THAT IS NOT MY DOG

That Is Not My Dog

By

Leonard Zwelling

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SXn2QVipK2o

         This you tube clip is one of the most important pieces of
film in the Zwelling-Kleinerman (ok, ok, Kleinerman-Zwelling) household. It
sums up the majority of the advice that we have given our children over the
years and continue use to the present day when either of our sons presents us
with a problem. Our boys are 34 and 28. They have steady jobs and one is even
married. They do not ask for money from us any longer (talk about great!) and
they really are no trouble at all—most of the time. But every once in a while,
either of them might ask us “what do I do?” We may try to help, but neither of
them are in the medical field and many times we have no idea what their
businesses are like, so our advice is limited and certainly rarely informed. We
also don’t really understand their electrified world that much either so we
aren’t very good with Facebook, Twitter or other internet issues. And their
bosses are younger than our bosses ever were (actually I don’t have one any
longer—talk about great!), we don’t understand the things their supervisors do
either.

         When we get a request for advice from them our answer is
often, “that is not my dog,” meaning this is your problem to solve not ours.
That response comes from this clip. (We still help with personal issues, just not
business ones.)

         The recent survey by the UT System office of the Executive
Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs brought this film clip to mind. Obviously I
have had several discussions with faculty friends about the latest survey, its
results, the relationship of those results to the results of surveys from the
recent past, and what a reasonable reaction might be for a faculty leader
facing this very difficult situation. Here’s the situation as I see it:

1. New President comes to MD Anderson in 2011 and makes
new demands on faculty in a unique style. That style would have to be described
as both autocratic, arrogant, and in your face. The new guy would never be
confused with the last guy on style points.

2. He outlines a bold new program and terms it Moon Shots
which seems a little presumptuous to many and inconsistent with history (MD
Anderson’s and NASA’s) to many more. It also makes little sense to most cancer
biologists for the latest advances in cancer basic science suggest the problem
is even more complex than we thought and really unlikely to be placed on a
timeline or a schedule for completion. Cancer is not the Buffalo Speedway
underpass below 59, let alone the Apollo mission in 1969.

3. Several incidents surrounding the new President make
the newspapers in an unfavorable way including clear instances of by-passing
standard pathways to money and some very poorly chosen words on national
television. His significant other’s demeanor and behavior don’t help his cause.

4. The national media and the intense onco-political
grapevine of America is lit up by “trouble at MD Anderson” with a great deal of
focus provided by the Cancer Letter.

5. We’re number 2.

6. Several local surveys of the faculty reflect deep
discontent, malaise and frank antipathy for the leadership.

7. The outgoing UT leadership visits campus and confirms
the discontent, much to their apparent surprise.

8. A few changes are made at the top of MD Anderson,
putatively in response to the Old Chancellor’s and New Exec VC’s visit. These
seem to consist largely of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic or
whatever that boat on mid-campus is called.

9. UT comes in and does its own survey only to find very
little progress. And here we all are.

Now
what?

To
be perfectly blunt MD Anderson, “this is not your dog.”

The
UT System leadership did the survey. It is they who need to decide what to do
with the results. I cannot imagine them really doing anything for there is only
one solution that will make a difference and the UT System has had ample reason
to do that and has so far refused to do it.

I
know what I would do if I was Dr. Greenberg or incoming Chancellor McRaven. In
fact, I am surprised the former head of the Navy SEALS doesn’t want this beach
front cleared before he swims ashore, but that’s up to him and he knows way
more about combat than I.

Today’s
headlines in the Chronicle suggest that the war between the Legislature and the
Regents is not over and surely Chancellor McRaven will have to deal with that.
It would seem to me that the Regents ought to clear the decks for him by
sending in the SEALS in Houston so he can concentrate on his problem in Austin.
Who needs a two-front war?

This
is all way above my former pay-grade.

I
do know that the MD Anderson faculty, Faculty Senate, Division Heads and
department chairs can all stand down. The latest skirmish was initiated by UT
System. Let them deal with it.

When
it comes to developing a response to the results of the latest faculty survey,
this is not your dog.

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