Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Suicide Mission

As my regular readers know, I moonlight as a consultant for various medical market research companies. It's a thankless job, but somebody has to pay for the tomatoes.

So last night I had a dinner meeting with neurologists and sundry other specialists to review data on an up-and-coming product.

These are never fun, because neurologists by nature are a remarkably pathological group of personalities. Back when I worked at Humungous Neurology, Inc. the partners would argue if it was dark or light outside. I think they invite the other specialties to these as a buffer.

But I digress.

So I was seated next to Dr. Harangue, who I'd had the good fortune of not having seen in at least 5 years. In his own mind he's a giant in his field. To those outside his mind he's an obnoxious boil. He may have once been a good doc, but as they say in Hollywood "you're only as good as your last picture". And his was made before Casablanca.

Neurologists will argue over anything. The meal started with a dispute across from me over who's bread plate was who's (right or left? GET YOUR BREAD OFF MY PLATE!) followed by a fight over which fork is used for salad. Somebody actually dragged the maitre d' to the room to settle the issue (no, it wasn't me. I sit still and keep my mouth shut as much as possible).

I'm not much into the swanky places they have these meetings at. I ordered a steak. I had no idea how complex this was.

Waiter: "How would you like that cooked?"

Dr. Grumpy: "Medium."

Waiter: 'That involves a light red center. Is that okay?"

Dr. Grumpy: "As opposed to..."

Waiter: "Well, rare is a pink center."

Dr. Grumpy: "Medium is fine."

Waiter: "I can do medium rare, too. That's a pink/red combo".

Dr. Grumpy: "What's wrong with medium?"

Waiter: "I'll just do medium-rare-plus for you. That's a pinkish-red."

Whatever. I'm trying to order a steak, not pick out draperies.

Then the talk began. Every time a doc involved in the study was mentioned, Dr. Harangue felt the need to interrupt and say "I know that doctor personally. We've been close friends for over 25 years." By the end of the meeting I was hoping they'd mention a study done by Hippocrates or Woodrow Wilson to see if he knew them, too.

After 15 minutes of talking, the speaker stepped out from behind the podium to show us all that his zipper was down, with his tucked-in shirt hanging out of it. A tactful internist promptly yelled "Christ! Your fly is open!" to drop a subtle hint.

Then they brought dinner. The cardiologist next to me had ordered prime rib (no comment), and the waiter accidentally set my steak in front of him, and his prime rib in front of me. I pointed this out, and he quickly switched plates.

The cardiologist had a freakin' FIT! "I don't want that now! It was in front of him! He could have H1N1, or worse! Doesn't the heath department check you places anymore?!!!" It was, literally, in front of me for less than 5 seconds.

So I quietly started my steak, while they went to get Dr. Germaphobe a new prime rib (actually, I think they just brought him back the old one).

The next speaker showed us a seemingly endless series of graphs. After 20 minutes of this, she asked if anyone had any comments. Dr. Phlame at the end of the table immediately raised his hand. "Yes, I want to know why you chose red and blue as the main colors for the graphs. I think mauve and maybe yellow would be much more aesthetically pleasing. Also, I think some ruffles or curvy lines around the slide border would be nice."

This was immediately followed by Dr. Harangue chipping in "Dr. Phlame, do you live under a freaking rock? This company has been using those colors for years. But back to the data, did any of you people think to compare these results to a 1954 study by Longdead, et al?" The speaker (and everyone else there) had absolutely no clue what he was talking about, and Dr. Harangue chewed us out, as if it had just been published last week. When I looked it up, the study investigated a drug (that's no longer in use) for an unrelated condition.

Throughout this excitement the waiters kept refilling our glasses (ENDLESS DIET COKE HEAVEN!), so dysfunctional personalities were not improving with repeated doses of Burgundy and other wines.

In one discussion, to argue a point about a competing drug, an internist actually reached into his pocket and pulled out a product insert. I swear! He had it with him, all scrunched up. After reading from it like it was a bible he sat down and began arguing with a pulmonary doc about when daylight savings time starts.

We made it through another 15 minutes of polite discussion before Dr. Germaphobe cardiologist began tapping my shoulder. "Hey, Ibee!"

I turned around "What's up?"

"Are you gonna finish your roll?"

Stunned, I looked at the bread roll I'd absently left on my plate. It was buttered, and I'd taken a few bites out of it. "Uh, no, I'm full".

"Thanks!" And he grabbed it. So the guy who'd refused to eat an untouched steak was now chomping on my partially eaten dinner roll. Amazing what a bottomless glass of white wine will do.

As we sat through another set of slides, Dr. Harangue's cell phone rang. He answered it, speaking loudly enough to be heard in the next county (i.e., his usual volume). "What? Yeah. No, I've got another half hour of this shit. The drug company people won't shut up."

The dinner ended 20 minutes later. To make sure all points were covered, the moderator specifically asked "Dr. Harangue, are there any other comments?"

No answer. It was the only time he'd been quiet all night. He was in a burgundy stupor, slumped face down next to his creme brulee. He was still there when I collected my paycheck and left.


Suzanne said...

Dr. Grumpy, you are as funny as Douglas Adams in your writing and I check for a new post everyday!

The Good Cook said...

I don't think I ever want to go to the doctor again. Ever. And what? No one was having sex under a table with a drug rep? What kind of dinner was this?

Amanda said...

My coffee almost was sprayed on my monitor with the "Christ your fly's open" comment.

I can only be grateful it wasn't my Diet Coke.

Doris said...

Amazing...they have neurologists as the waiters at these things, too?


Anonymous said...

You should try your steak rare sometime, much nicer that way.

Anonymous said...

Classic. A perfect description of why I avoid socializing with other doctors.

modesty press said...

I have to go see my doctor next week. He seems perfectly sensible and sane. However, he is not a neurologist.

Right now, he tells me he is concerned about my vitamin D level.

Is there a possibility that neurologists as a group suffer from a vitamin D deficiency?

I hope I never have to consult a neurologist, and die of something sensible like a heart attack, quickly and quietly.

Layla said...

Ha ha! Laughed my arse off. Dr Harangue reminds me of the neurology consultant I used to work for. He used to grunt and throw his shoes when displeased. Sounds like neurologists are the same on both sides of the pond - though there are the occasional ones with social skills, such as your good self ;)

Me said...

Regarding Dr. Germaphobe, you should've totally mentioned the conundrum that you noticed AFTER he finished eating your half-eaten roll. That would've been hilarious.

Miss Chevious said...

At least you get paid to put up with this nonsense!

Alpine, R.N. said...

Steak and diet coke? sounds like a PERFECT meal!!!

Archeologists are worse than docs, in my experience, and they drink considerably more aggressively...but then I've never seen more than one neuro guy at a time...and the one I know is AMAZING!

The Pricalyh Man said...

Clearly, the butter on your partially-eaten roll was what caused the cardiologist to overcome his germaphobia. Also, it sounds like the waiter was trying not-too-subtly to hint to you that you should order your steak rare or medium rare. I'm with him on this one. Sorry.

amy said...

The cardiologist had already ingested so much spit from the kitchen (has he NEVER read a book by a waiter/waitress about what is done to food that is sent back?) that he probably would have eaten a used napkin as dessert.

Ware are we?? said...

What a horribly boring evening! I'd rather have been home playing solitaire on my computer not being bothered by all that.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Hey, I got paid. And fed. And Diet Coked to the gills.

And I got a blog entry out of it.

ERP said...

Where do I sign up for this? - I am all for the bottomless Cabernet glass!

Suzanne said...

White wine with prime rib? Egads.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

Esmerelda- I noticed that too, but given my poison of choice just kept quiet.

John Woolman said...

Hmm. i think surgeons, particularly neurosurgeons, are worse.

Grumpy, M.D. said...

John Woolman- I entirely agree. But fortunately we don't get invited to the same meetings.

Steph said...

I went to a talk about a insulin inhaler and the dr. who presented it started showing vacation pictures from Egypt halfway through. I feel your pain. :/

Anonymous said...

How you kept from rolling out of your chair with laughter is beyond me. Certainly made my day!

C. said...

Engineers are about the same. They drive me nuts but occasionally pay me, so eh.

moppie said...

How good does attending one of these dinners pay? You get paid to have free dinner...sounds worth it

Lilorfnannie said...

That was very funny reading. Good job :-) I am astounded at how childishly people with such high educational levels can act. Just amazing. Sounds like a three-ring circus. And you get free food, and a paycheck! Who says life is boring!

rxgirl said...

try having dinner with a group of pharmacists. The ones I'm surrounded with are....boooorrriiinnnggggg. At least you got entertained.

cynic said...

This is a typical family reunion dinner for us. Just throw the additional mix of medical / lawyers and a few pseudoscience majors in there.

Unknown said...

Omigaaaaahd. Brilliant. SOunds like a group of SUzuki teachers at PD, but you lucky, lucky people get alcohol to dull the pain. I'm so jealous!

Dana said...

My fave line from the evening: "What? Yeah. No, I've got another half hour of this shit. The drug company people won't shut up."

I have been in those meetings, I think.

Anonymous said...

Wouldn't running a micro scale meth lab out of your car be more sane and profitable that that Monty Python skit gone horribly wrong?

Mrs. better give you some extra "sugar" for dealing with those mutants. Tomatoes will be extra $$$ because of the tomatoe blight making the rounds. Guess you'll be seeing those D-heads and morons more often. :(

LD50 Rat

Joanie said...

Doesn't Dr. Harangue know it's far more dangerous to send a meal back to the kitchen when you're being an a**hole? I bet he got way more germs than he bargained for after he got his "2nd" prime rib!

quixote said...

Didn't anyone ask why you were taking copious notes on your phone? "Hey, Ibee, 'sall onna product insert. You don' needta write it down." (Followed by a muttered, "Man, these neurologists are all nuts.")

Or does every other one have a blog, so they were all scribbling?

Grumpy, M.D. said...

I was the only one writing. I use paper. Maybe they have better memories than me.

Kimbra Kasch said...

I love tomatoes - but REALLY . . . ?

Cindy said...

'allo to the blog, loving every bit of it. :) And what is with cardiologists being do I put this...complete dicks?? When I was in pharm school, I had a rotation in a cardio ICU and another one in a neurology unit, and the neurologists were infinitely cooler than the cardiosurgeons, haha.

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