Frequently Asked Questions
What is an MD Anderson Ombuds (also known as an Ombudsman or Ombudsperson)?
An Ombuds is a person who provides confidential, impartial, off-the-record assistance to all workforce members who have concerns, conflicts, complaints, or disputes arising from or affecting their work or studies at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. The primary goal of the Ombuds is to enhance an employee's ability to deal effectively with a given situation and to seek a timely resolution. The Ombuds Office provides an alternate channel that supplements existing resources. The Ombudsperson does not have decision-making authority, but strives to facilitate positive outcomes for all parties.
What are some common problems people present to the Ombuds?
Any type of conflict in the workplace that an objective third party could clarify or mediate is appropriate. Employees often come to the Ombuds Office to discuss interpersonal misunderstandings, feelings of abuse of power, or disagreements about policy, procedure or career concerns. People also visit the Ombuds Office when they are not sure where to find guidance, how to address problems, or what options are available.
What about confidentiality?
Confidentiality is respected and protected so that individuals can freely discuss issues without fear of retribution or loss of standing with friends, peers, or a supervisor. For this reason, confidentiality is assured to the extent of the law. No disclosure is made without the knowledge and consent of the person seeking assistance from the Ombuds Office. The Ombuds Office staff does not reveal the identity of those who visit the office or the contents of confidential communications. The only exception is when an Ombudsperson determines there is imminent risk of serious harm or injury.
Since the Ombudspersons are employed by The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, can they really be impartial?
The Ombuds Office is a designated neutral and independent office, not part of the management chain-of-command at MD Anderson. The Office reports to the President, but maintains neutrality and confidentiality. No sides are taken as to who is “right" or "wrong.” The Ombuds works to deliver the most informed options for resolving problems.
To whom does the Ombuds report, and what is reported?
The Ombuds Office reports to the President of the Institution. Ombuds Office activities, program strategies, and needed resources are discussed with the President, but identifying information regarding who visits the office or the nature of specific issues is never revealed.
What type of records does the MD Anderson Ombuds Office keep?
The MD Anderson Ombuds Office does not keep permanent records of confidential communications. It does keep summary statistical information, without names or departmental affiliation, to report general trends and program utilization. Office personnel may keep informal notes while working with an issue, but these notes are routinely destroyed upon completion of a matter.
Is it safe to send e-mails to the Ombuds Office?
You may schedule an appointment using our e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org), but please keep in mind that there is always a degree of risk that an e-mail will be seen by others. You should never rely upon e-mail as a resource for confidential communications. We prefer that you contact us by telephone or schedule an appointment to meet with us.
I would like to make a record of my problem with my supervisor. Can I do that by talking with an Ombuds?
No. Every discussion with an Ombuds is "off-the-record," and will not be shared with anyone else outside of the Ombuds Office. Also, due to the confidential, independent, and informal nature of the Ombuds Office, communication with the Ombuds Office does not place MD Anderson on "Official Notice" of any claim you may have. If you want to put a matter on the record, however, the Ombuds Office can help you to identify ways to do so.
May I take time off during work to see an Ombuds?
If you visit the Ombuds Office during your scheduled work hours, you must follow your departmental guidelines for being away from your workstation, including informing your supervisor. However, we recognize that there are times when you don't want anyone to know about a visit to the Ombuds Office, so we make every effort to see people during lunch hours or before or after work. The Ombuds Office staff is also available by appointment or telephone.
If I go to the Ombuds Office, will I still be able to use other Institutional resources to address my concern?
Yes, you may use the Ombuds Office before or after using other resources. Due to our confidentiality, you may consider using this office first.
Will the Ombuds represent me or advocate for my interests?
As we discuss your concerns, we will remain impartial and neutral. As Ombudspersons we are not advocates for employees or management. We work with all parties to resolve the issue in a timely manner.
I work for MD Anderson outside of the Texas Medical Center. How can I use the services of the Ombuds Office?
We are available to speak with employees at the Smithville and Bastrop campuses as well as the Regional Care Centers. You may speak with an Ombuds by calling the Ombuds Office on its toll-free line, 866-610-7841.
Make An Appointment With An Ombudsperson
713-792-4896 or 866-610-7841
Pickens Academic Tower (FCT10.5081)
1400 Pressler Drive
Houston, TX 77030