Resign Yourself

Resign Yourself


Leonard Zwelling

         I know that in this day and age, there is a premium placed
on sticking to your guns, never quitting, and seeing things through to the end
regardless, but sometimes it really is better to just let go. Kenny Rogers
talks about knowing when to walk away and knowing when to run. Either is
encompassed in a resignation.

         In Steven Soderbergh’s great film Traffic, this speech

You know, when they forced
Khruschev out, he sat down and wrote two letters to his successor. He said –
“When you get yourself into a situation you can’t get out of, open the
first letter, and you’ll be safe. When you get yourself into another situation
you can’t get out of, open the second letter”. Well, soon enough, this guy
found himself into a tight place, so he opened the first letter. Which said –
“Blame everything on me”. So he blames the old man, it worked like a
charm. He got himself into a second situation he couldn’t get out of, he opened
the second letter. It said – “Sit down, and write two letters”.

         This may seem depressing, but at least
resigning puts control of your fate in your hands. It also can be very

         In 2004, after having spent the
previous 2+ years battling the Leukemia Service, most of the faculty and the
President, I called it quits when it came to the oversight of the clinical
research infrastructure. In 2007, Dr. Kripke “left the party while she was
still having fun.” This left me susceptible to firing by Dr. DuBois and Mr.
Fontaine, but it all worked out. My mistake was not quitting the whole
craziness in 2004 or earlier. A friend had asked me then, “why do you continue
to do what you don’t like doing?” That was my impetus to resign the oversight
of clinical research, but I should have just walked away completely. Or run.

         I was just as stubborn at Legacy this
year once I determined that my philosophy of patient care and the one espoused
by the Legacy leadership did not align. I should have quit right then. Instead,
I tried to fight to improve things the leadership did not want changed and got
fired. Some folks never learn. On that front, I am exhibit A.

         Yesterday, under tremendous pressure from
all quarters, Julia Pierson resigned as the Director of the Secret Service. She
should have, and good for her for doing so. Many of the agency’s errors were
not of her making, but the culture during her leadership was obviously
ineffective in transmitting a sense of duty and urgency to her troops and when
she didn’t accurately report the mishaps to the President or her superiors, let
alone the press, she was doomed. Why wait? Get out of Dodge!

         In the wake of the Gonzalez-Angulo
verdict, should anyone other than the convicted herself resign? I don’t know,
but that ought to be the focus of attention for the leadership of MD Anderson
for something under the jurisdiction of a department chair and a Division Head
went very wrong. Two other department chairs were pressed to serve as witnesses,
albeit reluctantly, and it is not at all clear that people with huge
responsibilities behaved rationally in responding to the situation between two
faculty members that eventually almost led to the death of one of them.

         My sources tell me that Dr. Gonzalez
has resigned and Dr. Blumenschein has not. I know of no other resignations of
faculty who were involved in this case and that may be just fine. But it may

Until there is an assessment of who did what well and
who did less well, these folks all remain at Anderson with their past actions
unexamined and any poor performance on their parts during this time functionally
rewarded with continued employment.

Again, I urge the leadership of the institution to
transparently examine what happened between Dr. Gonzalez and Dr. Blumenschein,
how this was allowed to go on for so long when it was clearly interfering with
their job performance, and what are the obligations of each and every faculty
member when he or she sees a colleague struggling.

What alarms me is that I believe that some of the colleagues
of Dr. Gonzalez DID try to do something but were rebuffed by higher ups who
have escaped all scrutiny—by retiring. Oy!

Get me some paper. I need to write some letters.

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