Leonard Zwelling

Reckoning: being held accountable

That’s the definition I want to address today.

I often had to deal with reckoning when I was a vice president at MD Anderson.  That was because my major role was to be the research cop. Basically, I was the designated inmate for all misdeeds by the faculty in the course of their doing all kinds of research. Violations of federal human subjects protection rules or FDA regulations were mine to identify and fix. Ditto offenses to federal animal care and use policy and biosafety infringements. If there was an allegation of research misconduct, I had to do the inquiry and investigation mandated by the Office of Research Integrity in Bethesda. And if there was a real or apparent conflict of interest to be resolved, it was for me to resolve. Often, the resolution and reckoning of misdeeds took place in public, in the newspaper or on television. I had to meet the press. Reckonings are not fun for those brought to justice and they aren’t a whole lot of fun for the oversight bodies either. Trying to explain to a camera why the president of MD Anderson did not disclose his ownership in a drug company sponsoring research with patients at Anderson was really unpleasant.

I chose the frontpage article from The Wall Street Journal of June 10 to attach today. I could have used similar ones from The New York Times or Houston Chronicle. The headlines scream the same message. For the first time in American history, a former president is being indicted on federal charges. 37 of them. The most serious of these are alleged violations of the Espionage Act. It is alleged that Mr. Trump knowingly removed documents that were not his to remove from the White House, stored them less than securely at his home in Florida, hid them from the National Archives, and conveyed the contents to other people without the appropriate clearance after he was no longer in office.

There’s a time line in the WSJ piece showing all of Mr. Trump’s current legal woes:

Stormy Daniels-criminally indicted, trial pending

Lying about the value of his real estate-civil case, pending

Defamation of E. Jean Carroll-civil case-Trump found liable

January 6 violence-pending, under investigation

Georgia election interference-criminal case, pending

Mar-A-Lago documents-criminal case, indicted

Post-election actions and January 6-criminal case, pending

The point is that even if Trump did only 10% of what he’s alleged to have done, he may be on his way to jail if the courts can figure a way to talk his Secret Service protection unit into serving time with him.

Yet, this is the frontrunner for the 2024 GOP presidential nomination. His followers simply do not care that he may have done so much illegally. He’s their guy.

However, federal, state, and local prosecutors are not dissuaded from pursuing civil and criminal cases against the ex-president. The reckoning for Mr. Trump is coming. The wheels of justice grind slowly, but they do grind on. It is not beyond belief that our next president may be living in Leavenworth instead of the White House albeit with armed protection in the next cell.

I also point to the presidency of MD Anderson going back to the tenure of John Mendelsohn that was initially very successful and then rife with scandal. Unfortunately for me, I had to do the answering when the press came to MD Anderson seeking a reckoning about ImClone and Enron and Dr. Mendelsohn’s profiting from his conflict of interest in the former and his sitting on the board of the latter as it collapsed under the weight of criminal activity and lax board oversight.

Then came Dr. DePinho and his tumultuous tenure at the top of the Anderson food chain. He, too, fell victim to self-serving self-dealing and severe conflict of interest as he retained ownership in drug companies while serving as the MD Anderson leader. I am not sure what the final straw was that led to his reckoning, but it was not enough as he is still around and his minions are still running the place under…

Current president Peter Pisters who seemed destined to do better than DePinho (how hard could that be?) and has proven that he is not up to the task as he chases external gold stars while the faculty suffers. At least those who stay suffer. The smart ones are getting out or being driven out by the Pisters Thought Police and his gang of vice presidents.

I don’t know if Dr. Pisters will be forced into a reckoning like his past two predecessors were. Time will tell. The same is true of Donald Trump. He may skate free from all of these charges and return to the White House. In one case it is up to the American people to select a better GOP standard bearer who undoubtedly can beat Joe Biden. It is up to the Anderson faculty to finally deliver Pisters a vote of no confidence and send the message to Austin that a reckoning is again called for.

Dr. Zwelling’s new novel, Conflict of Interest: Money Drives Medicine and People Die is available at:,

on amazon if you search using the title and subtitle,


directly from the publisher Dorrance at:

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