Category: Culture

The pornification of the medical profession

published date
November 21st, 2006 by

The pornification of the medical profession

What does this sound like?

As she delivered her thoughtful patient presentations to me and the other attending doctors, it was hard not to notice her low-cut dress.

A Harlequin romance? A soft-core film? Nope. It’s from an essay in the New York Times (When Young Doctors Strut Too Much.)

Among older and middle-aged physicians (like myself), tales of salacious and sloppy trainee attire abound. One colleague commented that a particularly statuesque student “must have thought all her male patients were having strokes” when she walked in their exam room wearing a low-cut top and a miniskirt… One Midwestern medical school dean reported that her school instituted a formal dress policy after administrators noticed students revealing too much flesh while sunbathing on a small patch of grass outside the school building, directly below patients’ hospital room windows.

Patients, especially older ones, won’t take doctors as seriously and may not be as open with them when they fail to show up for work dressed as expected. Smutty novelists and film makers may also have to take things up a level to differentiate themselves. Is it all part of the pornification of America?

This just in: Parents still clueless

published date
October 3rd, 2006 by

This just in: Parents still clueless

Your parents didn’t know what you were up to. You don’t know what your kids are up to. And I’ll bet your kids won’t know what their kids are up to either. From MedPage Today (Parents in the Dark About Teens’ Drinking and Drugging):

Asking parents about adolescents’ substance use and abuse is essentially a waste of time, found a researchers team…

[According to the researchers,] “investigators could save time and resources by limiting the number of questions asked of parents so that only basic information regarding substance use is obtained, or by omitting parent reports about substance use altogether, particularly for older adolescents.”

Cocaine makes a comeback

published date
October 3rd, 2006 by

Cocaine makes a comeback

Two items on the cocaine front. From the Durham Herald-Sun:

Eric Clapton is playing “Cocaine” again. The recovering drug addict and alcoholic… stopped performing the song… when he first got sober.

“I thought it might be giving the wrong message…[b]ut further investigation proved… it’s an anti-drug song…” {I wonder what he means by “investigation.” — DW}

Clapton also said he missed paying “Cocaine,” …just purely from a musical point of view.”

Meanwhile, back in New York (Maker of New ‘Cocaine’ Drink Gets Scolding From Lawmakers):

Outraged… lawmakers denounced the manufacturer of a new, highly caffeinated soft drink called Cocaine yesterday and called for a boycott of the beverage, saying it glamorized an illegal and deadly stimulant…

[Cocaine’s website] …offers recipes for cocktails like Liquid Cocaine, Cocaine Smash, Cocaine Blast and even Cocaine Snort.

The Times article goes on to talk about “condemnation” and “withering criticism” by various experts. It’s actually kind of funny to see the Times get so huffy. Meanwhile, the CEO of the drink’s maker says, “There’s a lot of irony and wordplay.” Actually, not that much.

Surprisingly, no one’s bothered to mention cocaine’s protective powers against tasers.

Will it play in Palo Alto?

published date
September 13th, 2006 by

Will it play in Palo Alto?

Saw the news today that Elephant Pharmacy raised a $26 million Series C round. The company, which bills itself as “the leading complementary pharmacy and one-stop wellness store” has two stores now, both in Northern California. I visited the Berkeley store last year and it was a heck of a lot different from anything we have on the East Coast, even in Cambridge, our closest local approximation of Berkeley.

There was a regular pharmacy counter, but that’s about the only thing that was similar to the typical CVS or Rite Aid. The herbalists were busy in their own department, concocting potions of various kinds. A nutritionist, who “uses a caring, nonjudgmental approach to food to help clients prevent illness and improve wellness through diet and lifestyle” was working that day, as was a massage therapist, but I missed the nutripuncturer.

The shelves were lined with a variety of herbal preparations, vitamins, pilates and yoga equipment, “fair trade” goods. and other sorts of alternative fare. Reference books were interspersed among the merchandise and there was also a dedicated book section. I purchased some natural lozenges (sweetened with rice syrup) and a “Bucky” pillow and eyeshade I use on long flights.

The press release for the new investment describes the opportunity as follows:

Americans spend $27 billion annually on alternative and complementary medicine. Increasing numbers of Bay Area consumers who are looking to take the next step in self-managing their own health and wellness are turning to Elephant Pharmacy as a key resource…In addition to its present locations in Berkeley and San Rafael, Calif., Elephant expects to announce the opening of locations in Los Altos in 2006 and Walnut Creek in 2007.

I got a kick out of the store. The customers looked dead serious as they loaded up on high margin merchandise and listened to advice from some of the whacked out staff members. You should visit if you’re in the neighborhood.

It does seem to make sense to merchandise alternative/complementary items with prescriptions, since lots of people use both. But it’s something that mainstream pharmacies haven’t done. Pharmacists tend to be uncomfortable with alternative therapies, often with good reason.

I don’t have any special insights into the economics of Elephant, but my hunch is that the concept will have limited appeal outside its home market. I wonder how many new locations are required to achieve a return on the new investment. Do they really need $26 million to open two stores? They probably have some other plans.

Elephant seems a little too funky for the mainstream, unlike some other California-based retail concepts like Trader Joe’s. I also expect that increased scientific scrutiny of the safety and efficacy of herbal medications will hurt the category in the long term, although there’s a big group of true believers that won’t be easily deterred.