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March 13, 2017

DePinho resigns as president of MD Anderson

Daily Briefing

    Ronald DePinho on Wednesday announced he would step down from his position as president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in May.

    DePinho announced his resignation in a letter to the chancellor of the University of Texas, as well as via a video posted to the hospital's website. DePinho has served as president of the hospital since 2011, and the chancellor has asked him to remain in his position until the end of the Texas legislative session.


    According to Modern Healthcare, the hospital faced several setbacks during DePinho's tenure as president, including financial losses in 2016 and layoffs in January.

    In addition, MD Anderson late last year suspended its agreement with IBM, stalling plans to use IBM Watson for precision-medicine cancer treatment. STAT News reports that several contracts for the project "were not competitively bid and went beyond the approved scope of work, and payments were made regardless of whether the services delivered as agreed upon."

    DePinho's resignation

    In the video, DePinho said MD Anderson "needs a new president who will inspire greater unity and a sharp operational focus on navigating the tectonic changes in health care delivery and economics."

     DePinho detailed several of MD Anderson's accomplishments under his tenure, including:

    • Recruiting "dozens of star faculty";
    • Boosting the hospital's "research competitiveness as reflected in securing grants, high impact publications, and top awards and honors";
    • Improving the reputation of MD Anderson's graduate school program;
    • Expanding the hospital's clinical trials engine;
    • Transforming the center's "translational research infrastructure";
    • Extending the center's "global reach to a network of premier institutions that touches nearly one-third of the human population"; and
    • Launching the MD Anderson Cancer Moon Shots program.

    DePinho said the center is "recovering well from short-term challenges, and, longer term, [we] have diversified our revenue streams through philanthropy, strategic ventures and innovation," which should enable MD Anderson "to be strongly positioned to support our mission to patients for generations to come."

    However, DePinho said, "There was a cost for that change, and I have added to that cost. I could have done a better job administratively, a better job listening, a better job communicating." He added, "Forgive me for my shortcomings. 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."

    DePinho explained that following his resignation, he will focus on national efforts to find a cure for cancer. "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," he said. "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."

    Separately, University of Texas Chancellor William McRaven in a press release praised DePinho for his work in recruiting new talent to the center and mobilizing "MD Anderson's quest to speed up development for new and more effective treatments" (Arndt, Modern Healthcare, 3/8; Ross, STAT News, 3/8; Rosin, Becker's Hospital Review, 3/9).

    12 things CEOs need to know in 2017

    12 things CEOs need to know in 2017

    The continued growth of the consumer-driven health care market threatens the durability of patient-provider relationships—and, at the same time, the push toward population health management and risk-based payment is greater than ever.

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