Amateurs Need Not Apply

Amateurs Need Not Apply, But They Often Get Chosen


Leonard Zwelling

My last administrative job at MD Anderson, or for sure the last the leadership would let me have, was as the Director of the Pharmaceutical Development Center. This was a small group of faculty drug developers that was part of Experimental Therapeutics. At one point, the powers that be wanted to bring in an outside group to essentially partner with the PDC. My assessment of these outsiders was that they were amateurs who had never really developed anything and that MD Anderson could do a lot better if a partnership to aid drug development was in the strategic plan. My assessment infuriated the people who had put the deal together and once again I found myself in hot water. I had a propensity for sauna-like conditions when it came to administration especially once Dr. Kripke had retired. It’s not that I didn’t get into trouble when she was still here. I did. It is just that she could see the net positive I tried to contribute. Her successors, not so much.

It turned out that I was right and I am not at all sure whatever happened to the PDC or the partnership. I was long gone soon after.

In watching The Donald assemble his Cabinet and leadership group, I am again reminded of the danger of installing amateurs into positions of great responsibility where the skill sets called for exceed the ones the appointees have by logs.

Trump has installed a climate change denier as head of EPA.

He has named a wrestling magnate to run the Small Business Administration.

Ben Carson will run HUD which is frightening on at least two levels. He knows nothing about providing housing for the disadvantaged and he never struck me as particularly smart in any case. My sources say his surgical reputation is largely overblown and his move into public service, if that is what this is, may be his attempt at career readjustment or salvation.

General Flynn seems to tweet fake news. How comforting! And he doesn’t even require Senate confirmation.

The Secretary of Labor designate doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage and would rather replace American employees with robots as the machines complain less and demand fewer benefits.

An oil executive and FOP, Friend of Putin, is Trump’s Secretary of State-designate. I know he can make oil deals but what about peace treaties?

The Haircut will be his Secretary of Energy which would be laughable if it wasn’t so sad. How long can these people go on with careers that are not propped up by accomplishments? Obviously, quite a while.

Trump has named billionaires and Wall Street people as well. He isn’t draining the swamp. He is restocking it with alligators, and snakes.

This reminds me of my favorite site of mischief besides Washington, 1515 Holcombe.

Here as well, Dr. DePinho has seemed to name amateurs to positions of great responsibility. As far as I can tell, only one Division Head remains from the pre-Ron Era and this current group pales by comparison to its predecessor. The executive team is laughable as was evident in the recent Managers’ Forum and press conference at which that group really seemed to have no idea what to do about the looming deficit beyond suggesting that Dr. Buchholz write grants and Dr. DePinho administer radiotherapy. Two terrible ideas. Can layoffs be far off? (I wrote this two weeks ago and I guess I was prescient.)

You have to be impressed that on so many levels the amateurs have risen to the major leagues without the game to go with the positions they are being asked to play.

The consequences at MD Anderson are already obvious. I fear what will happen in DC when these AAA players meet the Putins, Merkels and Erdogans of the big leagues.

Both the new Cabinet and the current MD Anderson executives could write the same letter home.

Dear Ma, be home soon. They’re throwing curve balls.

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