Another Layer of Bureaucracy Won’t Be Enough: Who Will Have The Upper Hahn?


Leonard Zwelling

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It’s a step in the right direction that the Chancellor finally awoke and put a thin layer of protection between Dr. DePinho and the rest of the institution. But as long as Fontaine and The Bobble Heads are free to roam the halls, no one is safe, least of all the faculty.

I applaud Chancellor McRaven for finally taking some action, but it is nowhere near enough.

Here’s why.

First, it is very unclear to me who is really in charge of the strategy that will be employed to get MD Anderson out of its earnings hole.

Dr. DePinho, Mr. Fontaine, Dr. Buchholz and Dr. Dmitrovsky have shown themselves to be unable to develop a strategy for success when it comes to the budget or the revenue. When you resort to a layoff, you are resorting to the last resort. Furthermore, the $10M monthly gain predicted by Mr. Fontaine from the layoff will not be realized for several months as severance continues to be paid out and is not nearly of sufficient magnitude to offset the average losses over the first four months of fiscal 2017. Is Dr. Hahn supposed to single handedly fix this? That would be asking an awful lot of any one person.

Will the faculty rally around Dr. Hahn and increase its efforts? It is likely and desirable that Dr. Hahn will lead a review of all non-revenue-generating programs, mostly in research and prevention. But will this result in the offloading of the very faculty Dr. Hahn needs for support in layoffs? Is this Paring Back–The Sequel? That will not endear the faculty to the new or old leadership.

Nothing short of a complete re-engineering of MD Anderson can turn the ocean liner at mid-campus around and the rest of the institution with it. That will take new leadership and not “new almost” leadership as the latest move from Austin should be termed. As capable as Dr. Hahn may be, he is not the new president. The old president is still in place and as such morale will not improve until the beatings of the faculty stop and he goes.

So here are my suggestions to Dr. Hahn.

First, trust none of those hired by Dr. DePinho. Their loyalty will not be to the new order. They have already shown themselves to by unworthy of the faculty’s trust and the trust of the Regents and the Chancellor. If they had done their jobs well, this all would not have been necessary. EPIC-Shmepic. These guys (and, as usual, it’s all guys) are the gang that can’t shoot straight. They do not deserve any more chances. While you, Dr. Hahn, cannot replace them, you can ignore them.

Second, trust the faculty. Talk to those who have become your friends and have proven themselves worthy of that trust, especially the members of the Faculty Senate. Employ all of the members of the Shared Governance Committee for help, not just those with the big 7-figure salaries.

Third, ask the rank-and-file faculty of all stripes, tenured and not for help. When it was I who needed help because when I began to oversee clinical research, I had no idea what I was doing, it was my friends and colleagues in the faculty who got me through the day and night.

This will be a “dark night of the soul” for MD Anderson, but there is a dawn in the future. When the Moon goes down and the sun of a new president rises, recovery is on the way. For now, have faith.

And give him a helping Hahn! (Ok, I couldn’t help myself.)

Leonard Zwelling