How Low Can the Bar Go?

How Low Can the Bar Go?


Leonard Zwelling

         A rabbi, a priest and an Episcopalian bishop walk into the

         A clown, a man with a duck on his head and a nun walk into the bar…NO

         A midget, a giant and Jimmy Carter walk into the bar…NO

         Michael Jackson walks into the bar and chases everyone else

         A lawyer passes the bar.

         Ah, that’s news!

         “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.” This is
from Shakespeare’s Henry the Sixth and it has come to represent the general
contempt for attorneys, until you need one. Then they are indispensable.

         Unfortunately, I should know because among the first things
that happened to me as a new administrator and Associate Vice President was
being sued along with my then-boss, David Hohn, in federal district court by a
faculty member. The Office of General Counsel (OGC) in Austin sent in the
attorneys from UT to represent us. The leader of the legal team from OGC was a
man named Dan Fontaine. I assume you have heard of him. That’s right. I am partially
responsible for Dan ever setting foot on MD Anderson’s campus.

         He got our case dismissed and caught the fancy of in-coming
President John Mendelsohn and the rest is history. Dan did not come with
clowns, rabbis or men with ducks on their heads. As an attorney he was top
drawer, but as an administrator at Anderson, not so much.

is very smart and a truly gifted lawyer, but he tends to get crossways with the
faculty and make pronouncements about things he knows less well than he knows the
law, like computer programs (i.e., Resource One). This can get you into trouble
and it has for Dan who is not loved by the bulk of the people who make the
money that pays his salary (the clinical faculty), and I understand that salary
has grown to tremendous proportions since he egressed Mr. Leach’s org chart box
and entered the President’s.

he has the ear of the new President, another man who likes to talk about things
he knows little about (e.g., clinical oncology), and most people with whom I
speak have taken it for granted that the latest counterattack against me in the
Cancer Letter was Dan’s doing. I must admit, I doubt it.

Dan Fontaine who I knew was far too clever to resort to name calling and
labeling me disgruntled. First, I am totally gruntled as I have written before.
I have never been happier than I have been in the past 7 months since my firing
from Legacy. I just happen to be lucky enough to be able to retire and do what
I love (write) and not what I don’t (administrate). Frankly, as my recent op-ed
in the Chronicle suggests, I really feel awful for the rest of the doctors
still trying to practice medicine given the level to which nursing and
operations standards have dropped in clinical medicine. The number of emails I
have received from other recently hospitalized people (and all were in
different TMC in-patient units) echoing my dreadful in-patient experience suggests
that the bar in medicine is dropping so low, so fast that no one would walk into
a bar if it was in the lobby of a hospital unless they were highly skilled at
limbo (look it up). And ObamaCare is not likely to make that any better.

don’t believe that Mr. Fontaine would write that response to the Cancer Letter.
The Dan Fontaine I knew would have formulated the specific “Conflict-of-interest (COI) management
plan” and told the world exactly what it is to be and how it aligned with
Anderson’s COI policy or would have refuted my arguments point by point.
Instead, the Anderson response attacked me and glibly alluded to following the
COI policy as always. Really? Aveo? CNBC?

That response could have been written by that guy at the end of the bar with the duck on his

asked why he had just seen his analyst, the duck said, “I need to find a way to
get this guy off my ass”.   

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