Start With An Opening

Start With An Opening


Leonard Zwelling

Two of my favorite columnists weighed in similarly on Saturday June 1—Tom Friedman in The New York Times and Peggy Noonan in The Wall Street Journal.

Distilling the essence of the two pieces is simple. America is severely divided and loving it.

The Trump voters are dug in. That their candidate is guilty of 34 felonies involved with falsifying business records to cover up his liaison with a porn star while his wife was home with their new baby, is of no concern to Trump’s supporters. He has no shame. They have no shame. After all, it was all a “witch hunt.”

On the left is an ancient candidate who is way past his sell by date. He’s devoid of ideas. He’s short on intellect. He has no viable vice president and he’s very old and looking older by the day.

And the two sides are not talking to one another at all.

I bring this up not because I want to rehash the disastrous state of the American political system. I don’t. I bring it up because of the recent address given by my wife, Dr. Eugenie Kleinerman, at the Faculty Convocation in early May.

The divisions between the administration and the faculty at MD Anderson are almost as intense as those between the left and right in America and both sides are dug in.

As Dr. Kleinerman identified, there are tremendous pressures on the administration to prop up margins as insurers wind down what they are willing to pay for clinical care. In addition, the political environment in Austin has become toxic for academic centers trying to balance the demands of faculty autonomy and the legislative imperatives to end DEI initiatives and allow dismissal for “unprofessional” faculty behavior.

She also noted the increasing pressure on the faculty to see more and more patients, navigate the Sisyphean battle that is EPIC, attract more grant money, and try to have a life.

She also proposed a solution that resonates with the messages of Friedman and Noonan. Try to walk in the other guy’s shoes. Stop enjoying the hatred. Stop demanding. Start listening.

There are faculty who want none of that. They demand. Demanding behaviors of the administration will not be effective.

Dr. Kleinerman has done exactly that fine line walk as chair of the Faculty Senate in trying to build bridges to the executive leadership team to ask for more faculty input in solving some of the problems facing MD Anderson and to build trust with those executives.

Imagine what it would mean if the extreme factions of each political party in the United States actually tried to reach across the aisle and understand the positions of the other side. Such activity virtually saved Mike Johnson’s job as Speaker of the House.

Now I will admit, this is unlikely to occur with the two current, ancient standard bearers heading each ticket this fall. But, there is an after even as it may be four years away. Now is the time to start building those bridges.

I doubt Dr. Kleinerman will still be Senate chair when the fruits of her labors improve the life of the faculty and the bottom line of MD Anderson. When the executives learn there is a limit to the growth of the institution as a mechanism of securing fiscal solvency and the faculty learn that sometimes executives have to make tough decisions and that they have bosses, too, then the Kleinerman plan will be well on the way to improving the lot of executives and faculty alike.

We should try that in America as well. We will find our moorings. The hatred can stop. The faculty can help the administration and the leadership can assist in the development of a more effective faculty. Each needs to listen to the other.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *