What The Trump Family Could Learn From The MD Anderson Faculty

What The Trump Family Could Learn From The MD Anderson Faculty


Leonard Zwelling

While there are always exceptions to the rule, it is a reasonable axiom that experience counts in leadership and that ethical behavior derives from an internal sense of right and wrong.

The team still being assembled in the White House is inexperienced and ethically compromised and the faculty of MD Anderson has seen enough of both of these in the past five years to be able to cue in America that this is not at all what is needed, in Houston or Washington.

Dr. DePinho came to the leadership of MD Anderson with little experience in running a large and complex care delivery center and it showed right away. His initial speeches displayed what turned out to be a fatal combination of arrogance and naiveté that the faculty discerned immediately. It is even my contention that those who said “give him a chance” were blind to the obvious that he was way over his head and had little chance of ever coming to the surface. I am sure that Dr. Mendelsohn felt overwhelmed during his early days in the job in 1996, but at least he had run (actually founded) a cancer center and was a real oncologist. He had been a major player in cancer academia for years and was well-known to many in the cancer community including many of the faculty of MD Anderson when he arrived. None of this was the case with Dr. DePinho. He was a risky bet with long odds that did not pay off. What a surprise! Not!

Then, to make matters worse, Dr. DePinho exhibited not the least bit of ethics when stretching the norms of nepotism, conflict of interest, and self-dealing. There was not a core value he did not violate within days of arriving. He was a bad hire and should have been removed within a year of assuming the presidency. That it took another five years is a testament to the incompetence of those overseeing the operations of the UT System in Austin. I am not sure that has improved at all. We’ll see as people in those same positions select the next president of MD Anderson.

But the faculty surely has grown wiser and the faculty could inform the American people that nepotism (Ivanka and Jared), conflict of interest (where are those tax returns?), and self-dealing (hosting foreign leaders at Mar-a- Loco), are not good decisions by the current President of the United States. After all, Ivanka handed her company to her relatives and Jared couldn’t possibly know more about the Middle East than the experts who have been working on the problem for years. He doesn’t quite get that he was born on third base and did not hit a triple. The “kid may stay in the picture,” but he shouldn’t be directing.

Perhaps I will be proven wrong and the Trump Administration will prove successful in the end. I doubt it. It is breaking every rule that DePinho broke and undoubtedly the same result will obtain.

Just ask the faculty of MD Anderson what is likely to happen as it waits with bated breath to see who the new leader of MD Anderson will be. Hopefully he or she has relatives that have their own jobs outside the health care field.

The last thing MD Anderson needs is another Ivanka as a department chair.

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