A Parade-Another Dumb Idea From The White House


Leonard Zwelling

There are many alternative ways to show respect for the military of the United States. Getting the VA Hospital system to work properly would be one way. Stop involving the men and women in uniform in foreign wars of no consequence to the US is another. Spending millions driving hardware through the streets of Washington, D.C. is not one of the best ways to display respect or for that matter to use money.

Military parades are what they use in China, Russia and North Korea to advance the cause of military despotism and authoritarian governance. These are not American values. American parades have giant balloons and marching bands not missiles and tanks.

There is a real lesion in the head of the Chief Executive and someone around him ought to remind him that he is not in charge of a military dictatorship, but rather heads the duly elected government of a representative democracy that values its soldiers, sailors and airmen, but does not feel it necessary to flaunt its power by marching them through the streets.

This president is severely impaired if he believes spending money on useless displays of military might is what the country is craving. A solution to the DACA problem, yes. A smaller, not larger, federal budget, yes. Access to reasonably priced, quality health care for all, yes. But a parade? I don’t think anyone thinks we need one of those.

Leaders always have choices to make with regard to how much pomp with which they have to have around themselves to feel comfortable. This includes the leadership of MD Anderson.

John Mendelsohn reveled in the brass horns and marching robes of the faculty convocation. He spent fifteen years trying to turn MD Anderson into a top tier university. He even installed a Provost when one was not needed. It never worked out well. He never was able to attract that big name scientist he so hoped would lead the way to more members of the National Academy of Sciences and even a Nobel Prize for the MD Anderson faculty.

It turns out Dr. DePinho was able to do just that. Since he arrived several members of the faculty were inducted into the National Academies of Medicine and Science and Jim Allison has a real shot at winning a Nobel Prize in the not too distant future even if DePInho is no longer the president basking in reflected glory.

Both Mendelsohn and DePinho liked the big show. The Ronald loved multi-media presentations with movies, slides, power points and sound.

Now there is a new president who seems decidedly lower key. Let’s hope he stays that way. There is no need for public displays of presidential affection to accomplish the goals MD Anderson should be after. Patient care needs to be sorted out. Is MD Anderson still going to see every conceivable patient with cancer on Holcombe or become more discriminating and alleviate some of the congestion at 1515 and divert more activity to the peripheral sites? What will the balance of research look like in the portfolio? Will clinical research take on a larger role and what about health services research? Finally, who will be the team that implements the Pisters vision for MD Anderson? That’s the most essential of the early decisions made by the new president.

The US does not need a military parade to respect its military.

MD Anderson does not need feel-good outward displays of greatness to affirm its role in the world of academic oncology. It does need a strategy and some people to make it happen though.

Leonard Zwelling