Tuesday, December 8, 2009

#27: Wilford Brimley

Wilford Brimley is a genuine American hero. A former Marine turned actor, Brimley has always been on the backburner of the American public stage, and his reputation has only ripened as he has aged. You see, Brimley has never let things like irrelevance or a lack of expertise stop him from achieving his American dream. And Wilford Brimley's American dream is to sell you diabetic testing supplies.

If you are thinking of entering medical school, it's important that you become acquainted with the greatness that is Wilford Brimley. Brimley was born in 1934 in Salt Lake City, which makes him a septuagenarian and a Mormon. He gained prominence as an actor for his work in such films as the made-for-TV movie Ewoks: The Battle for Endor. After deciding that it was important for him to use his acting talents for evil rather than for good, he decided to get into the business of making commercials. After making commercials for a number of no-name companies (e.g., Quaker Oats), he eventually landed the role for which he will forever be known: the spokesperson for the diabetic testing supply company, Liberty Mutual.

In this capacity, Brimley has gained mass appeal within two very distinct groups of people: senior citizens and med students. Senior citizens resonate with Brimley's portrayal as the shining knight who has come to guide them to good health in these confusing and ever-changing times. On the other hand, med students know him as that old guy who can't pronounce the word "diabetes" for the life of him.

You see, when Brimley was made spokesperson for Liberty Mutual, nobody in the company worried that he might not be qualified to talk about diabetes, seeing as he had no medical training whatsoever. However, he did have diabetes and he was folksy enough to relate to their target demographic. In their minds, these two qualities made him the perfect salesperson. But as is so often the case, one group's salesperson is another group's buffoon.

It takes something special to grab the attention of the younger generations, like LOLcats or the Star Wars Kid. Wilford Brimley had that special something. Every time he tried to say the word "diabetes," it would always come out sounding like "diabeetus," and the kids couldn't get enough of it. The halls of medical schools everywhere rang for months with the sounds of "beetus-beetus," and comparisons of Brimley's appearance to that of cats were made (I particularly like comparison #4).

It could have stopped there. If it had been one commercial, the med students would have had a good chuckle for a few days and then went back to memorizing anomalies of the reproductive system. But no, like the Little Train that Could, many more videos with Brimley saying "diabeetus" were released. Wilford Brimley and Liberty Mutual were either unaware of his mispronunciation of this fundamental word, or actively encouraged it (perhaps to make him seem more folksy) ... and so his legend grew. With every new commercial that Brimley made, the narrative of "beetus-beetus" was renewed and retold. Remixes of his videos were produced. Fake motivational posters were created. Videos of him were shown in small group sessions. Wilford Brimley became part of our vocation's heritage.

The lessons that can be learned from the story of Wilford Brimley's diabeetus are many, but the one most relevant to the medical student is that diabeetus is a laughing matter; use this to your advantage. Medical students seem like a homogenous bunch from the outside, but spend a few months with them and you will realize that there are few things that all med students agree on. The hilarity of "beetus-beetus" is one of these things! If you find yourself in a situation where you want to talk to one of your classmates but can't think of a suitable topic, feel free to use "beetus-beetus" as a conversation starter. It can make the difference between an everyday acquaintance and a new best friend.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Doctors Being Dumb #1: 06-14-2009

Summary: I like to complain a lot about the different hoops that medical schools put their students through, mostly because the entirety of the process to get trained as a physician (both medical school and residency) is so long and painful. No other time in my life have I been so completely surrounded by people who have such little regard for actually doing an adequate job of teaching their pupils, and are instead entirely focused on protecting their own fragile egos. However, I'll be the first to admit that these hoops that they make us jump through do contain a few worthwhile lessons that can serve to make us better doctors than we'd be otherwise. "Don't inject your sister with an experimental serum that hasn't been properly tested or evaluated by it's manufacturers for fear of causing a life-threatening adverse drug reaction" is one such lesson, and is usually imparted to medical students during their first 24 hours of their medical school careers.

Apparently, Dr. Yvonne Pambakian was asleep when that lesson was being taught, as she injected an experimental drug into herself, her sister, their mother, and just for kicks, a random terminally ill woman. Researchers were developing the drug to treat diabetes and cancer, but were also hoping that the drug would have anti-aging properties as well. Both Dr. Pambakian and her sister (Mrs. Yolanda Cox) worked for the pharmaceutical company that was developing the drug, which had been set up by the only person stupid enough to think that these women were qualified to have access to experimental medications - their mother, one of the abovementioned women who allowed herself to be injected with the serum.

While Dr. Pambakian, her mother, and the random terminally ill woman did not have any adverse reactions from the medication, Mrs. Cox was not so lucky. She went into some kind of cardiopulmonary arrest after receiving the injection, and was taken by ambulance to a local hospital where she was put on mechanical ventilation. However, neurological testing showed that her brain was irreversibly damaged, and her family elected to have her life support machine turned off.

Now, I might be able to understand your willingness to inject your sister with such a drug if she was 75 and had a whole host of age-related health issues. Heck, I might even understand if your sister was 50 and a few age-related health issues. But, I'm going to have to question your sanity when you decide that it's a good idea to give such a drug to your 24 year old sister - which is exactly how old Mrs. Cox was. I'm not sure what age Mrs. Cox was hoping to achieve, but I'd have to guess that it falls somewhere squarely in the prepubescent range, since clearly that's the level of maturity that she reached in her 24 years on earth.

Hopefully, the negative press from this event will cause the company to self-implode and bankrupt this family, so that they can't breed any more children to further bring down the fitness of the human race.

Best Quotation: "Both sisters worked for a pharmaceutical company, Amro Biotech, set up by their mother, Dr Arpi Matossian-Rogers."