Faculty Dining Club

Faculty Dining Club: A Necessary Adjunct To The MD Anderson Mission


Leonard Zwelling

There was so much that was wonderful about MD Anderson in 1984 when we got here.

The collegiality among the faculty was unbelievable. We were helped so much by all those around us from Josh Fidler to Norman Jaffe to Mike Siciliano and Walter Hittleman. Of course, we had come from the NIH where the only benefit was the ability to shop at the Walter Reed Commissary. We came to a place where the Physicians’ Referral Service gave us a benefits package that was clearly the best in the world from the leasing of my Porsche to the subsidized dining at the Anderson Mayfair Hotel and its dining club. This club was not limited to faculty but it served as a meeting place for faculty and administrative staff to get away from the clinics and labs across the street and unwind at lunch. It also served as a cauldron for great research ideas. More than a few RO1 and PO1 federal grants were born at the lunch tables of the Anderson Mayfair Hotel which stood where the Faculty Center is now.

Once the Anderson Mayfair came down, a Faculty Club was established on the 11th floor of the LeMaistre Clinic and the collaborative environment was preserved even if table service was gone and supplanted by a cafeteria line and a soup and salad bar. It still was a laboratory of collaboration and innovation and a really good place to complain about the administration (this was before I became part of it).

That Faculty Club too is gone and has not really been replaced. This is unfortunate for a number of reasons.

First, a faculty needs an oasis away from the hustle of the clinics and the intensity of the lab for an hour a day. A faculty club would serve that function well whether it be in the Mays Clinic, the Faculty Center, or the main hospital.

Second, despite what current leadership believes and as nice a thought as “one MD Anderson” is, the faculty of this place is special. MD Anderson has two key assets—its name and its faculty. The faculty members are not just employees like everyone else among the 20,000. They are the engine that drives the mission. They care for the patients, do the research, and instruct the trainees. They have a unique skill set, as do the nurses and others, but to be a faculty member at MD Anderson ought to mean more than simply being another employee among 20,000. Sorry, Dr. Pisters. I just don’t buy the “one MD Anderson” idea. The faculty are special. They are the innovators. They are the creative force. They are the income generators. They deserve a physical respite of their own and it ought to be well-designed and faculty centric.

Third, having such a place will improve the care of patients through curbside consults and the research through unexpected collaboration. It is good for MD Anderson to have such a place.

I understand that modern management techniques might want to level the playing field among employees and that one group of employees should not be singled out as more important. Unfortunately, academic medicine doesn’t work that way as any true academic would know. Many other academic centers and hospitals have faculty dining rooms and the faculty really value that space and the conversation that goes on within the space. It is simply foolish not have such a space at Anderson today. Bring back the Faculty Dining Room. Stat!

4 thoughts on “Faculty Dining Club”

  1. Faculty dining rooms are viewed by administrations as potential cauldrons of faculty insurrections. The same is true for allowing faculty access to mailing lists. I doubt that faculty dining rooms have been eliminated for reasons of inequality or a perception of elitism.

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your plea for a Faculty Club.
    At the Mayo Clinic, the “University Club” served as an essential place for our lunch and conversations that strengthened all our missions. We individually paid the bill, and the Kahler Hotel provided the space, kitchen and staff.
    At Roper Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, the staff dining room has been a wonderful place to get to know colleagues, welcome new doctors, discuss referrals, and catch up on families. One of our late surgeon, Dr Larry Lamelle, bequeathed enough money to provide over 10,000 lunches after his death.
    The essence of “having a meal around the campfire” is ancient in its benefits to those who gather to share not only food but also ideas. Where there is a will for a Faculty Dining Room, there must be a way at MD Anderson to revive it. Stay your course toward revival!

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