Doctors, the smartest and dumbest people alive

September 2, 2008 at 6:59 pm (Uncategorized)

The public seems to have this dual perception of physicians as if we are the smartest, yet stupidest people in existence. For instance, there is a certain infallibility that doctors are expected to have when it comes to medical care. You didn’t diagnose a rare presentation of a disease? You’re going to get sued. You failed to order a CAT scan on a person with a chief complaint of “mild headache,” yet has no fever, no neck stiffness, no focal neurological findings, and is perfectly awake and oriented, only to later find out that the person has a hemorrhage? Time to hand in your license. That non-smoking, white collar worker has a cough and you didn’t bother to check for mesothelioma? I want you to meet my two friends Cohen and Cohen.

At the same time, however, the public has a perception that physicians are easily swayed by marketing gimmicks. Somehow if a drug rep gives me a free pen with the word Seroquel written on the side, I’m going to start prescribing the product to everyone that has a chief complaint of “feeling happy.” Those shining members of ethical practice known as Congress have decided that come January, drug reps can no longer supply free gifts to doctors. The thought is that physicians are too easily swayed by the cheap gifts given out by drug reps. Meals are still fair game because “they can be educational.” Textbooks, on the other hand, are no longer allowed because they are considered big ticket items. Somehow, a fancy dinner that costs $100 is considered more appropriate than a book with the same price.

How do doctors to get this dual reputation of being the most educated yet easily persuaded members of society? And where am I going to start getting my pens?



  1. Jared at The Doctor Job said,

    You better stock up on free pens between now and January.

  2. Kevin said,

    I think people think doctors are really book smart rather than street smart, which makes us susceptible to marketing influences.

    It’s interesting though, theres been plenty of studies done on the effects of pharm marketting on doctor decisions and time and time again it’s proven true. I think in some poll, only 15% of doctors said they were influenced by drug companies but 50%+ said their colleagues are

  3. Premed hopeful said,

    I think if you looked at the statistics, you’d be surprised. There’s obviously not a lot that a drug rep can do by giving you a pen, but in the case of larger gifts (and dinners and “conferences,” AKA vacations) Big Pharma can exert quite a bit of control over the prevailing opinions in medicine.

    To the above poster, a study was done on residents in JAMA. 84% of residents thought their colleagues were being influenced, while only 39% said the same could be said of them. The study is titled “Principles and Pens” and was published in 2001.

  4. Kristelle Beautreau said,

    I tend to ignore a lot of what most doctors say, Half. The one who I trust got his undergrad degree in statistics and is a third generation doctor. Whenever he tells me anything, he backs it up. Sometimes what he says contradicts what the AMA says and he gives me a choice, then we see what insurance says.

    When I was pregnant, MOST OB/Gyns would parrot the AMA mantra about ALL mothers being able to breast feed, that it helped babies bond, that in spite of me having had several children in a row that my breasts were up to it. . . a midwife from an OB’s office added that breast feeding would energize me! Breast feeding exhausted me (I’d later learn of what prolactin does) and I’d finally figure out that I just didn’t make enough milk to feed my kids after the 3rd one. I was told that with formula that I’d put them at risk for obesity, that they’d not bond– yet they were never fat (I’m slender which my stats doctor says has more to do with it than anything) and they were never jaundiced and we get along great. Babies just need food and to be cuddled! I fought the OB’s on every statement. I did not realize how much you are forced to say by your governing agency, the AMA.

    Placebos work if the illness is short lived and it seems like it was the placebo that fixed it.

    People feel helpless in medical situations and I think the perceived wisdom of the doctors and their occasional inability to fix things brings out shrewish behavior. People often don’t have realistic expectations of what medical treatment is going to do. Are they in the ER to fix a problem or to get rid of it? For the longest time I was taking an asthmatic daughter to the ER until my mom went with me and she demanded an explanation and the doctor explained that he was just a Band Aid– my daughter needed to see an allergist (MD or eastern Medicine– I chose Eastern and it’s been effective.)

    Nurses can be biatchy and then who likes getting undressed and examined? You feel vulnerable. I don’t hear anything that is said to me when I am in that state.

  5. Doc said,

    To be fair, my best friend (a Doctor) does happen to be the smartest, and yet dumbest (in a nice way!!) person I know.

  6. don said,


  7. James said,

    Very Nice.

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  11. said,

    There are many options. Main thing would be to prepare for medical residency – nice high quality scrubs (, medical books related to specialty, if she or he will go to “standing specialties” like surgeons etc. be sure to get high quality shoes.

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