Wishful Rumors About The Next MD Anderson President

Wishful Rumors About The Next MD Anderson President


Leonard Zwelling

I got an email. A friend was checking in with me about what I had heard with regard to who the finalists are for the MD Anderson presidency. From at least two sources, I have been told that the advisory committee to the search committee has completed its task and handed four names to the Regents. The email contained two names of people who I knew who my friend said were in the running. Through some research I discovered that one of the names was completely in error. It is even possible that the other name is as well. In other words, those who know aren’t talking and those talking don’t know. This is as it should be, I suppose. At least the first part of the last sentence ought to be operational. I happen to believe that at this point, all four finalists (if that is even true) ought to make public appearances at MD Anderson and give a one-hour presentation of their vision for the future to the MD Anderson community at-large with the Regents in attendance. Now THAT would be an open, transparent process. God forbid!

It is probably safe to assume that most of us have no idea who the four finalists are, if their identification by the pre-committee is itself a fact.

So rather than express what someone else might have told us who knows no more than we do, why not express the traits we would like to see in a new president.

Personal integrity is number one for me. We cannot have any repeat performances of either nepotism, self-dealing, conflict of interest or corporate shenanigans to interfere with the duties of the next leader of this state-supported cancer center whose primary constituency are its patients and the people of Texas. By the way, its primary products are good care and truth, not money.

Honesty would be nice, too. A clear elucidation of the plan and the strategy for success as well as clear definition of the metrics and parameters of that success are also in order.

Emotional intelligence may be more critical than IQ. How the next president treats people from the major donors to the cafeteria workers is a major indicator of personal stature and comfort in his or her own skin.

Academic intelligence, too. I don’t care what field of research the individual excelled in, although I still favor someone who has invented a treatment for human cancer, but the person must know what research is and what it takes to do it. Further, the person must know what a patient looks like and feels like. If the individual has been a patient himself or herself, even better. Trust me, there is nothing more clarifying for a physician than being dependent on other physicians and nurses for his or her life. I should know.

Business sachel. That’s Yiddish for street smarts. I would not like to see a pure academic with no management or financial knowledge get this job. We have been through that already. It is not a path to success.

Finally, I would like someone who values and is good at human relations to be the next leader of MD Anderson. His or her success will live or die on this most valuable of assets. The best work most of us have ever done, we have done with others. The relationships the next president develops with the faculty, the staff, the donors, the Regents, the legislature and the patients will be critical to returning MD Anderson to its rightful place atop American oncology.

I have absolutely no idea who the candidates for the presidency are although I can believe it is down to the Final Four. Let’s hope those in the NCAA—Next Cancer Alte Administrator—committee, aka The Regents, can make a better choice than they did last time. I know, how much worse can it get? Actually, I don’t know that either.

I know I don’t want to find out.

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