Carbone Fact Check by I Mua Manoa
A response to the public comments made by Dean Jerris Hedges, Interim Mānoa Chancellor Robert Bley‐Vroman and State Senator Josh Green regarding the resignation of Michele Carbone, former director of the UH Cancer Center
News Release from I Mua Manoa November 26, 2014
After six years, Dr. Michele Carbone has stepped down as director of the UH Cancer Center (UHCC). It is customary to make complimentary remarks about an outgoing administrator, and Dean Hedges, Interim Chancellor Bley‐Vroman and State Senator Green appear to be following that tradition in kindness to Dr. Carbone. However, I Mua Mānoa believes that in order to move forward, it is important to correct misstatements of fact.
CLAIM: Dr. Carbone is credited with overseeing great progress made at the UHCC.
FACT1: As director, Dr. Carbone leaves the UHCC in much worse shape than he found it. The UHCC now has fewer grants, fewer funded investigators, fewer competitive programs and a pending $9M/year deficit. (see LINK).
FACT2: Dr. Carbone was presented with unprecedented resources to grow the UHCC ($16‐19 million in cigarette tax money annually). What specific program or growth has been achieved since the 2012 renewal of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation? The UH administration has failed to evaluate the director’s performance.
CLAIM: Dr. Carbone is credited with re‐attaining the NCI designation of the UHCC.
FACT: The UHCC has never lost the NCI designation since 1996.
CLAIM: Dr. Carbone is credited with construction of the new Cancer Center building.
FACT: The funds for the building and the architectural plan for almost twice the current building’s working space were put in place by former director Dr. Carl‐Wilhelm Vogel. UH paid $2.5M in settlement to Townsend Capital after the initial contract with the developer was dropped following Carbone’s appointment. Dr. Carbone was successful, however, in eliminating all plans for a clinic in the new building to provide clinical trials directly as was envisioned by Dr. Vogel, which would have benefitted many of Hawai’i’s cancer patients but was very much opposed by some local hospitals. As the result, no patients are being treated in the Kaka’ako Cancer Center.
CLAIM: Dr. Carbone is credited with having achieved much during a period that began with embattlement of Cancer Center employees and faculty members.
FACT: Before Dr. Carbone’s directorship, UHCC was a place where faculty were working very well together and with other units. Dr. Carbone leaves the directorship with a record of over 30 grievances filed against him and his leadership team, ranging from hostile workplace environment to academic freedom violations.
We ask the UH administration to take actions to correct the hostile work environment created by Dr. Carbone and his leadership team. We call for a search for a new director that is rapid, transparent and inclusive, so as not to repeat the faulty selection process carried out 6 years ago. The UHCC is a tremendous resource, and can recover from this trying period only if the University acts in good faith to establish transparency, consensus‐building, ethical behavior, and appropriate scientific review as guiding principles in an effort to rebuild trust and an atmosphere of excellence.
I Mua Manoa
I Mua Mānoa (IMM) is a collective of over 120 dedicated students, faculty, and staff determined to improve the quality of the University of Hawaii at Mānoa (UHM). We volunteer our skills, knowledge, and time to develop a shared campus government, which is transparent and ethical in its operations. We strive to develop a positive campus community where the concerns of the students, faculty, and administration are addressed equally and fairly.
Visit us at http://imuamanoa.org
Follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IMuaManoa
* * * * *
Statement from Michele Carbone
November 24, 2014
Virginia Hinshaw asked me to take on the position of Acting Director of the Cancer Center in December, 2008. At that time, it was felt that the Cancer Center was facing significant challenges. The Center had not submitted it’s application for renewal of its National Cancer Institute (NCI) designation because it did not meet the minimum NCI requirements to apply; the Cancer Center was not working effectively with the medical school and some of the leading O’ahu hospitals; and the dream of having a new Cancer Center building — one of the NCI expectations — seemed an impossibility. After years of discussions about the building project, there was not even a final agreement on where to build it, nor were there architectural plans to design the building.
Soon after I became Director, we formed a Consortium with some of the major O’ahu hospitals—Queen Medical Center, Hawaii Pacific Health and Kuakini—and with the Medical School; and the Consortium has worked synergistically and in complete harmony for the past six years. For example, today only one single IRB (ethical permit) is required to perform a clinical trial in Hawaii, before we formed a Consortium, each Hospital and the University had to apply for its own IRB. The result of this is that we have significantly speed up the process to make clinical trials available to Hawaii residents and reduced their need to travel to mainland for treatment. Moreover, we built one of the most well-designed and beautiful cancer center building in the country where we all work. We also got the support of the community behind us, and we raised over $25M in five years, an average of $5M/year, compared to averages of $300-400K in the previous five years before I was appointed Director. We also recruited many outstanding Faculty from the best universities and research Institutions in the country. In short, we exceeded every expectation, and this was clearly stated in the official report written by a panel of over twenty reviewers appointed by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 2012 (this is the most strict peer review -i.e., audit- that a cancer center and its director have to go through every 5 years) that rated the Cancer Center overall performance as “Excellent”, a score that carries an automatic 5 years NCI designation, 2012-2017, and rated my performance as Director, “Outstanding” - this review is available on our website. There are only 68 NCI designated cancer centers in the country, and several States have none.
I am very proud of what we have accomplished—and by “we,” I mean the many Faculty and staff, Consortium partners, community members, the “Friends of the Cancer Center” etc., that propelled the Cancer Center towards its success.
Many people, and among them the vast majority of Faculty and Staff at the Cancer Center, were and are very supportive and played a critical role in the success story of the Cancer Center. However, our success led also to some jealousy and envy. In addition, there were some people who did not like the changes we needed to implement in order to create a culture of productivity, accountability and meritocracy. For the past year we—and I in particular—have been the target of several gratuitous and false attacks by some news media that did not bother to check the facts. These attacks have not been easy on my family. The University requested that I not respond to any of the media attacks because it was felt that any response would potentially create more controversy, so I was unable to correct any of the misinformation being circulated in the media.
The situation at the Cancer Center has now stabilized. Much of the media controversy has calmed down, and the Cancer Center is strong and stable. I feel strongly that I have done the best that I can to help improve the Cancer Center, and I know that I am leaving a strong, healthy facility with an outstanding faculty and staff.
I became a medical doctor because I wanted to understand the mechanisms that cause cancer and find ways to prevent and cure it. I became the Director of the Cancer Center because I had been asked to help out, and now that part of my work is finished. I am ready now to turn my full attention back to my research, which is producing excellent results, and I hope that I will be able to continue to find new ways to help cancer patients.
PDF: Text of Statement
RELATED: Apple Unredacted: Did Attack on Carbone's $300K 'Assistant' Precipitate Removal of UHM Chancellor?