This is the last blog before I start my new work at Legacy
Community Health. We will take a week off from blogging and start again in the
Hello, I Must Be
I couldn’t think of a better title for my last blog as an Anderson faculty
member than this. Many will know it is from the opening scene of Animal
Crackers, the 1930 Marx Brothers film. Groucho starts the film off with this
song as he continually tries to leave a big party in his honor to which he just
arrived, but the gathered crowd forces him back to receive their adulation.
refrain Hello, I Must Be Going segues into Hooray for Captain Spaulding, the
African Explorer, the tune that became the theme song for You Bet Your Life,
Groucho’s long-running radio and television game show.
Groucho always did get my vote for funniest human ever. The double and
triple entendres, the moustache (both painted on and real), the cigar, the
silly walk long before Monty Python, the Duck with the “secret woid” and the
speed of that mind even into his eighties was an absolute joy to behold. Do go
shopping on YouTube. Among the best of the best are his many songs but
particularly Lydia the Tatooed Lady on a Dick Cavett Show a few years before
But the real reason I love Groucho is that he was irreverent. Much like today’s
Lewis Black, Groucho had no respect for authority. After all, whatever it is,
“I’m Against It” (see Horsefeathers). To a large extent, that’s me.
The fuel for this blog has always been the belief that authority that separates
itself from those for whose welfare it is responsible deserves nothing less
than all out resistance. This of course will strike many as very humorous given
my prior role as research cop in chief, but perhaps that’s why the fit for that
role was never perfect. Yes, I have a strong sense of right and wrong, but I
sure do love pointing at the naked king parading through the streets as
everyone else bows low. My friend Stephen Levine says, “of course you have
multiple personalities. If you didn’t, you’d be crazy”.
For five years now I have been toiling on a book. I had started it the day I
got to Washington, DC in 2008 knowing that I would be seeing things that most
people never do and that I myself would never be in such a position again. This
proved to be true, but that is not the making of a book.
All day long while on Capitol Hill I would jot down notes to make sure that I
had the quotes right because no one would believe what I heard come out of the
mouths of the members of the “greatest deliberative body”, the US Senate.
Slowly, I began to realize that what was preventing the US Senate from working
smoothly and serving those who elected the members were the same forces
undermining the faculty here at Anderson. It took me many years to distill the
essence of the book into four themes but I believe that I have.
Moral relativism: not doing what’s right because it is
right, but doing what’s good for you or what you can get away with. It is my
belief that this characterized the Mendelsohn years and has been taken to a new
level by Dr. DePinho. Enron, ImClone, Aveo, etc were not for the good of MD
Anderson and the involvement of our leaders with these companies precluded
their fulfilling the most critical role of any President, the fiduciary
protection of the two greatest assets of Anderson, its name and its faculty. Is
the current behavior of our junior senator from Texas Mr. Cruz any different? Self-serving is
Criminal and near criminal behavior: These tales have
yet to be completely written, but surely a large number of Dr. Mendelsohn’s
associates wound up wearing orange jumpsuits and it remains to be seen what the
SEC thinks of Dr. DePinho and Dr. Chin’s shenanigans.
Group think: This was the license for the other two as
the faculty sat on its hands rather than rise as one and say “Enough”. I put
the major blame here on the Division Heads, particularly those who controlled
the flow of millions of dollars through the efforts of their faculty members,
yet allowed those dollars to be misused with such impunity for so long. Of
course, this may be why Dr. Pollock works in Ohio now. He tried to resist and
was dealt with accordingly. If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for
anything. I like to believe that Raph fell while standing for something!
4. The unintended consequences of the other three: This is always
the story in DC and is here, too. The unforeseen risks and benefits of any
action are always of gravity. Everything has an opportunity cost. To build all
these bricks and mortar structures meant less money for programs. To spend like
a drunken sailor, Dr. DePinho has to drive clinical revenue to unsustainable
numbers. The cost in morale may be unintended, but it was certainly
predictable. And by the way, NONE of this started in September of 2011 with the
arrival of the Boston mafia. Of course, those Yankees (Red Sox?) didn’t make it
These four themes are what the book is about. I hope that you might actually be
able to buy a copy someday as I frantically try to finish the next draft.
To all my friends at Anderson who are leaving or have left, may the wind be at
your backs. At least we lived the great days of the PRS Prom. To my friends who
are staying, please take care of yourselves and your families. Anderson is a
great place, but it is going to need all the help it can get to recover from
the past 12 years. In that way, it’s just like America.
And to those of you who are thrilled with my leaving and who tried to hasten
it, mazel tov. You got your wish. The resident pain in the neck is a resident
Hello, I Must Be Going!
But first “one morning I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How he got into my
pajamas, I don’t know!”