Tradition Is Everything
I spent a recent weekend at Duke Medical Center. The BW (Beautiful Wife aka Dr. Kleinerman) is on the Medical Alumni Council for the medical school and we got basketball tickets to the first game of the year on Monday night, November 7. (Of course, Duke won!)
I was able to attend many of the events over the weekend which is also Medical Alumni Weekend. One theme overwhelms all others. Duke means excellence.
All of us who have ever gone to school or trained there in any capacity were indoctrinated with the idea that our personal behavior, our careers, our achievements reflect on the greater Duke community and that community is dedicated to excellence in all things—from medicine to basketball.
MD Anderson used to have an annual banquet that highlighted its excellence. We called it the Prom, but it really was a black-tie dinner that celebrated the careers of the newly retired. They received their retirement portraits then. They were roasted and gave speeches of gratitude. It reminded everyone of the faculty what MD Anderson excellence is about.
I know that world is gone. The Prom is no more once the Houston Post got a hold of the cost of it and that it was funded by the revenues from the Physicians Referral Service. I miss it.
At Duke, the Medical Alumni Weekend serves the same function of celebrating a series of awardees—current faculty and graduates who have excelled (the BW received one of these a few years back)—and reminding all those in attendance of their personal responsibility to maintain Duke excellence for the next generation of trainees and students. And it always works. Works being defined as being inspirational, donation-generating, and providing a feeling of oneness among all those who participate. Duke is great. Giants made it so. Giants continue to do so. Everyone has a part to play to continue the tradition.
MD Anderson could use a little of that. Actually, it could use a lot of it. There were once giants at MD Anderson. Are there any today besides Jim Allison?
There simply must be some cognizance on the part of the MD Anderson leadership of the past greatness and what made it possible. It was not uniformity of behavior, outside counsels, or awards for a diverse workforce. It was great clinical care, cutting edge research, and above all landmark clinical investigation.
If Dr. Pisters wants us to take him seriously, he needs to start taking the past seriously. He didn’t get to run the number one place for cancer care on his own, but he sure can take it down a notch on his own with the help of those around him.
Go read about how MD Anderson came to be and became the number one place for cancer care. Then, tell us how you will continue the great tradition. Or in this case, start it up again.
It is clear to me from my interactions with a number of current faculty that what was once MD Anderson pride has faded. I assure you it has not faded at Duke both because of and despite of various leaders over the years. Duke was always about the faculty, the students, and the alumni.
MD Anderson would do well to refocus on faculty excellence, extending that excellence with great training, and honoring alumni who have made an impact on the world of cancer care. The Faculty Convocation is a start thanks to the Faculty Senate. What has the leadership done for the tradition lately? Or even over the last twenty years?
MD Anderson has been through a long stretch of poor leadership. Conflict of interest, self-dealing, and administrative nonsense have supplanted what was once a sterling culture as the gem of the UT System. It’s time to get a real physician-scientist with oncology credentials leading the cancer center again. The sooner, the better.