[from the medical records dept] Sanctioned Theft

[I’m engaged in a segue to a new job and state, which hopefully explains the relative dearth of fresh material recently. In the meanwhile, this post, from early 2014, remains one of my favorites]

As a psychiatric resident in the late 1980s, I didn’t sleep much (at least for the first couple of years), my diet consisted of carry-out or unhealthy hospital fare, and I was paid a pittance. This was the expected rite-of-passage through medical specialty training. But because of the hardships, seemingly minor things took on great significance: a girlfriend who would cook for you, a freebie from a drug rep, an afternoon of total peace and quiet – all are lovely, but all are even more lovely for those who feel so deprived.

thank you, Mastercard

thank you, Mastercard

Which is why taking blatant advantage of our chairman’s credit card was so much darned fun.

In the autumn of each year, we would host senior medical students from around the country who were looking for places at which to do their post-graduate residencies. These were important visits in the eyes of program faculty everywhere. If potential applicants enjoyed their visits, they were more likely to rank the program highly on their ‘match list.’ If the visit were a disaster, though, the program would get ranked lowly, or not at all. This directly effected the quality of the incoming class at every residency program in the country. Thus, heads of departments of all specialties everywhere wanted to see happy visitors at the end of the day.

Enter the credit card lunch scam.

At UVa, we had potential applicants come to the medical center on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays during ‘the season,’ which stretched from September through early December. A sign-up sheet would be posted near our on-call room for those residents who were interested in going to lunch with the visitors on any given day. Because the season stretched for more than three months, and there were several designated days per week, it was not uncommon to host relatively small groups of visitors – three constituted a busy day, and more often than not there might only be one potential applicant visiting.

But for that one visitor? Many times half-a-dozen or more residents would sign up to take her to lunch. I recall once that there was a single interested party… and thirteen residents going to eat.

And as we were taking said prospective applicant out to eat, the chairman’s secretary always handed over the gold MasterCard and told us to bring back the receipt. That was it. No other instructions. No limits. No preferred restaurant list. Just go and enjoy.

So naturally we were cost-conscious and went to modest restaurants. Not.

It was during one of these junkets that I first sampled escargot. Seafood bisque was ordered around the table more often than not – often with seconds. Can’t decide on which appetizers to order? Heck, get them all. And while I don’t recall any ‘Surf and Turf,’ that wasn’t because we couldn’t have done so – it was because the restaurants in town didn’t serve such on their lunch menus.

Hundreds of dollars later, we’d return to the secretary that well-worn credit card, only to repeat the sanctioned theft later in the week.

We thought we were pulling the wool over our chairman’s eyes, and marveled that he didn’t put a stop to it when he saw the bills. But he never did.

Actually, I realized much later that we were doing his bidding without knowing it.

Happy well-fed residents put across the best faces possible for potential applicants. Smiles and laughter were all around. I know that research grants and faculty-to-resident ratios are important, but when those same applicants were later sitting at their homes, finalizing their match lists, they remembered how contented were the residents at the various programs and not necessarily how many papers were published by a particular medical center.

Thus, UVa always had a bumper crop of excellent residents back then. And I think that the chairman’s credit card and our ‘abuse’ of same were in no small part responsible.

[Have an idea for a post topic? Want to be considered for a guest-author slot? Or better, perhaps you’d like to become a day-sponsor of this blog, and reach thousands of subscribers and Facebook fans? If so, please contact the Alienist at vadocdoc@outlook.com]

[Copyright 2013 @ The Alienist’s Compendium]

Dial Z For Zombies

[today’s post is sponsored by Lisa S. Kaplan RN, the best nurse practitioner with whom I’ve ever had the pleasure to work. As she is also skilled in those aspects of the time-space continuum not of this plane, what follows seems an appropriate article to which to affix her name… ]

“The Zombies Are After Brains. Don’t Worry, You’re Safe”
~seen recently on a coffee mug at the office

bon apetite!

bon apetite!

Ask any teen, or horror movie aficionado, and they’ll tell you that zombies of modern western pop culture – not those of Caribbean or African folklore – eat brains. Why that is odd is because the cinematic masterpiece that jumpstarted the whole modern zombie craze, George Romero’s Night Of The Living Dead (1968), makes no mention of brain-eating. As a matter of fact, none of Romero’s six ‘Of The Dead’ films do.

So from where did this near-diagnostic facet of zombie behavior arise?

When asked, even Romero didn’t know. In a 2010 interview with Vanity Fair, he noted, “whenever I sign autographs, they always ask me [to write], ‘Eat Brains!’ I don’t understand…. I’ve never had a zombie eat a brain. But it’s become this landmark thing.”

He went on to say that while his zombies do feast on flesh in general, he is amused that people even care about the specifics of it all (i.e., if they actually have favorite body parts or cuts of human meat). He closed by asking rhetorically if the next question will be, “do zombies shit?”

Turning back the clock, mention of brain-eating didn’t first appear, and then only fleetingly, until Return Of The Living Dead (1985). You’re forgiven if you thought that Romero had a hand in that film, but he didn’t. You see, like an amicable marital divorce, when Romero and his erstwhile collaborator John Russo parted ways in the 1970s on good terms, they agreed that all subsequent releases with ‘Living Dead’ in the title would be Russo’s, while those ‘Of The Dead’ belonged to Romero.

[sidebar: the two split over their differences re: zombies. Romero’s can be killed, whereas Russo felt that his should be essentially immortal]

So that 1985 release was Russo’s. Fans asked him about it vis a vis brain-eating.

He professed ignorance too about the etiology of the whole cerebrum schtick.

But his chief writer and director, Dan O’Bannon, once made a flip comment – one that would have unforeseen cultural consequences – that zombies probably eat brains to “ease their pain.” This was seconded by Bill Stout, the production designer of the 1985 film, who, when ambushed by interviewers, said that such an explanation “made sense” to him. Those with way too much time on their hands took these clues and offered that zombies are merely trying to boost their serotonin levels to produce the desired analgesia, and brains are a great source of that particular neurotransmitter.

Romero has expressed surprise/ amusement at the attention to such zombie detail, especially as he has noted repeatedly that the focus of his movies was always on us, and how we react to the zombies, not on the zombies themselves. He has frequently criticized those who “take it all too seriously.”

And although the definitive answer may never be known, it has been suggested by film and TV critics that neither O’Bannon nor Stout are directly responsible for the focused brain-eating craze. Paradoxically, Matt Groening of The Simpsons may have earned the honor of popularizing what is now universally held. And Groening ain’t talking.

You see, in his 1992 Halloween classic, Dial Z For Zombies (itself a parody of Return of the Living Dead), Groening had his cartoon zombies eat brains, perhaps as a nod to Russo, et al., or perhaps for entirely silly and comedic effect. But as Matthew Belinki of OverThinkingIt.com has since opined, “millions of kids saw [Dial Z For Zombies] before they were old enough to see a real zombie film. I suspect that for a whole generation, [the cartoon] was the first zombie story [they] ever saw. And that, my friends, is why we think that zombies eat brains, even though most of us have never seen a movie where this is actually the case.”

[Have an idea for a post topic? Want to be considered for a guest-author slot? Or better, perhaps you’d like to become a day-sponsor of this blog, and reach thousands of subscribers and Facebook fans? If so, please contact the Alienist at vadocdoc@outlook.com]

[Copyright 2013 @ The Alienist’s Compendium]