Glasnost And Perestroika At MD Anderson
With the death of Mikhail Gorbachev (see Maureen Dowd’s piece from The New York Times on September 2), the triumph of the end of the Cold War in 1989 is remembered fondly next to the war in Ukraine. The two principles for which Gorbachev was famous were glasnost (openness) and perestroika (restructuring). Perhaps the faculty of MD Anderson needs to revive these Cold War principles in its attempt to gain some responsiveness from the leadership of the institution.
Gorbachev was a rock star after the successive deaths of three old line Soviet leaders including the bear-like Brezhnev.
Gorby’s forward-looking leadership for his declining empire allowed the countries of Eastern Europe to break free of the Iron Curtain and many have subsequently joined NATO. The Soviet Union is no more and the world is better for it, despite what Mr. Putin believes about it being the worst occurrence of the 20th century. The key to remember, despite the current backsliding regime in The Kremlin, is that the USSR is over and only Russia remains. That Putin has visions of restoring the USSR is of no relevance. He can’t even win back Ukraine or Ukrainians. Gorbachev changed the world forever and did so to improve it. And he did. Europe will not go back to its pre-1989 make-up.
I believe the same to be true and necessary closer to home at 1515 Holcombe. The current leader is trying to claw back the power that R. Lee Clark once wielded, but it’s a new day and that simply won’t fly. He moves against faculty and staff alike using professionalism as his weapon to send “violators” to the Gulag equivalent. People disappear. No one knows why and in that the threat of professionalism becomes a terror tactic and an effective one, too. The president uses outside attorneys to intimidate faculty and staff alike. Dr. Freireich would have called this latest iteration of MD Anderson leadership Soviet-like.
The faculty have to insist upon glasnost and perestroika in Houston.
First, the manner in which disputes will be dealt with must be transparent and written down. The president cannot give free rein to attorneys—inside ones and outside ones—to sow fear into the hearts of the faculty and staff as they are doing even as I write.
Second, the president needs to unload half of his vice presidents and fill the vacancies in the academic department leadership slots and do so within a year or he himself should be perestroika’d out of here.
How can the faculty do this?
There is only one way. The faculty must approach the Board of Regents or the Executive Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs and make them aware of what is transpiring at MD Anderson. All attempts to handle this locally have failed. Heck, the faculty cannot even get its own dining room. The time has long since passed when this nonsense, from the tediousness of the electronic medical record, to the endless series of training videos from HR, should be filling the time of busy people trying to care for patients and perform research.
It took Nixon to go to China and Reagan to urge the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. It’s going to take courage like that to get Dr. Pisters’ attention.
Glasnost and perestroika need to be dragged out of the dust bin of history and re-inserted into discussions at MD Anderson. The sooner, the better.