Chapter 12: The Education Council, Sister Institutions, and Views On Leading Faculty


Chapter 12: The Education Council, Sister Institutions, and Views On Leading Faculty



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In this segment, Dr. Tomasovic gives numerous examples of how he has built educational culture at MD Anderson through, for the formation of The Education Council (2001), strengthening faculty development initiatives, serving as Vice President of Extramural Programs (to become Global Academic Programs).



Publication Date



The Making Cancer History® Voices Oral History Collection, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The Administrator; Building/Transforming the Institution; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Culture; On Leadership

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.


History of Science, Technology, and Medicine | Oncology | Oral History


Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

I wanted to talk about the extramural programs. But I'm just wondering in terms of telling the story about these issues with faculty and education. We haven't talked about the creation of the faculty senate. And would that give us some context to understand some of these other things? Your choice.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Yeah, some of that. Let me just wrap that up by saying that when I became the VP for extramural programs, that's when I had the jobs of three vice presidents. And so a year after I got that job as the VP for extramural programs, which is now Global Academic Programs, she convinced the president that I should be promoted to a senior vice president. So in 2006. So that's how I got to this current job.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

While we're on the subject of the extramural programs, what was the role of that particular program?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

At that time it had been established several years before. I wasn't paying a lot of attention. I don't recall when that was. But it was intended -- Dr. Mendelsohn was very interested in global partnerships and trying to create collaborative relationships. But also we had a marketing executive that thought by forming formal relationships with certain institutions the MD Anderson could draw patient referrals of international patients, which are the most profitable patients to any hospital in the US, because they're largely self-insured, self-paid. And they're the most -- the charges that they pay generate the most income to hospitals in the United States relative to any other kind of patient they can have. So international patients are very important. So this individual was thinking that was a good strategy. Let's create sister institutions with some clinical hospitals in several other countries. And that relationship will help us get more patients from them. Well, that didn't work. And it morphed into sister institutions as an academic relationship. And it began to grow under the leadership of Dr. -- I think Brown was the VP that I replaced for extramural programs. And so it became really more of an academic than a marketing or business strategy to create academic relationships that would foster access to different types of patient populations, different prevalences of cancer in different parts of the world, depending on diets and genetic backgrounds. Help have opportunities for exchange of bright minds. And extend our brand reputation around the world as a scientific center but also as a clinical center. And Dr. Mendelsohn was very interested in that. So we developed an increasing number of sister institutions. And it changed from that strategy of marketing to get more international patients, although it still had some minor effect in that regard. But to formalize academic relationships with good institutions, some of them almost our peerlike institutions in other countries, like Institut Gustave Roussy in Paris and others, very developmental in nature, in countries that were aspiring to reach our level of clinical and research expertise.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

What's one of the most productive relationships that's been established? And why has it been productive?

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

Well, I think the one -- well, I don't know that one stands out as being dramatically better than the others. There are some that are longer term than others. So the total accomplishments are you've got a bigger list. I think the one with the Institut Gustave Roussy, the one in Germany, FKZ, I can't quite remember the English version of that, it's a German cancer research center. The one in Chile, the Clinica Alemana, is a very good one. One of the more recent ones -- well, not very recent, but another good one is in Norway, which is unusual. It's a partnership with Stavanger University Hospital, the Norwegian Radium Center, and the Norwegian Cancer Registry. In fact our global academic programs annual meeting for the first time is going to be held in another country. It's going to be held there in Oslo next year. But all of those relationships, the ones that work best and the most productive ones were those where there was leadership in the institutions being very aware of it and interested in it, and also faculty rank and file, because as an executive leading faculty, in some respects you only have faculty on loan. Research faculty, academic faculty work in a global view of their world. So if they are prominent in their profession and successful they can work almost anywhere in the world. So they tend to think in terms of -- it's not that they're disloyal to an institution or more or less loyal to the institution. But it's their global coin, their papers, their research grants. That's their value. You can also get them to do education and service. But as time pressures increase or competition for their time increase, they tend to gravitate toward the research, because that's the coin of the realm. If they're successful in that they can say adios to you and head off to MIT or wherever they want to go. And so I lost my train of thought when I went down that little sidetrack.

Tacey A. Rosolowski, Ph.D:

Talking about the different international institutions where there were partnerships and how you could move faculty around them.

Stephen Tomasovic, PhD:

I was trying to get to the point about how you can't really totally direct research faculty. First there's the old what do you call it, chestnut of academic freedom. But also they will only work diligently on things that are personal interest to them and self-interest to them. So I can say as any executive in the institution can say we're going to do this, and faculty will do some of it. But they won't necessarily get their heart and souls behind it unless they see the value to advancing their discipline. Maybe that's a better way to phrase it. They sounded a bit selfish in the first way I was phrasing it. But they're really all about advancing their discipline, making scientific advances, making clinical advances. And that's where they want to focus their time and energy. And so you can't just say we're going to establish a relationship with Hunan University in Shanghai, go forth and do it. You have to have faculty champions. And it's only going to succeed if you have faculty who really see the value to advances in research, advances in clinical care, and want to put the time in on it. So that's one thing that you have to remain aware of, in working in academic institutions and working with faculty. You have to have them see -- the strategic alignment between their discipline area interest and their interest in advancing science and medicine with the institutional direction works best if those things -- if they can see the connection. If we take the institution in a direction that is -- we wouldn't do that. But if we were to go off in a direction that they couldn't see the link to conquering cancer or enabling people to live with cancer, we wouldn't be as effective. So I don't think I explained that in the best possible way. But I learned that more clearly in extramural programs, that you can't just dictate we're going to have these institutional relationships, or any type of program really. You have to find ways for faculty to see the interest, how it aligns with their interest. And then they will participate and the program has the potential to be successful. And that's part of what I applied and learned from faculty academic affairs as well, is that faculty have a lot of demands on their time. You have bureaucratic things you want them to do. Those bureaucratic things take away from their primary interest often. You have to try to make sure that they're related in a way that they can see is going to be useful to them. And we've gotten off, too far down the bureaucratic path within MD Anderson right now in my view. I've contributed to that certainly. But I think over the next few years there's going to be quite a bit of push to reduce the bureaucracy within MD Anderson if possible. I'm asking my directors to think about that before they launch new things. To look at the processes that we're doing. And I think one of the big advantages of me leaving my role is that we'll have a fresh outlook on all that. I believe that executive leaders should stay no longer than ten to 15 years, and then they should step down or be replaced, and get someone in who's going to be no better, no worse, perhaps better, probably not any worse. But they're going to have a new perspective and they'll look at some of the things that I've set up or done over the years and say I've got a better idea and here's why. And that's welcome, and that should be done.

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Chapter 12: The Education Council, Sister Institutions, and Views On Leading Faculty