E-Mail Entitlement, T-Cell Cancer Biology and Weighing the Relative Value of Each: Plus the Speech to Congress-What Leadership Looks Like

E-Mail Entitlement, T-Cell
Cancer Biology and Weighing the Relative Value of Each: Plus the Speech to
Congress-What Leadership Looks Like

By

Leonard Zwelling

         The NY Times had two stories on March 3 of relevance to the
current fracas plaguing MD Anderson. And, then there’s the speech.

(http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/us/politics/hillary-clintons-use-of-private-email-at-state-department-raises-flags.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=first-column-region&region=top-news&WT.nav=top-news&_r=0)

         The first cites former Secretary of State and likely
Democratic Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton as having used a private
email account while leading an official government cabinet agency. This is putatively
against the rules regarding the integrity of the email’s security and the
ability of government servers to retain them all as is required by law.
Apparently she is not the first Secretary of State to use private email and
John Kerry is the first not to, but it brings up a recurrent Clinton theme of
entitlement.

         When I was a staffer in the US Senate, I had to use Senate
email for all official communications. I could access my MD Anderson account,
but it could not be used for any government business of any kind. If a lowly
Senate staffer knew this, surely the Secretary or someone in her office who
received emails from her must have known it, too. Her husband always said that
if Americans “worked hard and played by the rules” they would be get ahead. I
guess the rules don’t apply to him or to his wife. But we knew that.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/03/science/arming-the-immune-system-against-cancer.html?ref=science&_r=0

         The NY Times also published an interview of MD Anderson
Chair of Immunology Jim Allison by Claudia Dreifus in the Science section. Dr.
Allison’s pioneering work in T-cell recognition and the description of
checkpoints has led to significant breakthroughs in novel cancer treatments and
may well lead to a Nobel Prize, which would be the first in MD Anderson’s
history.

         These two stories got me to thinking about relative value in
the face of moral relativism. Let’s say that Dr. Allison does win the Nobel
Prize. Was it worth putting up with the DePinho nonsense to get him here as
full credit has to go to Dr. DePinho’s recruiting efforts and pocketbook in this regard?

         Believe it or not this is not an uncommon dilemma for large
institutions including those in academia.

         Is
it worth having a misbehaving womanizer on the faculty if that faculty member
brings in huge amounts of grant money and is on the cutting edge of an
important area in biomedical research?

         Is it worth having the integrity of an institution
undermined because its leadership is caught up in conflicts of interest?

         Is it worth hiring a recently released white collar felon as
a corporate leader because the felon is smart and just clever enough to bend
the rules and make a little extra money for the organization? (This happens
more than you know).

         Are Dr. DePinho and his first-rate recruits worth the trouble and
embarrassment that continues to dog his administration, and, by reflection, MD
Anderson and the UT System?

         These are decisions for corporate boards, UT System
leadership and, on occasion, law enforcement.

         On a third note, there can be no doubt about the ability of
Bibi to bring the House (and Senate) roaring down. If you did not hear the
speech he gave Tuesday morning, pull it up on any of a number of web sites and
see a master politician in action.

         First he praised President Obama and all that he has done
for Israel. He then ripped the deal the President is negotiating to shreds.
Iran causes trouble in its own neighborhood, exports terror and wishes the
destruction of the state of Israel.  They
have been on this war path since 1979 and have shown no interest in getting off
it. Even if a deal is struck on Iranian nuclear non-proliferation, under the
terms known about the US’s offer, the infrastructure to create nuclear weapons
will not be fully dismantled as Israel thinks it should be and the deal will be
for only 10 years anyway, meaning in 2025, the Iranians can breakout to be a
nuclear power as North Korea is today. This is far too short a period in the
history of the world to keep the lid on Iranian nuclear ambitions.

         Bibi made it clear that Israel cannot tolerate such a deal
without saying what Israel would do if the P5 plus 1 cut the deal with Iran along
the lines he outlined. He did make it clear that Israel will stand alone if
need be as the only democracy in that dangerous neighborhood and essentially
stuck his tongue out at the American President with the Republicans (and some
Democrats) cheering him on.

         So consider all of this. How much should an organization
compromise its integrity to gain some fame or material wealth? What are the
first principles that should never be denied or side-stepped? Discovery?
Caring? Integrity? Have they been at MD Anderson since Dr. DePinho’s arrival?

        How
close to extinction can ignoring those principles bring an organization?

         Netanyahu made his case clearly. Let’s hope the Chancellor
can do half as well in two weeks.

Also: please check out the new blog by my former NCI boss Vince DeVita called DeVita on Cancer:

http://vincenttdevitajrmdoncancer.blogspot.com

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