Texas Medical Center Leadership Turmoil: Here are the Latest Moves

Houston—The Texas Medical Center’s leadership upheaval continued this week with the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center announcing that it eliminated executive vice president roles as part of a new leadership structure.

As a result, executive vice presidents Ethan Dmitrovsky, Thomas Buchholz, and Dan Fontaine have been relieved of those duties. Buchholz will continue his role at MD Anderson as a professor of radiation oncology and will be involved in its philanthropic and corporate sponsorship efforts. Dmitrovsky will focus on supporting the institution’s Cancer Center Support Grant program and “will return to his scholarship,” MD Anderson says. Fontaine will serve as a senior advisor until January 2018; he previously announced his retirement, according to an MD Anderson news release. The restructuring was announced Thursday by Marshall Hicks, the organization’s interim president.

In just over three months, several of the medical center’s institutions—not to mention the TMC itself—have made surprising executive changes.

Hicks was appointed following the resignation of Ronald DePinho in March in an unusually personal video to employees asking forgiveness for his “shortcomings.”

The shakeup at MD Anderson follows other surprise executive departures this month at other TMC member institutions. Michael Covert, CEO of CHI St. Luke’s Health, submitted his resignation from the post he’s held since 2014, according to various media reports. And last week, Memorial Hermann Health System announced the departure of Benjamin Chu, president and CEO since last June.

Each of these healthcare institutions has in recent years been engaged in substantial expansions, difficult budgets, and cuts in payroll.

Those initiatives—along with a cloudy crystal ball in terms of national health policy—have perhaps created strong headwinds for those leading Houston’s biggest hospitals, some observers say.

“Organizations aggregated, opened multiple suburban centers, got big, and now must figure out how to address the cost of that big infrastructure, along with uncertainty,” says Deborah Mansfield, a healthcare specialist at the Houston Technology Center and a longtime observer of the TMC and its member institutions.

The spate of leadership reshuffling started in March when Bobby Robbins, the former CEO of the TMC, left that position to become president of the University of Arizona. Bill McKeon, Robbins’s second-in-command, was appointed to the top job a month later.

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