(This one is for Genie)

The Old Days


Leonard Zwelling

am sure the younger faculty have had it up to here with old guys like me
bitching about the way things are compared to the way things used to be. Those
old folks, they are saying, they just can’t handle change.

some ways they are correct. I am of the foolish mindset that a telephone is for
person-to-person voice communication. It is not to send text messages across a
dining table in lieu of conversation as I regularly see in restaurants. It is
not at all unusual to watch a family of four sitting together each in
conversation by keyboard with someone else. And if I see one more person
walking past me appearing to talk to himself on a Bluetooth headset, looking
and sounding for all the world like a homeless schizophrenic in Times Square, I
am going to scream. So, yes, we old folks aren’t crazy about some of the
innovations that advances in technology have brought us.

favorite place to collide with technology is the airport. I have written
frequently about the TSA. To be blunt, I believe the politically correct
security without profiling employed in the United States is beyond foolish. It
is invasive. It is expensive. It probably doesn’t work all that well with
people willing to blow up their underwear to take down a plane. As my family
will tell you, every time we stroll up to the TSA lines I say the same thing:
“Does this look like victory to you?” It does not to me. The United States of
my youth would be defiant in the face of the 9/11 attacks, judicious in its use
of military power and wise in using profiling for security purposes not this
massive screening nonsense that may well be illegal. The Israelis know how to
keep an airline safe. We could learn a few things from those folks.

Dr. Kleinerman had a business trip and was lucky enough to finally use her
pre-TSA clearance. This is a form of profiling in which the government clears
you after you apply for the status and you can then waltz through a metal
detector. No bins, coat on, shorn and belted. Can you imagine? Just like the
old days before some middle eastern lunatics decided to commit mass murder
(9/11 was not an act of war because no country attacked us. It was a simple act
of thuggery on a grand scale calling for police action a la Seal Team 6).
Language matters and when President Bush mislabeled what happened that day in
New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, as an act of war and not a
crime, he set us on a disastrous course to the current point of not knowing
what to do about Syria because we have no idea why we did what we already did
and why it turned out so badly.  

That sounds familiar. Over approximately the same time frame, since 2001, MD
Anderson has taken a series of wrong-headed turns and ventures for which no one
seems to be accountable. How the heck can you spend so much money by accident?
Who owns Orlando? Who owns Espana? Why are we in Arizona and why now New
Jersey? Why have we built building after research building and spent fortunes
filling them with people and equipment that will not drive any dollars to our
bottom line leaving us to push the clinicians harder as the sole generators of
revenue to cover these ever growing fixed costs?  And why did we take $150 million from an autocratic regime
that recently locked up a South African pediatric oncologist passing through on
his way home on trumped up charges? If these are your ideas of constructive
changes, they are not mine.

the throwback represented by the pre-TSA checking that Dr. KLeinerman enjoyed,
we might consider dusting off some of the old ideas from MD Anderson’s past. I
am thinking of these:

1.     Discovery

2.     Caring

3.     Integrity

4.     And
borrow some from Duke’s Coach K’s 5 fingers that make the basketball
fist—Communication, Trust, Collective responsibility, Caring (yes, on both the
core values and the Coach K lists) and Pride.

can call me old-fashioned or you can just call me old, but when it comes to
airline security and operating a tertiary care specialty cancer hospital, there
are some old ideas that trump the new stuff by a mile. 

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