What Would a “Complete Response” to the Results of the MD Anderson Faculty Survey Look Like?

What Would a “Complete
Response” to the Results of the MD Anderson Faculty Survey Look Like?

By

Leonard Zwelling

       Once again a survey of the faculty of MD Anderson has been
completed and the results are in. Once again we learn what we all already knew.
Morale is lousy. Attitudes are terrible. People feel overworked and under
appreciated. Most faculty feel disenfranchised, unheard, unrepresented and
unled. This is not good.

       Up until the independent Austin-generated survey was done and
its results made known, the leadership of the UT System could feign ignorance.
They cannot any longer. They have done a test. They have a result. The patient
is ill. What are they going to do?

       It’s been a long time since I cared for a patient with cancer.
When I did, it was mostly women with breast cancer that filled my clinic. I
don’t think things have changed all that much. A complete response to a therapy
means the cancer is all gone. Period. And if I can remember my oncology, a CR
is what is needed to alter the patient’s chances for long-term survival.

       So what would a complete response on the part of the
leadership of UT and of MD Anderson look like to these latest survey results?

       For sure, additional surveys, committees, task forces and leadership
coaching are not the answer. That’s all been tried and has all failed. No more
consultants either. They cost too much and if no one listens to them, why
bother paying them?

       Reshuffling the org chart is always a good maneuver, but that
won’t work either and besides, Dr. DePinho has done that with the replacement
of Tom Burke, the elevation of Dan Fontaine and the ceding of all the major
day-to-day responsibility to the Provost and CMO. That hasn’t worked either.

       I suppose there will be the pseudo-sincere outcry of support
for the MD Anderson leadership from those within the upper echelons of the
faculty (particularly those with roots in Boston) who perceive they can advance
their own careers by cozying up to the Anderson President and his cabinet. There
will be calls for more Blue Ribbon Panels to assess the right course of action
and the right strategy for Anderson in the topsy-turvy world of health care
reform, decreasing federal grant dollars and shrinking reimbursements for
clinical care. Hand wringing is guaranteed.

       All of that can be done and undoubtedly will be. It will serve
as a temporizing measure to keep the wolf at the door. But the wolf, our enemy,
is here and as Walt Kelly said in Pogo all those many years ago, “we have met
the enemy, and he is us.”

Only
that most precious of assets of the MD Anderson Cancer Center can right the
ship. That’s the faculty.

       If the Executive Vice Chancellor wants to make another trip to
campus, that’s OK, but if all he is going to do is meet, hold hands, and
express his sympathy, please stay in Austin and send in the Navy SEAL you
report to.

       What ails MD Anderson is indeed a cancer eating at its core
values, particularly that of integrity. Frankly, it’s gone. Caring is not far
behind and discovery is only here because the faculty members refuse to give up
on the activities that drive them at their cores: caring for patients, doing research and teaching.

       So here’s my plan for a CR for the Anderson.

1.Treat the primary cause of the cancer

2.Stage it

3.Devise the treatment

4.Implement the therapy in very high
doses with curative intent.

To
cure this patient will take more than a Moon Shot. It will take sunlight or at
least a response to the sunlight revealed by the results of the most recent
survey.

There’s
a story from the HBO show The Newsroom told by Jane Fonda who plays the head of
the network on which the news show of the title appears.

Jesus
and Moses go out to play golf.

Moses
tees off first and hits one right down the middle, 280 yards on the 400 yard
par 4 first hole.

Jesus
steps up and hooks his drive into the woods.

All
of a sudden the sky darkens and the clouds roll in. It begins to rain and the
ball that Jesus hit into the trees floats out on the fairway. An eagle swoops
down and picks up the ball in his talons and flies toward the green. As the
bird nears the hole he releases the ball and it falls in the hole for a
hole-in-one.

Moses
turns to Jesus and says, “do you want to play golf or do you want to screw
around?”

OK,
Dr. Greenberg. Do you want to play golf or do you want to screw around?

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