Dr. Ronald DePinho on Wednesday resigned as president of MD Anderson Cancer Center, one of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals, after a tumultuous tenure marked by financial problems, a large layoff, and a scathing audit that raised questions about his spending practices and management.
In an unusually forthcoming statement posted on MD Anderson’s website, DePinho appeared to take responsibility for the turmoil at the institution and the negative publicly it has attracted in recent months.
“I could have done a better job administratively, a better job listening, a better job communicating,” the statement said. “Forgive me for my short comings. I regret them, but I was, and continue, to be committed to saving lives and reduce suffering, to help MD Anderson accelerate the march towards prevention and cure, particularly for the underserved.”
DePinho had been in the top job for five and a half years and had been under a particular spotlight in the past two years, as the hospital’s financial situation deteriorated.
MD Anderson, which is known for pioneering cancer research as well as clinical care, posted a $267 million loss in the 2016 fiscal year and was expecting to lose as much as $450 million in 2017, though it brings in about $4 billion in annual revenue. In January, DePinho announced nearly 1,000 layoffs, fueling deeper questions about his spending and management.
He attracted heavy scrutiny following a recent audit by the University of Texas that raised alarms about a troubled partnership with IBM Watson to improve the precision of cancer care. The partnership, spearheaded by DePinho’s wife, Dr. Lynda Chin, was halted late last year after it failed to live up to its goals despite $62 million in spending.
The audit said several contracts with IBM and a consultant, PwC, violated internal rules. Several of the contracts were not competitively bid and went beyond the approved scope of work, and payments were made regardless of whether the services were delivered as agreed upon. Additional questions arose regarding the project’s primary financial baker, Low Taek Jho, a flamboyant Malaysian financier who is under investigation by the US Justice Department.
Chin now holds a different job within the University of Texas System. But the questions regrading the contract, and the broader financial problems at MD Anderson, have continued to bubble up in recent weeks.
In his statement, DePinho said he intends to focus next on broader national efforts to discover a cure for cancer.
“I need to focus on the cancer moonshot,” the statement said. “I need to be a father and husband of my still young family, and at this time in our nation’s history, I need to be more intensely engaged with the national cancer and health policy landscape, including funding for research in my role as co-chair for Act for NIH.”
University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven released a one-paragraph press release praising DePinho for his work in recruiting new talent and mobilizing “MD Anderson’s quest to speed up development for new and more effective treatments.”
MD Anderson has more than 21,000 employees and treats more than 120,000 patients each year.
I could not get an apt – after trying twice – I was told they had to make certain I qualified to afford it. I retired from the federal government. Not good enough and they lost the oncology records that I faxed. Way to go!! No need to see any patients!
I just heard about this critical situation as a result of new POTUS health policy.
“I could have done a better job obeying the law” is what he should have said.
I worked at MDA in 3 different positions. As a research technician, a graduate student, and a pharmacist. I watched as the hospital declined after Dr Clark retired. Then I had a friend who developed colorectal cancer and went there. I have never seen anything so mismanaged. I was with her the day she had an appointment at about 2pm; we were seen at 6 pm even after I kept asking what was the problem. Now a friend of a friend has told her that they have lost her liver biopsy. It saddens me to see such a prestigious institution decline.
While it may have been inevitable it is a sad outcome for an illustrious cancer center. I have worked here for nearly 10 years and believe the largest missteps were not engaging the faculty. There was a sense of entitlement and management operated as an autocracy. If you didn’t fall in line you were gone. Emails from Dr. Dimitrovsky in the early days caused grief because you knew someone quit or was let go. Then those emails came from Dr. Depinho as they should have from the beginning. While you may work with your wife and state theirs no nepotism that is difficult to accomplish. Especially, when you act like a diva having your own parking spot everywhere you go, including the security to remove patients from parking in your “spot” that was marked for patients!?♂️ The elitism, cronyism, and favoritism ran amok. The most unfortunate case of retribution was that of Dr. Burke. He truly loved MD Anderson and after a succession of demotions he stayed on as a clinician only because he truly loved the work, albeit embarrassing. He most likely questioned authority which is always constructive but led to his demise. The faculty senate no longer has a voice. They stopped their discussion board, in fact they took it down and the new faculty senate chair was someone who wouldn’t speak for the faculty. Let’s just say it died. And how unfortunate because at one time they had power and isn’t that what true shared governance is? Shared governance is a joke around here. Now you just tell people this is what we’re doing. No talking about it no discussion. Like launching EPIC all at once not in stages, punitively punishing your departments for processes that are new and that you just came up with, with inadequate training. The only voice who pushed back at every turn, as he was nearly untouchable was Dr. Kantarjian of Leukemia our largest and most profitable department. We have been demoralized, demoted, but hopefully not deterred.
Sounds like the same story is being told at every hospital in the land. Administrators with all the power have taken over from the doctors and nurses and run the place as their own fiefdom for their own benefit and to hell with the patients and staff unless you kiss their asses while they make millions. If you critisize or fall out of line your are gone.li
Great response & observations! I too, work at MD Anderson.
Strange how the “academic” issues were not raised in this article, or as a reason to explain DePinho’s fall from grace. Many cases (possibly not exhaustive) recorded at PubPeer:
I went to medical school with Dr DePinho and say what you may I know him to have been one of the most dedicated individuals to patient care and cancer therapy I have ever met in my life. i do not pretend to have any knowledge of the “mismanagement ” of funds or dubious deals described. Maneuvering around the architecture that our government and insurance companies have created has made it impossible to take care of patients how they should be and still be profitable. I’m sure Dr DePinho’s intentions were alway in the best interest of patients.
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