EXTRA: Close To A Whitewash

Close To A Whitewash


Leonard Zwelling



         I am five time zones from you as I write this. I didn’t get
on the Chronicle web site until 11 PM
your time on Sunday when I read the above article. I am sure many of you have
already read it.

         I have no intention of quibbling about the sentences in
which I am quoted because while they were selected from a very long interview at
my kitchen table many months ago, they seem about right.

         My complaint is that in trying to be even handed, Mr.
Hawryluk tends to confuse the reader about something that is rather simple. And
it isn’t what the pictures convey on the web site either. They make Ron look
like the next incarnation of Donald Trump. Hey, wait a minute…

         Here are the questions the article should have answered

1. What was the working strategy at MD Anderson on
September 1, 2011 when Dr. DePinho took the reins and what is it now?

2. Has this strategy been a success in cured cancers,
increased survival rates, new drug developments, and an economic betterment of
the institution?

3. Is the faculty more or less distinguished than it was
on September 11, 2011 and if so how?

questions can be answered in a far shorter story and the answers are a mixed

1. The strategy of MD Anderson on September of 2011 was
pretty much that of most academic centers as I am quoted as saying in the article.
Charge more for clinical services. Plow the margin back into education and
research. Call it a “margin” not “profit” so that the entity appears to be a
tax-exempt non-profit care center while acting like a drug company for it always
worries about its profit. Now it is pretty much the same with the added
pressure to boost the numbers of patients cared for and the added nuance of
increased associations with the private sector that may or may not be
contributing to the margin.

2. I know of no new cures emanating from work at Anderson
in the past four years, but I could easily be wrong. I also know of no new
drugs approved by the FDA that were invented at MD Anderson.

3. There can be no question that some truly distinguished
scientists have come to Anderson having been recruited by Dr. DePinho but many
have left and surely the clinical prowess of the faculty is diminished with the
leaving or firing of several Division Heads who were supplanted by ad interims and lesser lights.

I think the success of the Chancellor in creating a better environment for a
participatory form of governance with the faculty is greatly overblown and
still remains with the jury out.

think that summarizes the past 4 ½ years reasonably. Oh yes, the morale is
still awful. The tension can be cut with a knife and the fear escalates on a
daily basis.

job, Ron! At least you fooled the Chronicle.

for you EMR fans out there: check this out from a brother of mine:

2 thoughts on “EXTRA: Close To A Whitewash”

  1. Have journalists turned into stenographers? Don't they investigate anymore? Maybe faculty stopped writing to McRaven because they decided it was a useless endeavor. Or she might have asked the AAUP why MDA was censured – it was more than just term tenure. It involved abuse of power on de Pinho's part.

    1. Yes, that power has been abused is not a question. While this story got loose with some facts and was far too positive in its early paragraphs, it was a start toward the truth. I suspect the reporter was severely constrained in what he could write given the cozy relationship between the Chronicle and MD Anderson (full page ads). After having published 30 op eds in the paper since 2009, I cannot get them to accept anything I write any longer. It can't be a coincidence. It reflects the state of journalism President Obama spoke about yesterday. Poor.

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