Hang On. It’s Almost Over


Leonard Zwelling


Here is yet another article about the fiasco that was Lynda Chin, IBM Watson and Price Waterhouse Cooper. Over $60 million came off the bottom line of MD Anderson’s budget and that does not count the opportunity cost of using the MD Anderson faculty and staff to pursue Lady Chin’s pet project. And it all was for naught as it failed even as a similar project was successful at Memorial Sloan-Kettering. Is anyone going to answer for this?

The answer is starting to appear to be yes.

My in box is crowded with reports of rumors of the pending demise of the DePinho Administration. I was told that he was offered a position similar to the one offered to Dr. Chin but declined. Why give him a choice?

These two, Ron and Lynda, have made a mess on Holcombe. Morale is at an all-time low. The budget is being blown apart for more reasons than can logically be enumerated. An accurate picture of the cash flows and balance sheet still escapes me and the same people who got the institution into this mess, Buchholz, Dmitrovsky and Fontaine, continue to occupy their offices and pull down their exorbitant salaries.

It is most unclear how Steve Hahn is to help the situation. My sources are telling me that he has continued the tradition of being an apologist for the president. That’s too bad as his advanced publicity was that of a change agent capable of making a difference, but I am willing to give him more time because in the end this all comes back to the Chancellor. Why the champion of Abottabad cannot perform a similar surgical strike on Pickens is beyond my understanding. He needs more evidence of misdeeds? I don’t think so. I’ll play Jessica Chastain. DePinho is in there!

My guess is that the wheels of justice are turning slowly both in Houston and Austin. Soon enough, MD Anderson will be rid of Dr. DePinho as it is of Dr. Chin. That will be a good thing. The challenge is like that presented by those wishing to repeal the ACA. What comes next?

It is likely that a presidential search will be necessary and perhaps it will be done with more care under this Associate Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs than it was under the previous one.

What is needed in the next president of MD Anderson?

First, the new leader must have a free hand to replace anyone he wishes to, particularly those currently occupying the executive suite. They have all proven themselves to be poor managers and have ill-served the faculty, staff and patients. They need to be gone.

Second, the new president ought to be some kind of oncologist—medical, surgical, pediatric, radiotherapeutic, radiologic or clinical laboratory-based. And I mean board-certified and fully trained. A little clinical experience wouldn’t hurt either.

Third, the next president needs to be a legitimate scientist of some kind. A political retread is not the answer right now. I know Joe Biden might be available. Bad choice.

Finally, the new president needs to have a proven track record of actually managing something bigger than a lab.

A very deep dive into the background of all candidates is imperative. The people where the person is currently employed should be extensively interviewed and debriefed. A recapitulation of the current situation at Anderson is intolerable and, as is the case with the current leadership, its likely failure could have been discerned by talking to people in Boston.

MD Anderson may get one more chance. It is not likely to get two. The Chancellor needs to get it right this time. No excuses. No conflicts. No couches.

Leonard Zwelling