Had MD Anderson Only Had A Corker

By

Leonard Zwelling

One of the most reasoned voices that I heard while serving on the staff of the US Senate was that of Senator Bob Corker (R-TN). Whenever I was in a meeting or hearing with the relatively new senator at the time (it was 2009 and he had just been serving for two years then), he had a calm demeanor and carefully crafted words to express a mainstream approach to whatever problem was under discussion. Although health care was not his strength or primary interest, he was a contributor even as he was a newbie during the discussion of ObamaCare.

Flash forward to 2017.

Now Senator Corker is a thought leader in the GOP Senate caucus and the Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, a powerful and influential position. When he criticizes the White House as being day care for adults and claims that it is the Secretary of Defense, Chief of Staff, and National Security Advisor who stand as a wall between the President and war, we need to pay attention. Mr. Corker is sounding the alarm.

Perhaps he feels freer to do so now that he has decided not to run for another term in the Senate. I, for one, find that disheartening, as he is one of the good guys up there and we need as many of them as possible. I fear he will be replaced by a Trumpite who appeals to the feeding frenzy of the Breitbart alt-right, but let’s hope that cooler heads prevail in the Volunteer State in 2018 and that Senator Corker can continue to be a leader until he retires.

Now imagine if there had been a Corker within the DePinho Administration and had early on signaled the irrationality of the past MD Anderson president. What a difference that would have made! It probably would have saved half a billion dollars and untold amounts of grief, not to mention would have preserved the institutional memory embodied in a host of American oncologic leaders that The Ronald managed to fire. I put the blame for this squarely on the shoulders of the three Executive Vice Presidents who were recently fired. They could have righted the ship instead of enabling the monomaniacal DePinho to spend like a drunken sailor and make about as much sense.

But that’s water under the bridge.

The lesson for Dr. Pisters is to surround himself with people who do not think as he does and are not afraid to speak up when they believe the new president is heading in the wrong direction. My sense is that this is exactly what Dr. Pisters will do as he seems too smart to create a cabinet of yes men and yes women.

When I had the opportunity to lead an office, I was surrounded by contrarians—mostly women. They were not shy about telling me when they thought I was headed in the wrong direction. They saved me on multiple occasions from making bad mistakes and the one time I didn’t listen, I regretted it ever since.

Even when you are the leader, you are part of a team. Your strength comes from that team and your victories will as well. This was something Dr. DePinho never understood. It was always all about him.

I believe the new president is a completely different sort of leader and will surround himself with those who will help him succeed, even if that means they speak up when they think he’s taking the wrong turn. To me, the picking of these people is the great challenge for Dr. Pisters. Let’s hope he chooses wisely.

Leonard Zwelling