Rambling Around the Medical Blogosphere

(A roundup of some of the non-seismic events that have been troubling medical bloggers -PB)

Whaddya’ Mean it Doesn’t Work?

I rise in support of the makers of Airborne, an all-natural cold remedy, who are the unfair victims of a class action lawsuit that alleges, among other things, that the product neither works as advertised nor has any legitimate research behind it to back its claims. Developed by a couple of school teachers in the late nineties, this nostrum was promised to do nothing less than cure the common cold and in the process fulfilling the second part of the impossibility trifecta; the first of which was putting a man on the moon and the third, the remote possibility that Whoopi Goldberg will ever make a funny movie. Having been involved in a couple of business ventures myself, I understand the difficulty of marketing a new product in an economy packed to the gills with hundreds of variations of every product you can think of. The spatula section alone at a typical Target, for example, offers a bewildering array of spatulas (spatulae?) each with some carefully researched but ultimately ineffectual angle to attract the consumer. It’s not easy marketing some crap in bottle as the market is currently saturated with the stuff.

Claiming to cure the common cold was a good start because that takes some chutzpah even if it did require a careful strategy to keep the FDA at bay. The teacher angle was pretty good, too. I mean they’re school teachers fer’ Muhammed’s sake. School teachers! Everybody knows they’re smart and that they can do no wrong. They’re, like, untouchable, man! Accusing them of chicanery would be like bludgeoning the Pope with a baby seal. It should have been enough except that the makers of Airborne forgot one important lesson: In this day and age, lawyers are everywhere and if you’re going to sell useless crap to a gullible public, at the bare minimum you’ve got to have some big academic medical center providing cover. They know this in Durham, North Carolina where Duke Integrative Medicine flogs the usual candy-ass Complementary and Alternative Medicine with complete impunity, secure in the knowledge that every brand of snake oil they peddle, from Reiki to Guided Imagery and every breed of utter stupidity in between, bears the august imprimatur of Duke University.

You’re Doing it Wrong

I also rise in support of the New Scotland International School of Medicine, which, as its home page breathlessly informs us, is the Number One Leader in US Medical education. Not bad for a school that just opened its alleged doors a little more than a year ago. Ostensibly a churlish little enterprise taking advantage of some little-known (and perhaps imaginary) World Health Organization loophole conceived by French bureaucrats to legitimaze medical schools in countries ruled by oleaginous fat guys in military uniforms, Stewart University (as it is also known) promises to provide affordable and easily accessible medical training to people who, by virtue of bad grades, poor test scores, lack of a high school education, and other injustices are incapable of gaining admission to more traditional American medical schools.

Is it a scam? What do you think? At the risk of sounding shallow, one look at the nepotic rogues gallery comprising its administration, including the Provost Emeritus whose photograph lools like the last known picture of a Nazi war criminal before he fled to Argentina and the Chief Operations Officer who is a dead ringer for the Girl in the Back of the Bus who smoked cigarettes and let the boys look at her hooters, should be all anybody needs to know. The provost himself is a 32nd Degree Mason and a Member of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine so, you know, he’s gotta’ be qualified as is the Facilities Director who couldn’t get a date for the prom and decided to get a job with Stewart instead.

Clinical rotations, you ask? Hah! “Clinical rotations,” the eponymous Chancellor informs us, “Are the least concern of a new applicant to medical school.” So apparently yer’ not going to do any. MCAT? College degree? Not required, allegedly, in Burundi or Southern California. A GED will do. That troublesome extra fourth year? Not necessary. The United Nations has decreed it, we believe it, and nothing more need be said. All you gotta’ do is get one of their cut-rate degrees, pass the USMLE Step tests, and finagle your way into the American residency training system with a generic international medical degree and no clinical experience whatsoever.

Oh the seductive allure to those whose dreams of a medical career are otherwise impossible to attain. This school has it all. No admission requirements to speak of. Easy courses taught by a lackluster faculty. Three-year curriculum. Southern California location. One last chance to redeem frustrated dreams, an in-your-face to those who said that your child pornography conviction would forever keep the prize out of your reach. With this in mind I must ask Graham to stop busting down on this little enterprise, this last best hope for those who could be great physicians if they could only get a handle on that, what do you call it, heart-thingy. The fact that this beacon of mediocrity might have to close its alleged doors (if it already hasn’t) would be a great blow to American health care and could be avoided if the school just tried a different marketing approach.

First of all, if you’re going to make a virtue of a weak curriculum, broken-down faculty, and shoddy instruction, you have to protect yourself from your potential critics. The military angle had got to go. The academic left will forgive a lot and tolerate all sorts of assaults on their academic standards but as every single member of Stewart’s executive body is a uniformed, blood-thirsty, baby-killing, My Lai torching, brainwashed, current or former military officer, they are nothing if not a big old fat target. Might as well put a big sign on the alleged doors begging to be shut down. If they’re going to do it right the Chancellor et al need to grow beards, learn how to tell jokes, and give their medical school some whimsical name like the Gesundheit Institute or the Center for Caring. Can’t shut you down if you’re wearing clown suits, home boy, or don’t you watch movies?

Not to mention the school needs to drop the legitimate medical education angle. Nobody’s buying it and it is too hard to fake. Instead, they need to invent some useless crapola and market it to the leftover hippies. I suggest they go au natural and offer degrees in Naturopathic medicine or similar horseshit. It’s not as if there are any standards. You can pretty much make it up as you go along, gleaning whatever you need from head shop catalogues, Wiccan literature, and whatever you can rustle up in the Alternative lifestyles section of your local Barnes and Nobles. Then they need to move to Seattle where they’re into that sort of thing. Give Bastyr University a run for their money.

Rambling Around the Medical Blogosphere

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