Aurum-taxis…

Gold

In 1990, after I’d returned to the University of New Brunswick to upgrade my postsecondary education I had a decision to make. Would I continue along the path I was on which led to postgraduate work in plant genetics?  Or would I throw in the towel, give up any hopes of earning a PhD, and apply to medical school?

I mulled it over, as I worked in a plant genetics lab for the summer, sneezing and wheezing in the stifling 40°C humidity of the acquatic plant greenhouse on the roof of Loring Bailey Hall.    I had not realized until that point how annoying environmental allergies could be.    The pollen of Zizania aquatica, A.K.A. wild rice, had me working with a respirator in no time flat, and gulping antihistamines like they were going out of style.  Maybe that is ultimately what tipped the balance in favour of the medical career.

I wrote my MCATs, applied to a few medical schools, was accepted by Dalhousie, and decided to take the plunge.   I announced it one day to the assembled crew at the Biology Department coffee room.   Congratulations all around.  I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, but also a bit guilty that I would soon part ways with the congenial group of academics and technicians that prowled the halls of the “Old Bailey.”

That’s when Dr. Bong Yoo, senior botanist – and the closest thing the UNB Biology Department had to Yoda – spoke up with his take on my decision.

“Ah.” he said.   “I think Dr. Varty suffers from ‘aurum-taxis!”   Everyone got a good laugh.   We were all familiar with chemotaxis, the process by which organisms are drawn to or repelled by compounds in their vicinity.  The insinuation was that I would turn my back on basic research in order to “go for the gold.”

It wasn’t really that.   I was just tired of sneezing repeatedly into a close-fitting respirator.   You don’t really want the details, do you?

Going for the gold.   When it comes to Olympic hockey, we expect nothing less.   And when we get the gold, boy, do we feel good.

Doctors are sometimes characterized by their non-medical peers as being motivated by the promise of a fat pay check and a comfortable lifestyle.   I certainly would not complain about how I am compensated for the long days I put it tending to the medical needs of my patients.   But I think it would be unfair to suggest that we are only in it for the money.   Most doctors I know are extremely dedicated – some would say to a fault – to their profession.   Our medicare billings are offset by expenses and the effective hourly rate we receive is significantly lower than what you might expect, when all the hours of paperwork, research, and office administration are factored in.

Still, there are those that believe that aurum-taxis can be used to manipulate our behaviour.   Take Velante, for example.   There seems to be a belief that an unpopular software package can be foisted upon the medical community by simply sweetening the pot with a big cash handout.

Wait a minute, slick, it’s not that simple.   We are not that simple.

Doctors know that an EMR is a big commitment.   We talk amongst ourselves.   We hear stories about EMR successes and failures, and we trust what we hear from our colleagues.  We know that purchasing an EMR system is a serious decision, and the decision should not be rushed.

What we don’t trust is a fast-talking, high-pressure salesperson, fresh from a holiday in Cuba, smiling, and holding out a bag of lucre.

How dumb do you think we are?

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