Leonard Zwelling

In this analysis from The New York Times on May 14, Katie Rogers notes that President Biden promised a return to “normal,” yet has not been perceived as having delivered given the damage done by inflation.

She quotes one of my favorite Republican pollsters Frank Luntz: “their idea of normalcy is: represent me like I deserve to be represented, hear me like I deserve to be heard, fight for me like I deserve to be fought for.” And, “say what you mean, mean what you say, do what you say, get it done.”

I think this gets it exactly right (as Mr. Luntz usually does).

I believe that the American people see in Mr. Biden a used-up President. He did what he could. He’s got no more in him. He’s too old.

I was struck how this resonated with several situations in which I find myself at least peripherally.

Institutions are built on their people. The people in turn look to the leadership to guide the direction and profitability of the endeavor. When the institution is floundering or its people feel unheard, the leadership must step up and correct the situation.

At MD Anderson right now, I cannot tell what the direction of the institution is. As a retiree, other than receiving my monthly distribution from the old retirement plan, I really have no bone to pick with the leadership except there seems to be no leadership.

Under Dr. Clark, MD Anderson was formed as a major cancer center.

Dr. LeMaistre introduced cancer prevention into the mission.

Dr. Mendelsohn was all about raising the bar in clinical and laboratory science.

Dr. DePinho wanted to cure cancer but ran into political trouble. Nonetheless, his vision was clear.

With Dr. Pisters, I think the faculty would be happy just to get back to pre-Covid normal. Instead, there seems to be no direction for the institution at all other than collecting accolades of little to no meaning, and making money by increasing patient loads. That’s not normal. Normal is time for the faculty to think and create not stay up three hours after dinner filling in today’s clinic’s Epic charts.

Normal is an administrative support staff that is in fact supportive and not simply proliferating. MD Anderson does not need 26,000 people to fulfill its mission even as fulfilling that mission has become more obtuse.

Non-profit organizations often fall on similar hard times. They confuse their missions, for example the delivery of health care for a non-profit clinic, with the means by which they can be supported which is usually grants and charitable contributions. It is not normal to expect the delivery of the charitable service to make money and no one should think it can be.

Mr. Biden believes himself to be sensitive to the needs of the average American. If he is, he has done a poor job of alleviating some of the economic burdens on the middle class. All most of those people want is normal–job, salary, and provide for the family. As that becomes less and less normal, Mr. Biden fares worse.

Dr. Pisters needs to return to basics as well and display that he has some connection to the everyday stresses of the faculty. Thus far he has not and though he may keep his job, he cannot be considered successful.

Charitable patient care organizations still need to be financially viable and that viability usually does not depend on the activities of performing its charitable mission but rather using those activities to raise funds elsewhere.

Everyone would like to get back to normal. Everyone is waiting.

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