A Gracious Letter from John Mendelsohn

By

Leonard Zwelling

            In
my box today was a letter (yes, a real letter) from John Mendelsohn. In it he
sought to set the record straight about some of the things that I have written
in this blog that were wrong or misleading. He noted that upon his leaving the
presidency he had taken a “substantial reduction in salary and also switched
voluntarily from the clinical track to the research track for PRS”. He also
corrected my implication that Anderson’s growth in the past few years had been
largely in research space when it had been in clinical personnel and space so
that we could double the number of patients we could serve with our outstanding
cancer care.

            I
stand corrected and I am sorry for any errors I have made in this regard or in any
other blogs.

            I
want to take note of the gracious and respectful way in which Dr. Mendelsohn
corrected me.

            There
are many definitions of grace and gracious in my dictionary but I think this
letter comes under the heading of courteous and of good will. Given our history
with each other which has been rocky at times, it was most gracious of Dr.
Mendelsohn to take the time to write and correct my errors and thus I felt that
I needed to acknowledge that in the best way I could which is on the blog.

            So
a real tip of the hat to John Mendelsohn.

            I
think Dr. Mendelsohn has also given us the gift of a learning opportunity, a
teachable moment. I truly believe that it is and was his grace that allowed him
to weather the storms of his presidency for he had spent five very arduous years
building the good will upon which he depended once his presidency hit a rough
patch in 2001. A lesser person might not have prevailed, but he did. It is this
resilience that undoubtedly served him well when he struggled to get his drug
commercialized and then almost saw all that work be for naught due to the lack
of care taken by others.

            Right
now, MD Anderson is in the midst of a very rough patch–far, far rougher than
the one we all had to go through in 2001 and 2002 or even 2008 when we were
under great financial stress. This crisis is a bit different for this crisis
does not emanate from business missteps, poorly executed clinical trials, or
the collapse of the financial markets. MD Anderson is undergoing a crisis of
identity.

            What
are we?

            We
used to be the foremost place for cancer care in the world. I still believe
that we are. But the emphasis has shifted from that superb care being our
raison d’etre to it becoming an ATM for research dollars to support what
appears to be a completely misguided attempt to conquer cancer through the
creation of an academic drug company by people with a less than sterling track
record in this arena.

            Let’s
take note of a bit of grace on the part of the past president. Upon reflection
it is indeed amazing.  

Leonard Zwelling