Chapter 08: Public Affairs: Writing the MD Anderson Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics

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Chapter 08: Public Affairs: Writing the MD Anderson Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics

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In this chapter, Mr. Stuyck next talks about his work on two key documents: the Vision and Mission Statement and the MD Anderson Core Values. He explains why there was controversy over the core values.

Mr. Stuyck gives an example of why the word "hope" was controversial in the Core Values, saying that he was "never a fan of hope," but other committee members convinced him it was key to MD Anderson. He then talks about the impact of the two documents, citing a survey of employees that revealed almost 100% satisfaction with the institution values. Next Mr. Stuyck briefly compares Public Affairs at MD Anderson to analogous departments at other institutions. He comments on the role of the Management Group within Public Affairs and its strategic work in guiding the departments activities and evolution. He briefly comments on how Public Affairs is working with the current controversies surrounding Dr. Ronald DePinho.

Identifier

StuyckSC_01_20130611_C08

Publication Date

6-11-2013

Topics Covered

Building the Institution; The MD Anderson Ethos; Understanding the Institution; Institutional Mission and Values; Patients, Treatment, Survivors; Building/Transforming the Institution; Growth and/or Change; MD Anderson History; Institutional Processes; Character, Values, Beliefs, Talents; Professional Practice; The Professional at Work; C:The MD Anderson Ethos; Understanding the Institution; MD Anderson Culture; Institutional Mission and Values; Patients, Treatment, Survivors; Discovery and Success

Transcript

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Could you tell me about some of those documents that you created over the years that you said were important to MD Anderson?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, goodness.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Though they’ve been left aside about the—we have the Code of Ethics, and then there’s the Mission Statement. And there are probably others that you’ve worked on that—you know. What was the significance of those documents at various times in MD Anderson’s history?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I worked on the first mission and vision statements with two other people: Mary Ann Newman [Buckley], who was our director of strategic planning—a very bright woman—and Harry Holmes, who was director of government affairs and assistant to the president. We worked on those together, and I think the exciting thing about that was it was the first time that we committed—tried to commit what we are to paper for everyone to agree on. And it was a very challenging task. There were a lot of people that had a lot of input on it along the way, so that was very good.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

So what—tell me more about that because that’s such a huge event.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I can’t remember. I can’t remember.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Did you have a sense that—you know. When you got together, did it feel momentous? Did it—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I wouldn’t say that, but I would say this. I had a sense that this was more important than some of the other things that Public Affairs directors were working on at other institutions. And I liked it. It catered to my strengths—putting words on paper and trying to coalesce ideas and attitudes and issues. So that was really important. I enjoyed working on the core values under the leadership of Sherry [Sharon] Martin, who headed that committee for MD Anderson, and it was very controversial, too. It seems like such motherhood and apple pie now, but there was talking when we were doing the core values because there was—it was much lengthier than it is today. Should faculty be evaluated based upon their contributions to core values, which was quite a lightning rod among faculty? They were appalled at the notion that that would be something they would be evaluated on. And so that was—I felt good about that. I felt that—I loved the discussions that we had—the small team that worked on them. I learned so much from other people here during that that I will never forget. We were talking about using hope in our core values, and I had never been a big fan of hope. I thought hope—I thought people came here for help not for hope. They want to be fixed. As a doctor here who I knew said, “When I’m well, I want the problem of cancer solved. When I’m sick, I want to be cured.” And I thought that hope was a weak word. I can’t believe I felt that way, now that I look back on it. But someone in the committee—Dr. Art [Arthur D.] Forman, who was in neuro-oncology said to me—in our meeting I said words to the effect that I thought hope was too weak. And he said—and this comes from his patient care experience—“No. I hope to live ‘til Christmas. I hope to live ‘til my son graduates from college. I hope to live for my daughter’s wedding.” He said, “Hope comes in little increments—things that are very important to the person who is sick.” And it was quite an effect on me to hear that. So I enjoyed that whole—that was very much a feel-good process for me to go through that. I was very proud of participating in that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Why was the vision and mission statement controversial?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Because it was the first time we ever had it. I can’t think of the specific words, but everybody had another idea. Let’s say this. Let’s do that—you know—that sort of thing.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, it is kind of an interesting exercise.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Absolutely.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You’re in the same institution. You think you share perspectives with other people, but suddenly you sit down at a table and have to put your individual perspectives into words, and you suddenly find out they don’t always match.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, one example of that is we had a beautiful mission statement, and when we went through our SACS—Southern Association for Colleges and Schools accreditation, the SACS accreditors wanted some changes made in our mission statement. So it way now overemphasizes our educational mission. There are many more words added for education, which is too bad. I thought it was a perfect statement that summed up what we did and did give tribute to education—just a little different than what SACS wanted us to do.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

What impact did the vision and mission statement and then the code of ethics or core values have on the institution when they were finished and made public?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah. When we do our employee satisfaction survey every other year, one of the places where we score the highest is in affinity with our mission and understanding of our mission. It approaches almost 100 percent in a big sample of employees. So I think that’s a good metric that it sinks in. People understand what we’re here to do and what we’re all about. There’s a certain commonness of purpose that you don’t find at other institutions, and I think that these documents help contribute to that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

You just compared MD Anderson to other institutions and I’m just reminded that—before we turned on the recorder, you said that Public Affairs at MD Anderson looks different than it does at other institutions. And maybe you could tell me—do a little compare and contrast there.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

At most institutions, Public Affairs is synonymous with either government relations or, more often than not, with communications. It doesn’t include things like volunteer services and the Children’s Art Project and patient ed and the learning centers and things like that. We just never could come up—we tried to come up with a better name that would keep us different from just being Communications. We never came up with one, so I just left it alone. And Mendelsohn actually gave me the opportunity. He said, “Name it whatever you want.” And our management group couldn’t come up with anything. We disagreed on everything, so we just said, “The heck with it. We’ll leave it like it is.”

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Interesting. Interesting. You mentioned the management group. Tell me more about that.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

When I left Public Affairs we had a management group, and it’s on that chart that you had. This is our group, and I think the names are here. I don’t have my reading glasses on.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Would it be under a particular—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

All of them. See, these are the—Jennifer Kennedy-Stovall, Stephanie Kim, Nancy Walker. It’s the leadership of each of our departments—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Oh, I see.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

—several deep in that—and we met every—twice a month—

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Wow. Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

—for a strategy session.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay. And so—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

That was our management team.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

We developed our strategic plan. We had regular meetings. We shared information. We planned together. And we did a pretty good job of meeting twice a month.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Twice a month? Wow.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Uh-hunh (affirmative). For several years.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And who—did you institute that?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative).

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yeah. And I chaired the meetings.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And what was your—when did you institute that? And what was your reasoning?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I couldn’t even remember. I was a management tool. It was several years that we were doing that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Uh-hunh (affirmative). Is that part of your more hands-on leadership style you were talking about earlier? (laughs)

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes, I think so. And I went to meetings in the various departments. Also I met individually with each team leader—often in their own offices rather than mine—and tried to promote—we had a number of annual events—semi-annual events for all employees in the division. We had an annual holiday celebration, annual summer celebration—things like that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And how did you find morale in the group was? Did you have to triage sometimes?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, I’m the last person to ask. The leader is always the last person to ask about that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah, that’s probably true.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

But I thought our morale was great. I really did.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Were there times when it was less good than others and kind of needed to boost people up?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Oh, sure. I think right now might be a good example of that because at least the Communications team has worked very hard to help Dr. DePinho, and I think they feel a certain sense of frustration that things have not worked out better despite all of their efforts.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

And when—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

The same factors that affect our Public Affairs group affect all MD Anderson employees. When there’s downsizing, when there’s elimination of jobs, when there’s cutbacks and that sort of thing, it affects them as employees in the same way it does anybody else at the institution—the library employees or whatever.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Right. And maybe even in a slightly different way since you’re managing the words that describe the situation.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Well, not only that but they know more than most employees do.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Okay.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

They really do.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Yeah. Are there special confidentiality issues in Public Affairs?

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I think there are. They’re not articulated in that way, but people know that they have access to a tremendous amount of confidential information that most of our rank and file employees do not have. And they know a lot. They really do. They can also see through things that others can’t.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

Well, and they have to—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Yes.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

—do both of those things. I mean have access to the information and process it in a different way. Well, we’re just a few minutes before twelve, so why don’t we—

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Okay.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

—call it a day for today, and then we’ll see—I’ll see you again on Thursday. So thank you very much for coming in this morning.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

I’m delighted to do it. I would—I know we have some more Public Affairs things to talk about on Thursday. I like talking about MD Anderson more than I like talking about being in Public Affairs, but hopefully we’re past a lot of that.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

(laughs) We will get to other subjects for sure.

Steve Stuyck, MPH :

Okay.

Tacey Ann Rosolowski, PhD:

All right. So I’m turning off the recorder at 11:55. (end of audio two) (End of Audio Session One)

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Chapter 08: Public Affairs: Writing the MD Anderson Mission Statement and the Code of Ethics

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