Convocation: Hope And Change

Convocation: Hope And Change


Leonard Zwelling

The trumpets are gone. There was no brass of any kind. The band was a guitar, a flute and a violin. The New Agey sounds were only interrupted by the recorded martial music for the presentation of the colors. This was the MD Anderson Faculty Honors Convocation of 2017.

Faculty Senate Chair Osama Mawlawi summed up the state of the institution pretty well by relating the hard times of the financial short falls, the RIFs, the elimination of the past leadership team and the damage done by Hurricane Harvey. But once that was out of the way, the good news began.

The finances of MD Anderson have recovered, probably simply through additional faculty effort and putting a halt to exorbitant spending. There is a new team approach to the shared governance of the organization and a reorganization that portends a sense of hope along with all of the changes that the institution has survived.

In-coming President Pisters delivered a welcome message of receptive, transparent leadership that will continue the changes made since March and originate a new dawn of servant leadership not seen at MD Anderson since 1996.

I loved this phrase. This will be an institution of with a “values-based approach and a strong moral compass.” Amen to that! And just to prove he put his money where his mouth is, Dr. Pisters has eliminated all financial conflicts of interest BEFORE he has to be told to. Good for him!

Dr. Pisters wants to be held accountable and I think there is a real good chance that he means it. He also wants each and every person at MD Anderson to hold himself or herself accountable for their “impactful words, impactful attitude, and impactful work.”

The rest of the celebration of the faculty went according to plan. Each recipient of the awards was worthy and gracious. I was struck in particular that some of those winners I had known as junior faculty members years before and they have certainly grown and made significant contributions to cancer care and to science. A special shout out to Donna Weber for donating her award check to the cancer patients of Puerto Rico cared for by ex-faculty leader Dr. Fernando Cabinillas.

You couldn’t help but be impressed that the pall that has been over MD Anderson for so long has officially lifted. Sure much will be expected of Dr. Pisters and the team he puts in place, but I sense a real atmosphere of welcome change and hope for a better tomorrow.

Being the grouch that I am, I sure would like to see that “Making Cancer History” phrase put into moth balls and the “Moon Shot” nonsense go away. But I digress.

For now let’s enjoy the moment. This may have been the first real celebration of the faculty in a long time that took place in an environment of both hope and change.

I think this is going to be good.

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