But even big institutions are affected. Take, for example, the venerable MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas. This giant of oncology has recently been having financial issues, so much so that its president, Ronald DePinho, sent out this e-mail to employees 2 weeks ago:
"For most of fiscal year 2013 our operating expense has exceeded our operating revenue - meaning that we've spent more than we've made from providing patient care services."
He went on to say that because of this shortfall MD Anderson is suspending merit raises and slowing its hiring rate. This is what they call "austerity measures."
Now, every concerned CEO in America has been saying stuff like this, so why am I singling out Dr. DePinho?
At the same time Dr. DePinho is preaching financial restraint for his cash-strapped institution, he's used $1.5 million of its capital funds (which come from investment income, donations, and patient revenue) to build a 25,000 square-foot (2,322 square meter) office suite for Dr. Lynda Chin at the institution.
Who just happens to be his wife.
Really. I am not making this up.
Dr. Chin is the scientific director of MD Anderson's Institute for Applied Cancer Science. How this justifies her having an office suite that is 10 x larger than the average American home is beyond me. According to the institute it's to "provide an appropriate meeting space with high-level industry decision makers and support a new suite in computational biology." Translation: By using a lot of syllables we're hoping you'll ignore what's really going on here.
And no, I have no idea what "computational biology" is. Maybe that's why my entire office is 1,250 square feet, including the john.
According to an itemized expense report (obtained by The Cancer Letter under the Texas Public Information Act) this ginormous office has $28,000 worth of chairs, sofas, and tables. They also spent $210,000 on fancy translucent glass walls, which required them to get a special permit from the University of Texas. By comparison, the Grumpy Neurological Emporium has used furniture (valued at $948 total), and plain old painted drywall.
So, if you donated money in a loved one's memory to MD Anderson hoping they'll find a cure for whatever cancer killed grandma, there's a reasonable chance your hard-earned dollars went to pay for... upscale furniture and fancy glass walls in an office bigger than your house.
I'm going to close with another quote from Dr. DePinho, found in the same e-mail I quoted earlier about the austerity measures MD Anderson will have to take to survive:
"If we don't make changes now, we potentially will find ourselves in a crisis that will force us to take drastic measures that could hurt our ability to meet our mission... [all will] have to share sacrifices."
Well, almost all.
Thank you, SMOD!