A responsibility you didn’t know you had


The following occured 48 years ago but its implications grew progressively more disturbing the more I saw as I practiced medicine (neurology).  Just before leaving grad school and entering med school I made some money as a TA in a 6 or 8 week summer course in organic chemistry cramming a year’s worth into that tiny space (and into fairly tiny brains given what was taking the course). Some of them had previously flunked organic, others needed to pass it to get into medical school.  Probably this sort of course is still being given and some of you may be making some money the way I did this summer. If so, listen up, you have an important function to perform. 

One loathsome twerp had actually been accepted and was to matriculate in the fall (like me) but only if he passed the course. You know the type, every point taken off was fought over, etc. etc. I was also pretty sure he was also cheating in the lab. The denouement came with the benzoin condensation. We were shooting for a 70% yield, and sure enough starting with 5 grams of benzaldehyde he got 7.5 grams of benzoin.

I wanted him thrown out of the course. He was not. God only knows what damage he caused as an M. D. (assuming he made it through med school).

As an older and wiser Doc once said to me — medicine is a license to steal — the only protection the public has is a doctor who is a little too busy, so that all he does is what he should do, not what he can do.

A few examples of what I’ve seen  #1  A drug addicted urologist who passed his urine tests (for a while) after he was caught, by catheterizing his patients, obtaining their urine, then catheterizing himself and instilling their (presumably) drugfree urine into his bladder.  #2 — The Plaintiff’s friend — a neurologist who didn’t have an examining table in his office and who examined people in their attorney’s office.  #3 The crooked neurologist, who, to make money, diagnosed hapless neurotics as having multiple sclerosis, plunked them in the hospital and gave them unnecessary treatment with high dose corticosteroids.  One of them developed bilateral aseptic necrosis of the hips as a result.  Multiple (billable) expensive tests (EEGs, Evoked responses, EMGs, NCVs) were performed on them — it’s called acute remunerative neurology.
Fortunately he has now lost his license to practice medicine — for incompetence. Most of us thought it was fraud rather than incompetence, but he was very smart (crooked docs usually are), and we could never catch him out. 

Where do you come in?  If you find such an individual throw them out of the course.  Would you want them taking care of your mother in a few years?  And if someone says “If I don’t pass organic, I won’t get into medical school”  — think to yourself — “If you can’t pass organic, you don’t BELONG in medical school” and act accordingly (e.g. flunk them).  It may not be easy, and I have no idea what the academic/legal environment is these days, but you’ll be doing society a favor. 
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  • J-bone  On May 28, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    More wise words. Thanks for posting this, I have felt the frustration not only of dealing with the grape-grabbing pre-meds, but also the cheaters who don’t get busted. I sincerely hope these type of people are the minority (although you would have a better perspective on this than me).

  • luysii  On June 13, 2010 at 8:48 pm

    J-bone — based on my experience, they are definitely in the minority — probably around 1%, but the damage they can do is enormous.

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