A Reminder of Why I Love
Houston AND What Has Been Lost

By

Leonard Zwelling

         It’s snowing. Need I say more?

         I am writing from the United Lounge in Reagan National
Airport across the Potomac from Washington, DC on Sunday, January 17. We are
waiting for the small plane to Houston and watching the flakes blur the view of
the jets taking off. We have been here for a family celebration this weekend
but were greeted on the drive in from Gaithersburg, Maryland to northern
Virginia by snow. This would never happen in Houston.

         Every now and then, I need to venture back to my previous
sites of residence in the northeast to remind myself of the most important
reasons why I left.

First
and foremost, I had no idea how lucky I was in 1984, when I left the shackling
anti-creativity of the intramural program of the NCI in Bethesda for the “wild
west” of MD Anderson.

There
is absolutely no doubt that Dr. Kleinerman would never have brought MTP to the
market without our moving to Houston and her having the opportunity to put Dr.
Fidler’s ideas into clinical practice under the tutelage of Dr. Jaffe. No MD
Anderson, no Genie Kleinerman, Head of Pediatrics for 14 years, and one of only
a few faculty members who actually moved the cure needle in the fight against
human cancer through his or her own laboratory work.

         Without MD Anderson some little known associate professor
playing with enzymes that reconfigure the three-dimensional structure of DNA
would never have ever gotten the chance to both run his independent lab and
obtain an MBA. And then he was able to translate his newly acquired
organizational knowledge and his previous clinical and research experience (and
the former was fairly limited) into a vice presidency that reconfigured the
infrastructure of clinical research in the world’s largest clinical cancer
research program, get fired and then go to Washington, DC to watch ObamaCare
get made into the sausage that it is. 

         We both were very lucky to have come here to Houston and to
MD Anderson when we did.

         Then there’s the weather. I don’t miss snow and I need to
come to the northeast once a year to remind me of how lucky I am to live in a
place where most days I can do what I want and travel unimpeded (except by
traffic) regardless of the atmospherics around me. Yes, it floods now and then,
but that beats the heck out of blustery blowing snow and temperatures below
zero. I do so love Houston.

         But I love MD Anderson even more and that is why I am so
upset about what I see happening there in the atmosphere and on the ground. As the
power and the control of resources have become more centralized and decision-making
is limited to a very few, I fear that the careers that Genie and I had at
Anderson would be very hard to reproduce today. I see no Fidlers nor Jaffes nor
Krakoffs among the leadership. I see red tape galore and bullying and mean-spiritedness
that I never dreamed would be a part of the place that so cared for me and for
my family.

         So when you get a chance, come up to the northeast in winter
and get some awful snow. At least you can escape that when you get back to
Houston. As for the incompetence that The Donald rightly talks about when
describing the government in Washington and The Berne uses to describe the
gluttons on Wall Street, I am afraid that Houston and MD Anderson are no longer
a refuge from these. MD Anderson is a Second City for greed and corruption. How
sad!

Leonard Zwelling