Moving Forward-Tomorrow

By

Leonard Zwelling

This blog has made the case for a thorough review of how the mess at MD Anderson that culminated in the dismissal of Ron DePinho ever occurred in an institution of such high repute. How did conflict of interest become a way of life at Anderson? When did executives at Anderson start to get caught up in corporate shenanigans? When did nepotism lead to $10,000 couches and millions squandered on Watson? Why was all of this tolerated by the Board of Regents, the Chancellor, the Executive Vice Chancellor, and the Board of Visitors?

This blog has also made the case that such a review needs to be made by an outside group with no conflicts and that group should report directly to the current president who will make the findings public.

It seems obvious that unless and until this occurs, it could happen again despite all of the best of intentions from the current leaders in Houston and Austin. Why the lack of oversight led to such misbehavior and how to make sure it never happens again is not moot nor is it passé. It is current until the fail-safe mechanisms have been set in place to prevent a recurrence and all of those guilty of bad behavior come face-to-face with their accusers. Many of the guilty are still at Anderson, some in positions of great power. The chickens need to come home to roost now, in the open, before they return uninvited yet again.

That being said, it is time to move forward. Dr. Pisters has assembled a new leadership team and it needs to be given the chance to reverse the malfeasance that preceded it.

BUT, there needs to be an accounting going forward of the performance of the new team because it is unlikely that all of them will perform equally or equally well.

What is the strategy of MD Anderson—in Houston, in the surrounding areas, in Texas, in the world?

If patients will be off-loaded to care in the surrounding community, will that decompress the demand at 1515? If so, will the number of faculty or staff at 1515 shrink accordingly as care shifts to the Woodlands, League City and beyond?

Who will that Chief Scientific Officer be? What’s the job? How does it interdigitate with the work of the CAO and the department and division heads?

It is an error, in the opinion of the blog, to sweep the past under the rug until there is a complete accounting of what happened and why.

Likewise, there ought to be a clear blueprint for success going forward and transparent evaluation of metrics that indicate whether or not the institution is heading in the right direction. And this is more than just the finances.

Have new world-class faculty been hired?

What has the scientific output of the faculty been when it is compared to that of other cancer centers?

What about clinical research? Are the newest and hottest molecules being tested at Anderson? And is that research compliant with federal code? The last thing MD Anderson needs is yet another visit from the FDA.

And what about the efficiency with which the place runs? Surely that will have a huge impact on the finances and the type of workplace MD Anderson will be in the future.

There is plenty to be done both in reviewing the past and planning for success in the future.

Let’s neglect neither. We need a full assessment of what went wrong to make sure it doesn’t happen again and use the knowledge gained to set a new course with real-time measurement and transparent reporting on progress.

It just makes sense.

Leonard Zwelling