(I have been saving this for the right moment. I
think that we are there. It was written in late May)
love David Letterman. I believe him to be the ultimate incarnation of dumb as a
fox. He’s goofy and right on target. Only Dave could be blackmailed for sexual
indiscretions and turn it into both a monologue and a primer on crisis
management. When caught doing something wrong, fess up! He did and within three
days it was off the tabloid front pages. Imagine if Richard Nixon (Watergate),
Bill Clinton (Monica), or Ronald Reagan (Iran-Contra) had done that. Imagine
the grief they and we would have avoided! Dave proved me incorrect. Men CAN say
I’m wrong, I’m lost, and I’m sorry.
May 24, The Cancer Letter unleashed another zinger. This related the
installation of the very plush furnishings and interior design in the SCRB3 offices
of the Institute for Advanced Cancer Sciences. This rather atypical facility
furnishing project for MD Anderson was supposed to build a more corporate
environment as part of the strategy to create a revenue stream from MD Anderson
research. We then heard and read a preemptive barrage of positions from both
MD Anderson leadership and from the UT System rationalizing this designer
installation. There’s also been a bit of name-calling via an email from one of
the newer leaders of the faculty.
the grand scheme of things at Anderson, these furniture funds represent small
potatoes (although I am not sure this stuff came from Mattress Mac), but there
is an element of over the top spending that creates a queasy feeling in the
faculty body that has to forego its traditional end-of-year bonuses and merits
because of budget shortfalls. And this follows the forum of April 4 when our
leadership was asked about our costs but has yet to respond to the faculty as a
whole or to its duly elected representatives in the Faculty Senate and now, in
July, still no response to the cost questions.
left both that forum and recent Faculty Senate meetings thinking the leadership
of MD Anderson must think the faculty is asleep. Here’s the evidence in Dave
Top Ten format:
Top Ten Reasons They Think We Didn’t Notice:
Number 10: They must think that we did not notice the
president going on a nationally televised show about the stock market and
pushing the value of his own company while representing the UT System and then
expressing surprise that he was asked about investment opportunities in biotech.
Really? What did he think they would want to know on CNBC?
Number 9: They must think that we did not notice when the
president appointed his wife to a major position of authority and
responsibility in his chain of command then tried to convince us she reports to
Ken Shine in Austin.
Number 8: They must think that we did not notice the far
greater salaries being paid to people in the IACS when compared to salaries for
similar jobs within the institution in general.
Number 7: They must think that we did not notice when the
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs condoned the president’s request for
conflict of interest waivers for companies he owns, at least one of which
wished to do clinical trials at MD Anderson. Given the results of the first
such trial with an Aveo product, most of us would say about our lack of
participation: “sometimes you just get lucky”.
Number 6: They must think that we did not notice when they
claim that a $20 million grant from CPRIT for a 6 and one-half page application
that by-passed internal review and the provost at the time was standard operating
Number 5: They must think that we did not notice when major
contributors to the productivity of this faculty leave “voluntarily” for places
of far lower stature than our own.
Number 4: They must think that we did not notice when they fired
one of the leaders in his field as the head of one of the major clinical
divisions for speaking truth to power.
Number 3: They must think that we did not notice that
without the revenue from our investments we would be in the red and that, as
was pointed out at the April 4 forum, the growth projections for clinical
activity increases were nonsensical given the virtually weekly occurrence of
full capacity of our hospital. They must also think we did not notice that the
same financial crew that caused the drama of 2008-2009 that included major
layoffs is doing it again. Hmmm…Too Big To Fail?
Number 2: They must think that we did not notice when
appointment after appointment of new clinical leaders are internal candidates
suggesting either a lack of external interest or a desire for internal control
by executive leadership. Of course it could just be a way to save money for the
moon shots. (The naming of a surgeon to lead the major program in experimental
clinical therapy in the Division of Cancer Medicine is just the latest of these
hard to grasp appointments).
And the Number one reason they must think we did not notice
is: THEY STILL HAVEN’T TOLD US WHAT THEY SPEND AND FROM WHAT POTS ON IACS,
Global, Moon Shots, Platforms and Recruitments. Where does the money come from
and where does it go? That’s pretty simple. Isn’t it? Or do they not notice
that they either don’t want us to know or actually they don’t know?
some point, the recurrent deck chair rearrangement in the executive suites of
Anderson and within the academic departments (not to mention the new “deck”
furniture at IACS) should probably end. And these chairs do not need to be
replaced with ones from Florence Knoll. Red leather or otherwise.