Roswell Park’s Eva Noles and NCI’s Carl Baker: “When I start something, I want to finish it”

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Eva Noles: Nurse, historian, trailblazer

When I start something, I want to finish it.

Eva M. Noles, RN

Eva Bateman had more than one reason to celebrate in 1939 when she graduated from the School of Nursing at Buffalo’s E. J. Meyer Memorial Hospital. She was the first person of African descent to achieve that distinction, and she ranked first academically in a class of 100. But when she and her date entered the dining room of the Park Lane Hotel for the graduation dinner-dance, they didn’t get far. A line of waiters moved toward them and quickly ushered them out, advising them that the hotel did not serve African Americans.

In 2009, at age 90, Eva Bateman Noles shrugged at the memory. “If you’ve been hurt all your life, you get used to another hurt,” she said.

Eva Noles, RN, lived her life believing “where there’s a will, there’s a way”
By Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center | April 26, 2021

Carl Baker: NCI Oral History Project

Carl Baker, who joined NCI as a fellow in 1949 and later became associate director of program, was interviewed Nov. 20, 1996 as part of the NCI Oral History Project. Baker led NCI from July 1970 to May 1972, during the enactment of the National Cancer Act. In the following excerpt, Baker speaks candidly about not being the first presidentially appointed NCI director. 

When Benno Schmidt told me that I wasn’t going to be Director—I guess he was telling me that [Frank] Rauscher was going to be appointed, which was all right—I think that was a good choice. I probably would have suggested that if they had asked me. But with Benno Schmidt, I asked him, Well, why was I not appointed?” He said, “Well, number one, your relationship with the staff appears to be excellent. Number two, you know cancer, broadly. Number three, you haven’t got too good of relationships with Congress.” Well, of course I’d only been in the job a very short time. 

“Fourth, you barely tolerate committees.”

I just smiled and said, “Well, it’s not quite that bad!”

In ‘71 or earlier, President Nixon went up to Fort Detrick, at Frederick, Maryland, and hammered swords into plowshares by converting the germ warfare facility there into a cancer facility. So we briefed the President right before he made his speech, and I took with me Rauscher and [Gordon] Zubrod because they present well. Nat [Nathaniel] Berlin is a wonderful fellow who’s an excellent scientist and good leader, but he doesn’t come through on presentations very well, so I didn’t take him. And I didn’t take Palmer Saunders, the head of Grants, because we were trying to focus on the content, not the mechanisms. I covered everything in cancer and the NO programs except therapy and viruses. Gordon Zubrod covered therapy and Rauscher talked about viruses.

Rumor has it that the President remembered Rauscher when they were talking about who they were going to appoint—“Well, how about that young fellow we saw at Frederick?” 

I don’t know if that’s so or not. It’s an interesting tidbit.

NCI Oral History Project interview with Carl G. Baker, M.D.
By NCI | March 16, 2021

Primary sources

1988: “Genes Linked to 50% of Colorectal Cancers, Researchers Say”
By Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center | April 29, 2021

This column features the latest posts to the Cancer History Project by our growing list of contributors

The Cancer History Project is a free, web-based, collaborative resource intended to mark the 50th anniversary of the National Cancer Act and designed to continue in perpetuity. The objective is to assemble a robust collection of historical documents and make them freely available. 

Access to the Cancer History Project is open to the public at You can also follow us on Twitter at @CancerHistProj.

Is your institution a contributor to the Cancer History Project? Eligible institutions include cancer centers, advocacy groups, professional societies, pharmaceutical companies, and key organizations in oncology. 

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