Chapter 02: The Important of Clinical Leadership at MD Anderson


Chapter 02: The Important of Clinical Leadership at MD Anderson



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In this chapter, Dr. Rodriguez about the important role that clinical leadership has played in developing the institution and that it continues to play in the current healthcare environment. She sketches the qualities that leaders must have to steward institutions in the current climate and connects that to the culture of the institution.



Publication Date



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


Houston, Texas

Topics Covered

The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center - Overview; Leadership; On Leadership; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Culture; On the Nature of Institutions; Ethics; Understanding the Institution; Institutional Mission and Values; MD Anderson in the Future; The Institution and Finances

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 Ann Rosolowski, PhD Well thank you, thank you. I wanted to talk a bit about leadership too and ask you first of all, why it is that physician leaders are so important to an institution like MD Anderson. I also wondered about your thoughts about leaders from basic sciences too.

Alma Rodriguez, MD I think I can address best, the clinical leaders. It is very important that [not just] physicians,

but [ ] pharmacists, nurses as well, be always at the table to make the decisions that will impact patient care. The reason for that is that we truly do know, those of us that are active in the frontlines, we do know what it is that we're facing, what it is that our patients are facing, and I think that we can guide [ ], if you will, the right strategies or the right priorities for the institution. There's a lot of literature today, with regards to the culture of safety and quality in clinical practice, [that] suggests that without physician engagement and support and championing of the principles of safety and quality, many organizations fail at that without physicians being up in front of those initiatives. So we know that it is important. For better or worse, we are seen as the people who are going to lead the charge, if you will, and if we are not fully engaged, if our input and our opinions are not part of the discussion at the highest level of the organization, then I think that we could have missteps in direction.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD Now, from the people that I've spoken with, interviewed for the oral history project, it's pretty rare to find someone who's had leadership training in medical school or real leadership experience during internship, residency, even fellowship. What are some observations that you've made, first of all about the qualities that are really needed in leaders right now in healthcare institutions?

Alma Rodriguez, MD I think today, given the tremendous uncertainty, not just within our own organization but in the external environment, and even in the political arena of our country, [ ] we value [ ]in our leaders, first of all levelheadedness, [ ] a sense of steadfastness, [ ] a sense of steadiness, of staying on course, and not being derailed or not coming to hasty decisions without appropriate information. We're a very data driven institution and I think academic medicine in general, is very data driven, and the truth is that data matters. Making decisions that are well informed, or at least as well informed as possible given circumstances, will always be respected by those of us who follow the leaders. I think that in an environment, again, where there are few external markers that can guide our direction, I think internal direction is going to be the stronghold, and from a physician perspective, I think that the ethics of our profession should be our guide.

The ethics of our profession say that we should put our patients first, that we should collaborate and respect our peers, and that we must do the best in every possible situation that we encounter. Now, having said that, there are new dimensions being put into the equation today, and that is the larger needs of society as well. So traditionally, our professional ethics have been very driven by the dyad of the doctor-patient. We are being asked now to consider in the equation, the larger societal needs and how is it that we can deliver the best care for the most people, at the lowest cost. That is the triad of the last administration's quality initiatives and as far as I know, those have not changed. We are still driving towards the imperative of delivering care to the best value, and that is the best care at the lowest cost, if possible.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD And here you're referring to presidential decisions at the national level, not at the institutional level.

Alma Rodriguez, MD Correct. That is correct, but of course those then, are driving a lot of forces, not only in the payment models, but also regulatory and legislative matters. All of these are now coming to bear on our day-to-day decisions.

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Chapter 02: The Important of Clinical Leadership at MD Anderson