Wanted: Leaders-Only Adults Need Apply

Wanted: Leaders-Only Adults
Need Apply


Leonard Zwelling

         Lots of comments on my email. Thanks all for reading. Very
much appreciated.

         I would like to clarify my position a bit as it differs
markedly from that of most others writing about the Gonzalez-Angulo trial.

         Most media outlets are treating this as a prodrome to a
Lifetime TV movie about adults behaving badly. 
It is definitely not the finest hour of the principals, all highly
educated MD and PhD level professionals, but they are people too and make
serious errors as we all do. How each will pay for his or her misbehavior
and/or poor judgment remains to be seen for that is really what this trial is
all about on its surface. We may learn this tomorrow when the jury restarts its
deliberations at 9 AM.

         This interests me slightly for I always want to know why
smart people do stupid things, but this is a passing curiosity and will fade by
Thanksgiving for everyone except those directly affected by the trial’s

         I still want to know why.

         Why did a seemingly successful medical oncologist feel it
necessary to have a long-term relationship with one woman, a casual sexual one
with another with whom he was doing research, and, from what my sources tell me,
other assignations with women in the medical research community? What brought
out this character flaw or was it just there all along? Does society even
consider it a flaw any more or is promiscuity akin to texting while driving

         Why would a very successful medical oncologist with a
growing research career risk everything to have this illicit affair with the
first doc and then try to poison him, if that is what happened? And if it
isn’t, who did try to poison him?

         How could the live-in girlfriend, a PhD in Clinical
Epidemiology, fall for all of this nonsense?

         Is there a common thread in all of this beside the humanity
of the players?

         I believe there is and it is far, far larger than any of
them or the place they all worked at one time or another, The University of
Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

         Before going further, I need to criticize myself a bit. This
is no problem as self-flagellation is part of the DNA of any past Duke intern
as I am.

         I was raised by a former First Lieutenant in the US Army.
There was no grey in my house. You either did it right or you did not. I felt
loved, but not coddled. I was expected to produce at school and thus became the
achievaholic that I am today, collecting gold stars at every turn. The
neurosis is the bad news. The good news is a very strong sense of right and
wrong. This worked out well when I became MD Anderson’s research cop. The faculty
didn’t love it, but it saved the institution some embarrassment on certain
occasions even though it cost me my job. Believe me, I get it. I get me.

         I am not suggesting that the world should be run by the
rules my father and I have set for me. I am suggesting that the rules
established at MD Anderson in 2001 when the highest rungs of the institution
gave in to self-serving pocket lining, conflict of interest and moral
relativism that in turn allowed this leadership to survive when it should have
been replaced for unethical behavior, set a tone that persists to this day. In
fact, it has been taken to a new level by the current leadership which has
employed nepotism, cronyism, conflict of interest, self-dealing and just plain
bad manners at every turn since arriving in 2011. It should come as no surprise
that some of the faculty emulates this behavior and that it might degenerate to frank
felony activity.

         After Watergate, Vietnam, IranContra, Monica, the Iraq War
and now the culmination of ineptness in a President of the US who has
absolutely no credentials or abilities to do the job, why should we be
surprised that the world is going to Hell and MD Anderson with it? And we
should also not be surprised that many of the best and brightest of the MD
Anderson faculty are leaving. Enough is enough. I am just not sure that they
will find it any better at their new locales for MD Anderson’s problems, like
the trial downtown, are symptoms, not the primary malignancy.

         So as we all follow the prurient details of the behavior of
the principals in the trial downtown, let’s keep our eyes wide open to the
context in which their nefarious actions took place. Regardless of whether or
not the defendant is judged guilty by the jury, someone poisoned a member of
the faculty. This might have been the first attempted murder at Anderson since
the Conrad incident in 1982. This is the most troublesome part of the trial.

leaves me with only one question and it is for MD Anderson, academic medicine
and the US government. Where are the adults?

Dad has been dead for almost 14 years but he visits me every day. He looks back
at me from the shaving mirror and asks again, “are you doing your best?” He
still scares the Hell out of me. Perhaps it is the fear of letting down the
ghosts of the past that ought to be guiding the actions of the living for the
leadership we are stuck with is not up to the task of setting a good example. Rather than exorcise our personal
demons who keep us in check so we can pursue our own profit and pleasure, perhaps
we ought to embrace them while throwing out the bums who have triumphed in
these awful times.

do know one thing for sure. It is up to us. Either we get our act together or
this trial is just the first of many whether for felony assault, financial
misconduct or just plain stupidity. MD Anderson cannot afford for these three
things to supplant the core values, but as of now, they have. Nothing is etched
in stone, but the cement is drying on the tombstone of the past 13 years at
Anderson and the entire post-war era in America. It would be nice if the last
thing we Baby Boomers do before we slip off this mortal coil is start the ball
rolling in the right direction. How about we start at 1515?

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