No Drama Biden

No Drama Biden; No Drama Pisters


Leonard Zwelling

Is the 2020 presidential race mirroring the selection process for a new MD Anderson president of a few years ago? I think so.

In 2011, Ron DePinho became president of MD Anderson after a 15- year run by John Mendelsohn that was screamingly successful for the first five years and seemed to reach a peak in about 2001 with the Enron and ImClone scandals slowing Mendelsohn’s ability to keep the pace of acceleration going. MD Anderson was still a major force under Mendelsohn up until his departure in 2011, but never again really had the energy it had from 1996 through 2001.

The coming of DePinho was a notable change and not for the better. DePinho had delusions of grandeur and power and plans for the commercialization of the MD Anderson’s chief assets—its name and its faculty. This was not a good plan and eventually DePinho even wore out his beneficiaries in Austin and was stepped down. At that point everyone from the faculty in Houston to the Chancellor in Austin wanted peace and quiet more than anything. In Peter Pisters, the institution got a steady hand on the tiller, a calming voice at the podium, and some pretty good decisions when covid hit the country and the hospital.

I think that the United States is looking for a Peter Pisters-like figure to sit in the Oval Office and give everyone a rest from the tumult that has been the Donald Trump presidency. That may well be Joe Biden as the article from The New York Times of October 19 suggests when it shows how members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints have gravitated to Biden after ignoring Hillary Clinton in 2016 and how this may influence the outcome in Arizona, the only swing state with a significant Mormon population.

There’s a lot to be said for peace and quiet. The streets of America are anything but as both extremists on the left and those on the right demonstrate, riot and shoot one another while destroying private property at the same time. All this is going on simultaneously with Americans trying to cope with the coronavirus outbreak and mixed messaging from Trump’s pandemic team ranging from Trump’s rallies without social distancing to Tony Fauci’s insistence that masks are essential. Which is it? Where is the CDC in all of this and who trusts that the FDA will actually make a decision about a vaccine that will be in the best interests of Americans? Do you?

`     Leadership takes many forms and the form good leadership takes may be heavily influenced by what came before it.

Peter Pisters has been a quiet, steady figure at the top of the MD Anderson food chain. If I had to characterize his first few years, even with the challenge of the coronavirus, I would call them calming. Where DePinho was all Brownian motion and bluster, Pisters is quiet doggedness trying to get past the virus on to the next chapter. What ever plans he might have had for expansion of the cancer center have to await the passage of the viral threat. In that way he may have been the perfect choice to follow DePinho and lead through the pandemic.

Joe Biden may well prove to be the same for the threat of the contagion will not abate before Election Day or even before Inauguration Day. It will take a master politician to get the country vaccinated when that becomes reality soon and I don’t think Donald Trump has it in him to do this.

`     Just as Peter Pisters may have been the perfect steward of MD Anderson after the turmoil of Ron DePinho, Joe Biden may be the calming salve after the inflammation that has been Donald Trump. At least I hope so.

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