTOG, except as I mentioned earlier in my narrative, at “crunch time” when the grants were having periodic review or were up for renewal. The only one I was involved with was CROS. Through CROS, the NCI funded a number of scientific conferences on various subjects which I staffed. In fact, one of them took place in Baltimore. It was called Late Effects of Radiation Oncology.
I also staffed also two research plans which were then presented to the NCI. Dr. Glenn Sheline spearheaded the first one and Dr. Luther Brady the second one. CROS was also responsible for the creation and publication of the “Blue Book” dealing with recommended staffing levels for radiation oncology departments. When I became involved with CROS, Dr. Powers, principal investigator, was on the staff at Jefferson Hospital. The grant followed the principal investigator. So when Dr. Powers moved from Jefferson to Washington University, the CROS grant went with him. However, the ACR Philadelphia office had more resources which could be allocated directly to the administration of the grant, and at a meeting in Florida, the committee received permission to use the ACR Philadelphia as administrative headquarters for the grant, and I again became the staff person.
Paul Wallner: Fran, when you refer to the grant, which grant was that?
Frances Glica: I refer to the CROS grant, which as I mentioned above, organized NCI-funded scientific conferences, two long range research plans and the Blue Book. Although I came late to the party, I assume it was also the foundation for PCS and RTOG.
Paul Wallner: Okay. So the grant was actually funding the committee’s function.
Frances Glica: That’s right. The CROS funding was not handled in a traditional way, as it was in the discretion of the director of the NCI, who at the time was Dr. Vincent DeVita. And it was Dr. DeVita’s decision to terminate the grant.
Christopher Rose: My understanding was - and maybe you could confirm or deny this, Fran - is that in the very early years of the National Cancer Act, the radiotherapists such as Dr. Kramer and Dr. Brady and Dr. Powers and Dr. Rubin felt it was important to foster radiotherapy infrastructure in the United States. That was how the CRTS was proposed to the NCI, which then became the CROS.
Frances Glica: Well, that could have been. But that would have been before I joined them. I really can’t say that I have any history at all about it. I took it over when I came to work for the college in February of 1977. At that time, it was CROS – the Committee for Radiation Oncology Studies.
Paul Wallner: Do you know or can you say if the college made any real attempt to hold on to ASTRO or whether it was sort of a gracious parting?
Christopher Rose: I was going to ask the same similar question. Again, as a junior member of the workgroup that was involved with a strategic plan that ended up with the separation and self-management, my recollection was that John Curry was extraordinarily gracious and generous in his acting as an honest broker and facilitating what that strategic planning group finally decided to do. But you were there at the time and you were working for John. What were your recollections of that period? That’s a period that we know very little about.
Frances Glica: Actually I don’t know a whole lot about it myself because of the fact that at that time I was working in the Philadelphia office as executive secretary. I was reporting to Nick Croce, who had become ASTRO’s executive director, and John Curry was ACR’s executive director, based in Reston. In the view of ASTRO’s board, the society had the financial resources and prestige and had expanded its mission to the point where it could become a self-governing society fully dedicated to the discipline of radiation oncology.
Christopher Rose: Is there anything we forgot?
Paul Wallner: Fran, I think I mentioned to you offline that I was shocked when, in speaking to a couple of residents some time back, they stared at me blankly when I mentioned Simon Kramer’s name. If there was a birthing, he was perhaps the obstetrician. But can you tell us a little bit about what it was like working with Simon and what he was like? I knew him well as a professional, but would appreciate your perspective.
Frances Glica: My impression of Dr. Kramer is that he was a brilliant, brilliant man. He was cultured, refined and a thorough gentleman. He cut right to the chase. I remember one time when they were reviewing charts,someone mentioned that a patient had expired. Simon Kramer said that the patient had not expired, he died. He was just that kind of a man. He was just plain down to earth and no nonsense. Also he had a very lovely sense of humor and, unfortunately, a very heavy smoker. But he was a charming, charming man and I had a lot of respect for him.
I didn’t work for him directly of course, but he was in our office. I told you for six months he spent a sabbatical in our office. So we saw him every day and that was a great privilege. And it is a shame that the young people don’t remember or have never heard of him. But look at other aspects of life. Just mention the music, movies and stars of stage and screen that you remember and I’m sure your children and grandchildren look at you as though you have lost your mind. They’ve never heard of these songs. They’ve never heard of these movies. They’ve never heard of these people. In fact, here up at Brittany, we talk about things and it seems as though every conversation that we have with anybody ends up with the words “it’s a different world.” So it isn’t strange to me that they don’t. I know it’s sad, but people move on. And that’s what happened.
Paul Wallner: In thinking back about CROS, do you have a sense of what percent in those days was political in specialty building as opposed to being real science?
Frances Glica: You mean in the mission?
Paul Wallner: In the early days. Because I know from personal experience with several of the players, they had some of them had a sense, about RTOG as well – that it was as much of a political and specialty building organization as it was for scientific research. But did you have a sense at the birthing whether the founders really saw it as a political body or as a real scientific body?
Frances Glica: Well, I was not there at the birthing of CROS. I was there in the middle of it. Dr. Powers used CROS to promote what he undoubtedly thought were suitable projects to serve the mission of CROS, and evaluated the attendees in the light of how agreeable they might be toward his agenda. Unfortunately, this resulted in the cancellation of meetings which Dr. Powers felt would be unproductive. As for other organizations, I can’t speak for them because I was not involved in them.
Paul Wallner: In retrospect, did you have any feel for whether CROS really was successful other than keeping its own grant alive for some years? My own impression was that when those reports got to the NCI, they lined the file somewhere.
Frances Glica: I don’t know that either because I was a staff person and the only thing that I did was fulfill my duties as staff. I assisted in putting the research plans together. I did not assist with the Blue Book. When they had scientific conferences on various subjects, the proceedings were published and sent to NCI. Whatever they did with them, I never knew because I moved on to the next project.
Christopher Rose: Fran, one thing that maybe you might enlarge on. It sounds as though you were responsible for bringing back many of the papers and the materials from the del Regato Foundation to ASTRO, to where they are now in ASTRO. And you say you spent two days with Dr. del Regato.
Frances Glica: Yes, and his lovely wife Inez.
Christopher Rose: Maybe you could speak to any memories you have about that. Then a kind of follow-up question I have is that did you have any interaction with the other two great members of that triumvirate, Dr. Kaplan or Dr. Fletcher?
Frances Glica: No. I’m not sure when they passed away, but they might not even have been alive when I joined the company because that was in 1977. I certainly knew their names, but I never met either one of them.
Christopher Rose: How about Dr. del Regato then?
Frances Glica: The first time I ever met Dr. del Regato was when I went down to his home in Tampa when the society decided that they should organize a committee on our history and archives. I know that I sent two boxes of materials back and really I have no idea whatever happened to them. But, once again, I was sent to do a job and I did it.
I do have a funny story about Dr. del Regato and that trip. One was that he insisted on being a very gracious gentleman and meeting me at the airport. At the time he was almost totally blind and we had quite a ride into the city.
Paul Wallner: He was driving?
Frances Glica: He was driving. Anyway, he also told me that he could recommend a hotel for me to stay in. So he made a reservation for me at a hotel in the heart of Tampa. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Gasparillo, the little pirate. His festival is very big in Tampa. At the time I was there, it was in full swing. And the hotel which Dr. Del Regato booked for me was a favorite of the motorcyclists who featured prominently in the Gasparillo festival. I was scared to death. It was the first time that I had ever barricaded myself in a hotel room. So the next day I quietly moved myself out near the airport.
When I told John Curry about it, he said, “Well, Fran, you have to remember in the olden days those doctors paid their own expenses. There was no such thing as ASTRO paying your expenses. So I guess that he just assumed that you needed to have the most economical accommodation that you could.” But Dr. Del Regato did say to me that his wife was very angry with him when she found out where he had booked me.
Paul Wallner: You want to tell us a little bit about the Cox austerity years?
Frances Glica: Well, it was that they were almost broke apparently and Dr. Cox established a moratorium on spending. Eventually, ASTRO became prosperous. And in fact, they conducted a long range plan, projecting that in five years - I’m making this figure up, but just to be relative - they said that they would have assets of say, $10,000 or something like that. That was their goal.
As it happened, when the time came to do another long-range plan, the society was “rolling in money.” First of all, they raised the dues. Then they established corporate membership and every year the exhibits would increase. I know every year they would say, oh, the exhibits are doing well this year, but who knows where it’s going to go from here? But every year more and more exhibitors found their way to ASTRO. I’m assuming you still go to the meetings, so you might know the trend.
Paul Wallner: There’s about 2,000 square feet of exhibit space now.
Frances Glica: Imagine, right? And that brings a lot of money with it. In addition, in the interest of inclusiveness, they established a classification of Allied Member for physicians in other specialties.
Christopher Rose: You were really there at the birth and what you’re telling us is that you recall a time when the assets were less than 100K.
Frances Glica: I was not there at the birth, but at the coming of age, and I am honored to think I was part of the maturing process. And yes, ASTRO had been science-rich and administratively poor.
Christopher Rose: Well, they’re not that anymore.
Frances Glica: Well, I would assume that because of the fact that they keep expanding and - as you were just saying - growing into bigger and better and I guess more luxurious headquarters and doing more and more. I guess besides the annual meeting, now they have the Best of ASTRO. They have webinars. They’re doing many things that require a lot of organization and a lot of staffing.
Christopher Rose: Again the reason that we asked you to memorialize your impressions were, because frankly without you and Mr. Curry and Sheila Aubin none of this would have been possible. And it’s really important for the young people who don’t remember Simon Kramer, and Bill Powers and Luther Brady and the triumvirate at least to recall what the roots are. On my own personal behalf, and Paul’s, we owe you a great debt and that honorary membership was just a tiny bit of it.
Frances Glica: Well, thank you.
Paul Wallner: Absolutely. Absolutely. You were very much the glue that held a lot of things together.
Frances Glica: Well, I have to say too, I felt a personal affection for every single member of that society. Actually, too, I still keep in close touch with Sarah Donaldson. We exchange Christmas cards. In the summertime I read in ASTROnews People in the News that Sarah had been the inaugural recipient of award, I think, from ASCO. Did you remember anything about that?
Paul Wallner: I forget exactly what the award was, but I had sent her a note also. It was something really very prestigious.
Frances Glica: Yes, it was. So I sent her a note and she acknowledged it. As a matter of fact, when I was retiring from the College, Sarah wrote me a lovely note and said that she wanted to keep in touch and she said she considered me part of her sisterhood. That means a lot to me. I also exchange Christmas cards with Jim Cox and Ritsuko. I just feel as though I found a home in ASTRO.
Paul Wallner: I’ll tell you something funny about that. In my early days people would mention Fran, they would say it in passing, and everyone knew who they meant. It’s almost like Beyoncé today. You were a superstar. When somebody at Jefferson or Penn or Hahnemann or in Washington said “can you ask Fran about this”, everybody knew what they meant.
Frances Glica: Oh. That makes me feel very good, very, very good.
Christopher Rose: If John was the head of ASTRO through the ACR, you were the heart. That’s for sure.
Paul Wallner: Fran, is there anything else that you want to add that we haven’t asked? Or Chris, do you have any other question?
Christopher Rose: No. I think this has been great. Thank you, Fran. But if there are other things you want to memorialize, we’d love to listen. We have a couple of minutes.
Frances Glica: Well, I think I’ve said my piece. Once again, it was the most enjoyable time of my life. What I really liked about it is that I had come from the button-down world of corporate America and into the atmosphere of the College and ASTRO where your family was included too.
One of the first things that John Curry said to me when I was traveling was to be sure to call home every night. There was a generosity and a thoughtfulness for other people - especially the people that you were close to. I just always appreciated that. In the corporate world, the goal was to save the company money. In the world of ACR and ASTRO, they cared about you as a person. I worked very hard but it was appreciated, and that made a big difference.
Paul Wallner: Well, Fran, this has been absolutely terrific. As Chris said, not only do we want to thank you for this afternoon, but everything you have done for us and for the society over the years.
Frances Glica: Well, I appreciate your saying that. If you decide sometime, I should have asked about something else, don’t ever, ever hesitate to pick up the phone. You have my email address and I have yours, and we can continue this dialogue as long as we have to or as long as we want to.