Ron’s Beaker Runneth Over: Cheers!

Ron’s Beaker Runneth Over: Cheers!


Leonard Zwelling

I have a theory.

I am pretty sure it’s absolutely perfect in predicting one’s longevity at an academic institution. The problem is that I can’t prove it because it’s a tautology. Saying it’s true can only be the case when it is proven to be so. Here it goes anyway.

At MD Anderson, everyone is a beaker.

The size of one’s beaker is not known and is changing all the time.

Not only are you a beaker, you are beaker filling with bright, colorful liquid.

You are never sure how full your constantly morphing, ineluctably filling beaker is.

BUT, the moment your beaker fills and the liquid starts to run over, you are gone.

I cannot prove this because it, like so many things in life, only seems obvious retrospectively. Everything makes sense looking backward in time. Even Trump’s victory.

My beaker filled. My wife’s filled. Many, many of my friends had their beakers filled and many in the last six years.

Dr. Mendelsohn’s beaker filled as I am still not sure why he “stepped down” when he did. His beaker liquid was money green.

On Wednesday, March 8 Dr. DePinho’s beaker ran over. I am sure the beaker had shrunk from the size of a bathtub to that of a thimble over the past five and half years and I am sure his overflowing liquid was blood red.

Obviously, this tautology is really just a metaphor for what my boss Margaret Kripke used to say so few people did well—leaving the party when they were still having fun. That would be before your beaker filled up. She actually did it. Women are better managers of their beakers I think.

Now with Dr. DePinho’s blood-colored beaker contents on the floor, it is time to hire a temporary presidential beaker, Dr. Hicks, and then have a search for a Beaker Maximus.

Let’s hope the blend of clinical acumen, research experience, and managerial chops can be found and soon.

In the mean time, I suggest that the likely leaders, Hicks and Hahn (a group of rural Americans plus a hired cowpoke?), do everything in their power to heal the institution. I think a detailed assessment of where cuts can be made in the budget would be a great start along with a true strategic planning exercise that captures the imagination of the entire faculty and staff. That plan should be on the desk of the next president on day one of his or her tenure.

I still do believe that most of the FORDs (Friends of Ron DePinho) need to move along and vacate the positions they currently hold and that includes virtually all of the Division Heads who allowed this carnage to continue for as long as it did.

Twenty years ago, when an MD Anderson Vice President tried to do away with the Division Heads, they rose as a group and filled the beaker of that vice president with a fire hose. He was gone. That should have happened with the just resigned president four years ago, but the Division Heads were too meek and the undermining of MD Anderson’s clinical juggernaut was underway. Of course, the DePinho propensity to fill usually empty beakers didn’t help either. There were many good people who he hurt and many inferior ones who he hired. I have no sympathy for either DePinho. This is justice.

But let’s look forward to the day of larger beakers and slower filling streams. There is no need for any cups to runneth over that do not earneth it.

Here’s to empty cups. L’Chaim!

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