There will be no more faculty surveys at MD Anderson, UT System Chancellor William McRaven pledged to the institution’s faculty in a closed-door meeting March 18.
“I don’t intend to have any more surveys,” McRaven said in a meeting where he acknowledged the concerns of the faculty, but also expressed support for the administration of the Houston-based cancer hospital.
“I think your surveys—at least the ones I’ve seen—give me a clear indication of where the faculty is,” McRaven said at the meeting that lasted for about an hour-and-a-half. “And maybe it’s not unanimous, but I’ve got to tell you that the numbers in the surveys are pretty damning, for the lack of a better term.”
McRaven, the former admiral who, as head of the U.S. Special Operations Command, oversaw the covert operation responsible for killing Osama bin Laden, expressed support for the institution’s Faculty Senate, thereby establishing it as the negotiating partner for the administration headed by President Ronald DePinho.
The Faculty Senate of MD Anderson Cancer Center asked the UT System officials and the Board of Regents to “provide guidance” to the administration of the Houston-based center “in establishing milestones and timelines to implement measures to improve the morale of the faculty and the general health of the Institution.”
The resolution, which was distributed to the faculty on Feb. 16, reveals that the faculty’s dissatisfaction with MD Anderson President Ronald DePinho continues even after top UT System officials put him on notice to improve the faculty’s morale (The Cancer Letter, Nov. 7, 2014).
According to MD Anderson administration, Eugenie Kleinerman “decided to step down as Head, Division of Pediatrics, and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, effective Feb. 9 in order to pursue her interests in new initiatives in adolescent and young adult cancer.”
This was the version of events promulgated by MD Anderson Provost Ethan Dmitrovsky.
Leonard Zwelling, a former MD Anderson executive and Kleinerman’s husband, offers another version.
Faculty members at MD Anderson Cancer Center are arguably the most intensely watched cohort in academic medicine. Their angst has been measured four times by three administrative entities over two years.
Now, the institution’s president, Ronald DePinho, is under a mandate from his bosses to improve faculty morale.
Are these folks an anomaly, or is everyone in academic medicine unhappy these days?
There is a place to obtain comparison data: the Faculty Forward Engagement Survey conducted by the Association of American Medical Colleges.
The ten-year period of erosion that followed the doubling of the NIH budget has hit some research institutions harder than others.
NIH appropriations figures provide a glimpse of the state of science funding in the U.S., but they don’t shed light on how individual institutions and areas of research are affected.
To conduct an exploratory analysis of levels of funding at specific institutions, The Cancer Letter compiled NIH and NCI funding figures from 2003 to 2013 for eight freestanding cancer centers and nine other research institutions that include cancer centers. A focus on freestanding cancer centers provides a snapshot of funding at institutions engaged primarily in basic and clinical cancer research.
The University of Texas System Board of Regents has—in response to the threat of censure by an external group—voted to continue support of MD Anderson Cancer Center’s seven-year term tenure system.
The board convened a special meeting Oct. 3 to address an investigation of MD Anderson by the American Association of University Professors, an academic freedom and governance group that has criticized the institution’s lack of a lifetime tenure system.
The Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas last month awarded 101 new grants: 84 for research, 15 for prevention and two for product development.
CPRIT received nearly 600 grant applications, and after review, awarded grants to cancer researchers, prevention initiatives and product development projects from institutions and organizations across the state.
The indictment of Texas Governor Rick Perry by a Travis County grand jury brings together two complex subplots:
• The controversy over the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas, which came into public view May 8, 2012, with the resignation of its scientific leader, Nobel Laureate Alfred Gilman, who claimed that political interference had caused a departure from standard peer review in the handling of a proposal to fund a $20 million “biotechnology incubator” at MD Anderson Cancer Center, triggering a delay in funding of previously reviewed grants.
• The political wrangling that followed the April 12, 2013, drunk driving arrest of Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg, whose duties include administering the Public Integrity Unit, which investigates corruption of state officials.
In a long-awaited survey of employees at MD Anderson Cancer Center, faculty members show a significant drop in approval scores for the administration’s executive leadership, in comparison with the last time the survey was administered in 2012.
The results are important, because they gauge the impact of the institution’s president Ronald DePinho and his administration.
President Joe Biden’s proposed Advanced Research Projects Agency-Health would be a welcome partner to NCI—particularly in conducting large, collaborative clinical investigations, NCI Director Ned Sharpless said.“I think having ARPA-H as part of the NIH is good for the NCI,” Sharpless said April 11 in his remarks at the annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research. “How this would fit with the ongoing efforts in cancer at the NCI is still something to work out.”