Chapter 05: Envisioning the Next Period of Leadership


Chapter 05: Envisioning the Next Period of Leadership



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In this chapter, Dr. Rodriguez talks about the qualities that the next president of MD Anderson will need to confront successfully the institution’s fiscal and other challenges. She comments on the stability that MD Anderson’s tradition of physician leadership has provided.



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; Understanding the Institution; The Institution and Finances; Institutional Mission and Values

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 Very interesting, yeah. Well, I think I'm out of questions. Is there anything you would like to say about the institution right now, or an interesting next step for the institution that you envision?

Alma Rodriguez, MD I think that at this point in time, obviously the next most critical step is to identify -- and this of course will be done at the level of the University of Texas system, [ ] who is it that we envision will be the best person to lead the organization as the [next] president of the organization. My personal hope would be that this would be someone who is both knowledgeable and sensitive to the culture of MD Anderson, which is very knowledge driven, very innovation driven, but at the same time is very knowledgeable and capable of maneuvering the new paradigm of healthcare from a national perspective, from a legislative perspective, from a financial perspective. There's no question that we have to revamp or redesign many of our infrastructure and our systems [ ] for accounting, for billing, for productivity, for so many other endpoints that in the industry of healthcare are considered important towards fiscal accountability and health of an organization. We also are committed and hopefully will remain committed, to education and prevention, as well as innovation and new discoveries.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD MD Anderson has always had a president who had MD after his name. Do you think that it would be valuable to continue in that tradition? I'm just, I'm saying that because all of the areas that you just mentioned are certainly not part of usual experience for physicians, in a deep experience in finances of institutions.

Alma Rodriguez, MD Correct, but there are some physician leaders in the national arena who indeed are very expert. As I understand it, [the requirement of leadership by a physician is embedded] in the bylaws.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD Oh, I didn't realize that.

Alma Rodriguez, MD I think it was part of the vision of Dr. Clark, that because patient care is a very essential and foundational mission of our organization, that we would be led by clinicians.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD And what do you feel, I mean what do you feel that's done for the organization?

Alma Rodriguez, MD I think for us, it has grounded us and has made us very focused. Let me backtrack and say that at the time that this organization was founded, people didn't even speak about the word cancer, patients many times weren't even told by the doctors that they had cancer. And so he was creating an organization that was radical in its acknowledgement that we were here to treat cancer and our goal was that we would make cancer a treatable disease, rather than a fatal illness. So he was both an optimist and a visionary, as well as a very honest and forthright person, in saying this is our goal, cancer is our mission. So I think that it has grounded us very, very much, in [ ] our goal. Really, it's a very unified and very driven goal, to really make cancer a thing of the past or make cancer a treatable illness that is not, like I said it's not a fatal condition but it's manageable, just like one manages diabetes, like one manages so many other chronic illnesses.

So to that end, I think that having physician leaders who were committed to that agenda has indeed made us the powerhouse that we are today, in terms of the development of so many new therapeutic strategies against cancer. But, this is not to say that there aren't other important domains in cancer care delivery, and I think Dr. DePinho had a vision of yet another aspect of that journey, [ ] that mission, which is the development of new and innovative [pharmaceutical] treatments, and that in itself, of course is a very worthwhile mission. It is very complex, however, and I think that the realities of the current fiscal environment make it very challenging to be able to manage both operations or both goals, because they're both very resource intensive, not just on the financial side, but also on the organizational, regulatory and human talent side.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD Well, I want to thank you very much.

Alma Rodriguez, MD Oh, thank you, thank you for the opportunity.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD It's been wonderful talking to you again.

[End of Interview]

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Chapter 05: Envisioning the Next Period of Leadership