I Missed the DePinho Symposium, Did


Leonard Zwelling

about 3 PM on Monday afternoon, October 19, I received an email notifying me
that there had been a symposium in praise of the achievements of Dr. DePinho
that very day in the Duncan Building. The writer sent me the list of speakers
and topics and it was indeed quite impressive.

the range of research topics touched upon by the speakers spanned the expected
(telomerase and aging) to the surprising (Ron Can Take a Punch by a Hollywood
stunt man).

there were very big names on the list albeit some phoned it in by video. This,
of course, made the symposium a multimedia event alternating live talks with

the only speaker I saw from MD Anderson where Dr. DePinho has spent the last
four years as President was his wife Lynda Chin. That struck me as particularly
odd.  Hasn’t Ron accomplished anything of
note during his tenure as MD Anderson President worthy of praise equal to that
of his pre-Anderson endeavors?

is very hard to take any of this too seriously. After all, who has a
celebration party for himself only four years into a job? I guess we now know
the answer. This is not to say that such a collection of experts at MD Anderson
is not of note, but when the talks have titles like “Of Mice and Ron,” or “Ron,
Reconstructive Surgery and Regeneration,” or the aforementioned “Ron Can Take a
Punch,” plus at least 6 video tributes, you have to wonder what the heck is
this all about anyway?

the writer of the email I received suggested, this is more reminiscent of what
a Third World dictator like Idi Amin might do to drum up support from the
people he was abusing. I am personally surprised that Dr. DePinho has not
erected a statue to himself that spans Holcombe or built a billboard with his
visage on the corner of OST and Fannin.

safety tip to Dr. DePinho as he asks to take another punch with this symposium. Take a page from the Bible, Proverbs to be exact, but
don’t think because someone else is praising you that you have fulfilled the
meaning of the verse:

Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an
outsider, and not your own lips. 
Proverbs 27:2

is plenty of time for accolades and praise after the work is done. (See recent tribute to Dr. Freireich on October 23). No one
should mistake this October 19 symposium for such praise.

Given the lack of
any demonstrable breakthroughs by the Moon Shots, at least as has been reported
in the local papers, or a huge influx of money to ease the work burden on the
clinical faculty so that they may take some time to think, or even a decent
morale survey of the DePinho administration from the faculty, or any evidence that
shared governance is actually working, perhaps the best thing to do would be to
skip the self-praise and work a bit harder. Quietly.

am reminded of one of my favorite quotes from all of moviedom which I include
here. It is from Patton and goes like

For over a thousand years, Roman conquerors returning
from the wars enjoyed the honor of a triumph – a tumultuous parade. In the
procession came trumpeters and musicians and strange animals from the conquered
territories, together with carts laden with treasure and captured armaments.
The conqueror rode in a triumphal chariot, the dazed prisoners walking in
chains before him. Sometimes his children, robed in white, stood with him in
the chariot, or rode the trace horses. A slave stood behind the conqueror,
holding a golden crown, and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is

It may be
fleeting, but that doesn’t mean you get to make it up before it is real so that
you can beat the clock.

If you are
really worthy of such a celebration, you will need to remind no one to come and
if you do, you are still in the earliest stages of your putative greatness.

As a close
friend tells me all the time when confronted with such false tributes:

“Oh, the
wonderfulness of me…”

Leonard Zwelling