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Dr. Richard Payne

The eighth child of a family of thirteen, Dr. Richard Payne was born on August 24th, 1951,in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Payne's earliest memories are of a household brimming with family and neighborhood activity. Payne attended the local elementary and junior high schools, which were integrated and provided a nourishing and supportive atmosphere. In high school, his interests focused on math and science and after graduating he enrolled in Yale University. After receiving his B.S. from Yale in biophysics and biochemistry, Payne obtained his M.D. at Harvard Medical School.

Payne is one of the foremost experts on pain management and palliative care in the country. He describes palliative care as "total care of patients with cancer." He has worked tirelessly to educate the medical community about the issues and breakthroughs in pain management, co-chairing the expert panel of the Agency for Health Care Policy panel that established clinical guidelines for pain management in cancer patients. Payne was also a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee that evaluated end- of- life care in the United States. Payne has also been involved in programs working to close the disparities in health care access to minorities and poor populations worldwide.

Payne serves as Attending Neurologist and Chief of the Pain & Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan - Kettering Cancer Center in New York, New York, in addition to holding the Anne Burnett Tandy Chair in Neurology at the same center. Payne has a wife, Terri, and the couple have two children. They reside in New York.

Payne passed away on January 3, 2019.

Accession Number




Archival Photo 1
Interview Date


Last Name


Maker Category

Winfield Scott Elementary School No. 2

Marquis de Lafayette School No. 6

Thomas Jefferson High School

National Science Foundation Program at The Loomis Chaffee School

Yale University

Weill Cornell Medical College

Speakers Bureau


Archival Photo 2
First Name


Birth City, State, Country




Favorite Season



New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination


Favorite Quote

Self-discipline Is The Highest Form Of Self-respect.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

North Carolina

Interview Description
Birth Date


Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City




Favorite Food

Roasted Chicken Breast

Death Date


Short Description

Neurologist Dr. Richard Payne (1951 - 2019) was an expert on pain management and palliative care. Payne has worked tirelessly to educate the medical community about the issues and breakthroughs in pain management, co-chairing the expert panel of the Agency for Health Care Policy panel that established clinical guidelines for pain management in cancer patients. Payne serves as Chief of the Pain & Palliative Care Service at Memorial Sloan - Kettering Cancer Center in New York.


Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College at Cornell University

University of Cincinnati

University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center

Favorite Color

Brownish Yellow

Timing Pairs

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Richard Payne interview</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Richard Payne's favorites</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Richard Payne talks about his parents' backgrounds</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Richard Payne gives the names of his siblings</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Richard Payne recalls early memories of family life in Elizabeth, New Jersey</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Richard Payne describes his childhood personality</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Richard Payne discusses the demographics of Elizabeth, New Jersey</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Richard Payne remembers influential teachers</a>

<a href="">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Richard Payne details experiences at a biochemistry summer program for gifted teens</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Richard Payne talks about his early interest in science</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Richard Payne describes career goals during childhood, part I</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Richard Payne describes career goals during childhood, part II</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Richard Payne explains how he was influenced by his high school friend Henry Schneiderman</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Richard Payne talks about getting accepted into Yale and his early experiences</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Richard Payne tells of his academic focus and the social climate at Yale University in 1969-73</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Richard Payne discusses the black pre-med students at Yale University in the early 1970s</a>

<a href="">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Richard Payne remembers participating in a secret society at Yale University</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Richard Payne discusses the workings of Yale's Book and Snake society</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Richard Payne talks about his wife's background</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Richard Payne tells of his reasoning behind applying to certain schools</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Richard Payne explains his interest in neurosciences</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Richard Payne talks about the relationship of anesthesiology and neurology</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Richard Payne discusses changes in location during his early professional career</a>

<a href="">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Richard Payne explains his area of expertise, the neurology of pain management</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Richard Payne explains how understanding psychology aids in his pain relief practice</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Richard Payne describes palliative care</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Richard Payne talks about advances in cancer research</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Richard Payne discusses his beliefs on the relationship between race and health</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Richard Payne talks about "politically correct medicine"</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Richad Payne explains Memorial Sloan-Kettering's influence on the medical community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Richard Payne confirms his decision to be a physician</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Richard Payne explains different types of pain and treatments</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Richard Payne's hopes for the future of the medical community</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Richard Payne remembers influential doctors from his childhood</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Richard Payne considers his legacy</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Photo - Richard Payne with employees of M.D. Anderson Cancer Center's pain symptom management program, 1994</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Photo - Richard Payne with Lee Brown, Houston, Texas, ca. 1995-1996</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Photo - Richard Payne and his wife, 2000</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Photo - Richard Payne with his son, daughter and wife, Houston, Texas, ca. 1995</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Photo - Richard Payne's son's high school graduation photo, ca. 1999</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Photo - Richard Payne's daughter, 2001</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Photo - Richard Payne with Dr. Kathleen Foley, Dr. Leroy Hood and Ruth Galvin, 1984</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Photo - Cover of 'Time' magazine in which Richard Payne was interviewed, 1984</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 13 - Photo - Richard Payne and colleagues, 1992</a>

<a href="">Tape: 5 Story: 14 - Photo - Richard Payne and others at an occasion for Dr. Fred Plum, 1983</a>







Richard Payne details experiences at a biochemistry summer program for gifted teens
Richard Payne talks about advances in cancer research
My chemistry teacher in the eleventh grade in high school [Thomas Jefferson High School, Elizabeth, New Jersey], Mr. Thompson was very influential. He pushed me--actually got me to apply to a National Science Foundation program in biochemistry. Which was taught in a private boarding school in Hartford, Connecticut called the Loomis Chaffee School [Windsor, Connecticut]. It was staffed by faculty at Amherst College [Amherst, Massachusetts]. And it was for bright high school science students who wanted, you know--who were interested in science. And so I was encouraged by my--Mr. Thompson who was white, to apply to this program. I got in and I went up to Loomis Chaffee. I remember my father [Clark Emory Payne, Sr.], you know, and just--he--being so, so proud that I, I, actually did that. So we went up the summer of my junior year. And I spent six weeks and it was very intense. Really we were taught college level like biochemistry. And there were maybe twenty-five, thirty other kids from around the country. And I remember thinking then, "You know, I really can compete with these kids," you know, I was sort of interested in medicine even at that time. And sort of starting to wonder, you know, "Well, you know, could somebody like me go to Yale [University, New Haven, Connecticut] [laughs] like Henry [Schneiderman] with," you know, "with no resources?" You know, and my financial resources--was that even possible-- would I get in college? I was convinced that intellectually I could do it, having finished that program in biochemistry. I was actually even invited to come back as a tutor in my senior year. So I sort of viewed that program as a, as a important program. That was also happening in a very interesting time, that was the summer of '68 [1968] and the summer of '69 [1969], you know. One--so [Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] had been assassinated in April [1968] and actually Robert Kennedy in May. So there was a lot of sort of poli--I was the only black, [laughs] black student in that summer program. The kids--we didn't talk much about politics and race. But I felt very conscious of the fact that I was the only black student there, felt a little pressure with that. The other interesting thing about that era was, that was the era of the [The] Apollo [Program] missions [1963-1972] at NASA [National Aeronautics and Space Administration], you know. And being somewhat interested in science, I was very fascinated by that. And actually, the next year in '69 [1969] when they actually landed on the moon, I was in Hartford [Connecticut]. We--I remember staying up with all of, you know, the students in the program. And, you know, witnessing the moon landing and things, 'cause that happened during the summer in '69 [1969]. And, you know, it was all of those things, particularly the science program and the NASA stuff and being at a National Science Foundation program sort of convinced me that I could actually have a career in science and medicine. It wasn't something that was that was far out for me. But it was difficult in the sense that I've always fe--I've--that was the first time, unlike in high school, I was sort of feeling the pressure to perform [laughs] because I was sort of--almost felt like I was representing my race, 'cause I literally was the only black person around. But I think, you know, I handled myself. The kids that were in the program with--some of whom I still stay in touch with today, were all interested in going to medical school and going--you know, were applying to schools like MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, Massachusetts] and Yale. I remember one girl in the program who had gotten this [Danforth] Westinghouse Award here in New York City [New York]. And was like the most brilliant mathematician I'd ever, ever met. So those were heady times, very exciting times. I, you know, I would--during those summers I felt like, you know, there wasn't anything I really couldn't do if I really put my mind to it. And every--the environment was very encouraging.$What do you think are some of the important trends that you've seen in medicine then? Because--I mean doctors have become sort of clinical about things. I mean this is--do you think that there were more outside sources that sort of impacted by--well there's the, you know, holistic movement that occurred., or, you know, their beliefs, you know, people believing that there are certain things. You know, especially when it comes to cancer. So much now [unclear] gone into cancer research and yet, you know, some things we're trying outside of the traditional more clinical medical range.$$[Simultaneously] Right, right, right. Well I think there have been these--a lot of these competing trends and there's a tension. Sometimes healthy, sometimes not so healthy tension between sort of rigorous science, evidence based approaches as to more--for want of a better word, touch or feely less scientifically rigorous approaches. I think these things are sort of existing in a sort of a loose tension. So for example, you say doctors have become more clinical and all that's true and you know, in 1971 [Richard Milhous] Nixon signed the National Cancer Act and we had this war on cancer, right. Now you might on the one hand say, "Well there's still hundreds of thousands of Americans dying of cancer, so we've not won this war." But on the other hand, when I went to medical school, if you were a child and you had acute myelogenous leukemia, you--that was a death sentence. You were dead in a year. Now that's curable. Okay. So there are these major battles that [laughs] we have won in terms of cure and I think having being very rigorous scientifically and being very clinical were critical to making these advances to get you know sort of these cures. The big problem with cancer is that the cancer that affects the large number of adults--lung cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer, many of which now we're now getting a better understanding on environmentally and sort of lifestyle. 'Cause, we haven't had the great success outside of breast cancer in effecting cure. So I think people have this sense that we haven't won the war. No we haven't won a war against cancer but we made significant advances. And there's a side of me that says, "That those advances were only made because of an insistence on scientific rigor and really hard science." At the same time, I think we have to be open that there are approaches that right now seem very unconventional and therefore hocus-pocus, almost voodoo medicine that if we take the time to learn more about, we might find have some scientific bases. And so I've always been in favor of keeping an open mind about some of these things. The hard part is that when people who are very vulnerable, when they have a serious illness, sort of latch on to something where we have evidence doesn't work. And deny themselves medical treatments that we know have some efficacy. I think that's the hard part, in trying to convince people to give up on things that they are sort of--they want to embrace. Because they have this more holistic sort of natural appeal, although they may not or are not effective. So I think we live in this very tense world of having--wanting to push more and more to understand the science of cancer, so that we get more and more cures. But in also dealing with people and where they are, and supporting people psychologically and emotionally if we can't--don't have the cure today that will help this individual with colon cancer or lung cancer. And I think we just have to be smart and open and have an honest discussion with people about what we know, what we don't' know. And even if we don't have a cure--here's where another big aspect of palliative care, palliative care is not giving up care. It's not doing no--it's not, "Well we don't have a cure. So there's nothing more we can do for you. So we're gonna do this palliative care thing." You can always care for people. You can always provide symptom management, psychological support, emotional support and that's doing something, that's not doing nothing. And often people say, "Well you're not--if you can't cure me, you're not doing anything for me." But there has to be I think a broader societal discussion about this. About sort of what's real, what's real, what's not real and what we're willing to accept in terms of when death is inevitable.