“Follow the Money”

By

Leonard Zwelling

            As
far as anyone knows, Deep Throat (aka W. Mark Felt) never said this. Hal
Holbrook did in the film “All the President’s Men” playing Felt, the informer
from inside the FBI on whom Woodward and Bernstein counted to assist them in
unwinding the Watergate mystery. When Holbrook said these words, indelibly
etched in movie history, but not real history, only Woodward’s character
(Robert Redford) knew who Deep Throat was. Now we all do.

            Even
though these words may not have really brought down a presidency, they are
excellent guides when trying to find out what is really happening when things
seem rather confusing. Could anything be more confusing than the financial
situation at MD Anderson? I doubt it.

            For
months now we have heard that the budget projections exceeded the actual
revenue and that this would jeopardize what we faculty wanted. Most of us
however, were not consulted about what we might actually want or need, but saw
the constant drone for more cash as a cover for feeding an insatiable appetite
for laboratory-based research, new chair recruitment and drug development, none
of which was initiated in response to faculty demands. As I wrote a few days
ago, it appears to me that the money being generated by the clinical faculty is
in excess of the amount generated last year and the only problem appears to be
excess spending and not on resources to improve the provision of clinical care.
The assumption then is that following the money will lead one to a siphoning
hose from the hospital and clinics to the south campus (aka Elysium, see last
entry on blog).

            As
someone departing shortly, perhaps I might suggest to my colleagues a strategy
to address the problem uncovered by following the money. Stop it!

            If
you believe, as I do, that huge shifts of dollars are occurring from the clinic
revenues to the south campus; and you also believe, as I do, that there is very
little within the faculty’s power to prevent this siphoning of revenues and
also; if you believe as I do, that those who should be preventing this, the
provost and chief medical officer, are unable or unwilling to prevent this,
then all the faculty can do is stop generating the money. The South Campus is
addicted to north campus cash, Cut ‘em off.

            In
meeting after meeting of the Faculty Senate and its various sub-committees,
there has been a complete lack of leadership in constructing a strategy to
counter this movement of resources. Instead, yet again, the Senate took a
survey that shows that they are unhappy and it makes it into the newspaper.
Given that the leadership has yet to address the poor results and their root
causes from the first survey, what would you expect from a second? Why bother
unless you are hell bent on documenting misery?

            Stop
looking elsewhere for the solution to your problem. The Chancellor, even should
he show up in a month and appear before the faculty, will not do anything. As
my old friend Fred Becker liked to say, “the leopard doesn’t change his spots
until he hears the furrier coming” and the Chancellor, Vice Chancellor and
Board of Regents have yet to be legitimate or effective furriers despite all evidence that
MD Anderson is in the thrall of a very dangerous leopard.

            Stop
looking to Austin for help. We have met the enemy and he is us!

Leonard Zwelling