Ebola, ISIS and Moral Relativism Must Be Resisted-The Gardening Analogy of Thomas L. Friedman

Ebola, ISIS and Moral
Relativism Must Be Resisted-The Gardening Analogy of Thomas L. Friedman


Leonard Zwelling

         Personally, I find Nancy Snyderman an awful representative
of the medical profession. Most of her reports focus on what she thinks or does
and not what the experts with whom she is supposed to be an intermediary for the
viewers tell us is the latest medical information.

         Now it turns out she not only says what she wants to but
does what she wants to as well:


         Rather than adhere to the voluntary quarantine she is
supposed to pursue for her first 21 days following her return from the endemic
Ebola areas, she is out getting her favorite soup. This is completely
consistent with her self-centered approach to medical reporting and should
constitute a firable offense. Let’s see how this one plays out.

         On the good side comes Thomas Friedman’s latest in Sunday’s
NY Times called “I.S.=Invasive Species”:


         In this essay he equates the operation of ISIS with a plant
species invading a garden. Such a nonnative species, like weeds, that use a
breach in the ecosystem to ruin a perfectly balanced natural habitat will
poison a garden or country. The invading ISIS secured the support of the local
Sunnis in Syria and Iraq to eliminate any chance at balanced biodiversity in
these nations, if that ever had a chance. That was the breach in the culture
barrier to the ISIS invasion. Friedman goes on to say that the U.S. overspent
on herbicides in these regions in attempting to create a hostile growth
environment for the invaders, but did just the opposite. The US underspent on
developing good government, what most Arabs in the area really wanted. Thus, we
have the cancer that is ISIS growing in the region like weeds choking off any
chance of healthy governmental growth.

         This model is also true at MD Anderson. Since 1996,
outsiders have invaded Anderson with models and schemes to change what was the
most successful clinical cancer care endeavor in history. World-class clinical
research with translational components was not enough for the newcomers. They
wanted to alter the philosophy to reflect that in the academic Meccas of the
northeast in New York and Boston. The newcomers did align themselves with some already
on the ground out of necessity (the local cultural breaches), let’s call them
the intrinsic Sunnis of MD Anderson. These yes-people would do anything for the
new comers from doing deals with frankly anti-Semitic states to construct
buildings and fund chairs to doing huge business deals over a tennis net. Those
true believers that were left were subsequently quietly or noisily ridden out
of town on a rail. I should know. I was ridden out more than once.

         As in any garden, the real barrier to the toxic takeover by
invading species is the cultivation of the culture of goodness that allowed the
garden to flourish in the first place.

         For the MD Anderson garden that means:

1.Focus on great clinical
care and measuring outcomes to prove that care’s superiority.

2. Remain the number one
place for both clinical care and clinical research in oncology.

3. Foster the growth of
relevant and applicable basic science and drug development both alone and in
conjunction with the pharmaceutical and biotech industries.

4. Up the profile of
prevention including the development of health policies to more readily
implement prevention strategies throughout the Houston community.

         This is what MD Anderson can do and should do to ward off
the toxic invasion of the nonnative northern species willing to self-aggrandize
on the backs of the clinical faculty. The soil here is already fertile. Weed.
Keep weeding and compost as needed by feeding the excellence that is still MD
Anderson patient care. And the bumper crop of oncologic greatness will be

         Like keeping Ebola out, it ain’t rocket surgery. It is
horticulture and remember when you put horticulture in a sentence, do it like
Dorothy Parker did:

         “You can lead a horticulture, but you can’t make her think.”

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