Chapter 03: Leadership in a Period of Change


Chapter 03: Leadership in a Period of Change



In this chapter, Dr. Rodriguez comments on the period of change the institution is experiencing, stemming from changes in the healthcare system, financial stressors, and internal turbulence stemming from Dr. Ronald DePinho’s resignation as president in March 2017.



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 - Institutional Change; MD Anderson History; MD Anderson Culture; Leadership; On Leadership; MD Anderson in the Future; Critical Perspectives on MD Anderson; Growth and/or Change; Institutional Politics; Understanding the Institution; 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, I have a couple of other questions that I wanted to ask you about leadership, but we're kind of looking straight at this question of times of change and turbulence even.

Alma Rodriguez, MD Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD And just for the record, I wanted to say that we're having this conversation during a very unusual time at the institution. Ronald DePinho resigned his presidency of the institution after five and a half years of service. This was about a month ago, and so the institution is taking a hard look at itself and making some decisions. From what you've said, it sounds as though the healthcare environment is driving some of what the institution has been experiencing, and I'm wondering if you could comment on kind of the history of these moments of turbulence at the institution. Have we seen this before?

Alma Rodriguez, MD Well, we certainly have seen times of financial crisis for the institution. In the history of the institution, we have never had a president resign. This is the very first time that has occurred, so that is new for us, that's a new reality for us to cope with. We certainly have had turbulent times where leadership has been challenged and our finances have been difficult. In those situations, there were also external forces; either disasters such as hurricanes, or changes in the healthcare market that were driving some shifts in how we were reimbursed. All of that has -- you know, we have experienced that before. We always have risen to the challenge, clearly. I mean we're still standing here today and in fact today we're much stronger, larger, much more advanced in our technologies and practices than we've ever been. So clearly, we have overcome those difficulties. We have in fact superseded them and excelled beyond those challenges.

I hope that the same thing will happen this time. I think that we have many talented people in our faculty and our staff, that I know can rally to the challenge of bringing us through. What is not manageable or what is not predictable for us is really, what happens outside of our organization, but we certainly should have the ability to self-manage or to bring ourselves to facing the challenge. Like I said, we have done it before. In the past, however, it has been under very steady leadership, and that is one factor that at the moment, we have to acknowledge is a challenge, in that we have had these rather dramatic changes in our governance structure and so therefore, it makes it somewhat less predictable as to how we will weather the storm, but nonetheless, I'm certain that we have the talent to do it.

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Chapter 03: Leadership in a Period of Change