- Dr. Ronald DePinho has tendered his resignation as University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center's president.
- DePinho was asked to stay on through the end of the Texas legislative session, which began on January 10 with an adjournment date of May 29.
- "As with all my decisions in my professional journey, I am placing the interests of patients and our ability to impact the cancer problem first," DePinho wrote in a public statement. "My decision will give the institution new leadership and give me a chance, in a different way, to put my passion for finding cures to this horrible disease."
The year hasn't gotten off to a good start for MD Anderson and DePinho's statement shows him taking some ownership for some of the distress the system is under.
In January, the organization announced it would eliminate about 1,000 jobs, or about 5% of its workforce. At the time, DePinho stated the organization, which employs about 20,000 individuals, had been trying to improve its financial performance for months. It had reported a loss of $110 million in the last half of 2016.
CFO and EVP of Administration Dan Fontaine in February stated the organization may have to reduce expenses further if revenues don't rebound with losses approaching $170 million for the first four months of 2017. This is well above the $21.4 million shortfall MD Anderson officials had predicted back in August.
Officials have said the losses stem from a costly EHR implementation, a rise in coverage denials after treatment has been delivered and high out-of-pocket costs for patients that lead to bad debt.
Also in February, MD Anderson found itself in the middle of an awkward situation where it was reported that the organization's partnership with IBM Watson was put on ice right before HIMSS17, whose theme relied heavily on artificial intelligence. IBM Watson pushed back stating they "created an oncology advisor for lung cancer and leukemia, and as reported in the state's finding, Watson acheived 90% accuracy in lung cancer decision support."
DePinho's missive slightly acknowledges these shortcomings. He wrote, "I could have done a better job administratively, a better job listening, a better job communicating. Forgive me for my short comings. I regret them, but I was, and continue, to be committed to saving lives and reduce suffering, to help MD Anderson accelerate the march towards prevention and cure, particularly for the underserved. I've done my very best."
He added, "For myself, I need to return to my passion of conducting translational science and helping others doing great science – to drive ideas to clinical impact that matter for patients. I need to focus on the cancer moonshot, I need to be a father and husband of my still young family, and at this time in our nation’s history, I need to be more intensely engaged with the national cancer and health policy landscape, including funding for research in my role as co-chair for Act for NIH. I truly believe that this decision will allow me to better serve cancer patients here, at MD Anderson, and nationally."