Aggrieved People

Aggrieved People


Leonard Zwelling

In her always on target column, Peggy Noonan (The Wall Street Journal, July 22) captures the Hollywood writers’ and now actors’ strike thusly:

“It looks more like Lost People without vision vs. Aggrieved People feeling genuine grief.”

The Lost People are the studio executives and the Aggrieved are the writers and actors. It’s the suits vs. the talent. The suits have lost sight of what the public wants and certainly how to make money after the Covid rush to streaming and the writers and actors are feeling the crunch of fewer films being made and getting an unfair cut of the revenue that is due them. They are also worried about artificial intelligence taking their places. After all, if you fed the over 400 Law and Order scripts into a computer and asked it to write an updated episode, Chat GPT might well be able to come up with a good enough script then use AI to generate Sam Waterston 30 years ago. Why pay a writers’ room or actors when software can do the trick?

Noonan goes on to add this:

“They’re now trying to dig themselves out of the hole. Charitable gloss: They did their best as a historic plague collided with a technological revolution. Less charitable read: They made blunder after blunder and will now cut to reduce costs as uncreatively as they spent.” She’s talking about the studio execs, of course.

If there was ever a better description of life at MD Anderson, I’ve not seen it.

The cancer center’s leadership is completely out of touch with the reality on the ground of ever-increasing burdens on the faculty’s time and far less opportunity for creativity in clinical care, clinical research, or basic and prevention research due to the triple burden of the electronic medical record, endless training modules, and the fear of being not quite professional enough to ward off dismissal at the hands of the Pisters Squad. This also suggests the real solution for the hard-working clinicians and scientists who really advance the mission of the cancer center while the execs and their faculty faves frolic in a Rocky Mountain high (see The Aspen Times article by Lynda Edwards on July 19).

The men and women of creative Hollywood have a lesson for the men and women of creative MD Anderson. The faculty needs to send a message to Pisters and his minions that they want to return to the mission of actually making progress against cancer rather than worry about the latest rating from a lay publication, the threat to their tenure status, and the innate lack of merit in a system that treasures diversity over documented accomplishment. Furthermore, it is time for true shared governance as the Regents Rules proscribe and a replacement of the executive team that is both incompetent and unworthy of their huge salaries.

Is the faculty of MD Anderson really ready to say that the writers and actors of Hollywood are more creative and tougher negotiators than they are?

Let’s start small. How about a “no confidence” vote in the Faculty Senate for this current leadership team, and a list of demands including a faculty dining room, proof that the electronic medical record saves time, money and improves patient care, and a meaningful addressing of faculty burnout by the leadership.

And then someone ought to write it all down. It would make a great movie if the writers and actors ever get back to making them.

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:

2 thoughts on “Aggrieved People”

  1. The disconnect between the “head shed” (Executive Suite) and what the “worker bees” are doing is common in so many professions. Years ago, the military figured out how to keep generals in touch with the grunts or the flight line crews or the sailor swabbing the deck.
    They have to do a certain number of hours at the operational level each month. For example, an Air Force General pilot has to fly at least four hours a month. An Army Airborne General has to jump out of planes with the troops. The Admiral has to spend a few days at sea.
    I wonder what it would be like for the physician executives to have to do a full-day clinic once a month, or a surgeon to assist in the operating room. Losing touch of what goes on in the “front line” of any profession is tantamount to strategic mistakes at the Executive level.

    1. Leonard Zwelling

      That is precisely right and I am not surprised the military figured out how to combat it. We ought to take the lesson. I was always a walking around type of manager. People also tell you stuff when you are down in the trenches with them.

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