Cancer Institute Frustrated with Leadership

Researchers responding to a survey at MD Anderson Cancer Center report low morale due to their president’s leadership style.

By | April 2, 2013

The eastern part of the UT MD Anderson campusWIKIMEDIA, NIGHTRYDER84 About a third of the MD Anderson Cancer Center’s faculty responded to a survey expressing concern over changes at the institute that include president Ron DePinho’s “dictatorial” style and the departure of more nurturing leadership. The results of the survey were published last week (March 29) in The Cancer Letter.

Approximately 70 percent of respondents said that faculty morale was worse than it was in 2010, citing leadership that was unresponsive to its staff, “top heavy,” and “inefficient.” Events that have been particularly distressing include DePinho’s conflict of interest issues, such as promoting the stock of a company that he co-founded without first disclosing his involvement, as well as the fact that his wife was considered for an $18 million grant for an institute he founded by the beleaguered Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) without scientific review. One respondent wrote of being “so tired of having to answer questions from other Houstonians about why MD Anderson is going downhill,” according to a Nature blog.

However, it is unclear how widespread the dissatisfaction is, since only a third of the faculty responded to the survey.  Some researchers noted that “the complaints of a few have led to inaccurate [media] articles that have unfairly tarnished the institution’s reputation by presenting a false picture of what is actually taking place,” in a response to a different article published earlier in The Cancer Letter.

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