Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Parable to Ponder

A parent sits in a hallway of their child's school, outside the classroom of the teacher entrusted with the responsibility of educating that child. Vitally important, indeed. The parent waits for their appointment, the annual parent-teacher conference to discuss the state of the child's educational progress. Next to the parent sits a handsome, younger man in a suit. Too young to be a parent, maybe an older sibling. The curious parent asks the young man, "Do you have a child in the class?". His response leaves the parent stunned; "I'm a curriculum sales rep, here to meet with the teacher." (Read on!)

Upon recovering from the momentary shock, the parent notices a box and bag next to the young man. "So, it looks like you brought a lot of stuff for the teacher?". The young man replies, "Well, it's just a few curriculum samples, some pens and notepads, and the bag is a dinner from Joe's Deli since I know the teacher won't be able to get dinner in her schedule tonight."

The Parent, trying to grasp all the aspects of these revelations asks, "So you're hoping the teacher will get students to use your curriculum?"

Sales Rep: "I just want to educate the teacher about our product and why it can improve their students' performance."

Parent: "Can't the teacher get that information independently?"

Sales Rep: "Well, yes, but they are busy so we try to help them save time."

Parent: "But you only inform them about your product?"

Sales Rep: "We make sure the teachers know the benefits of our product."

Parent: "Why the need for the free samples, pens, notepads, and food?"

Sales Rep: "Well, honestly, we need them to remember our curriculum product when a student has a need for it. Poorer students can benefit from the free sample curriculum."

At that moment the classroom door opened and the teacher invited the young curriculum sales rep into the room and closed the door. After a few minutes he emerged and quickly left the school. The teacher then invited the parent into the room. The parent's now heightened sense of awareness glanced around the room, making several observations. There was an 'Educat-O' brand clock on the wall. The calendar made by 'Superior Curriculum Co.'. The teacher's desk held a plastic apple paperweight 'The World's Best Teacher uses EDUCATOR XR by Schoolmax'. A cup filled with pens all bearing curriculum logos sat on the corner of the desk. On the other corner sat a half-eaten club sandwich from Joe's Deli and several Schoolmax pens. A shelf behind the desk held hundreds of curriculum booklets labeled 'free sample'. The parent recognized some 'MathExcel by Schoolmax' free samples from the young salesman's box.

Teacher: "So let's talk about your son's math scores. They have been slipping and I think putting him on a new curriculum would help."

Parent: "What do you recommend?"

Teacher: "Well, I have these free samples of this MathExcel program that I think will help him."

Parent: "Why do you feel this is the best option for him?"

Teacher: "I just heard some very good research on the effectiveness of this program."

Parent: "Don't you think that you may be making this recommendation based on gifts that salesman brought?"

Teacher: "Well, other teachers may be affected by sales rep marketing, but I know that I only recommend what's best for the child. Plus I need the free samples to give to the children."

Should this parent trust this teacher? This teacher cares for the children and believes they aren't affected by this marketing. Are you comfortable with this situation regardless of whether or not the teacher is effected? The teacher has the best of intentions and education, but aren't they human? Would the sales rep be there if the marketing did not work?

The pharmaceutical industry spends billions of dollars annually marketing directly to physicians. Often times it is under the pretense of 'Medical Education'. While their product is good and these companies are limited in how they can get the product to consumers, are you comfortable with the ethical conflict this places on physicians? Doctors believe they are above the influence of the marketing. Scientific studies have shown otherwise. Pharmaceutical companies wouldn't invest the money if the marketing didn't work. I encourage you to learn more at and to ask your physician if they are pharm-free.

This message is my own thought and work, not sponsored by any organization or entity other than my own conviction. Please pass this message along!


Lainie said...

Yay Rick!! You will be a fabulous doc one day!!!

jrr said...

I agree with Lainie! Wow, that was a powerful parable. Something to ponder..

Anonymous said...

For the pharm compaines this is a form of advertising. With the opinion stated in the parable one may conclude that you are against all types of advertising since it affects our judgement or view of a product. So instead of just having pharm-free doctors let's get rid of all advertising, billboards, comercials, ads in magazines, etc. Thus we eradicate any possible negative outcome due to advertising.

Anonymous said...

I would encourage all that are skeptical of the pharm industry to learn more about their role in medicine and research before you jump to negative conclusions. You are not a doctor yet and should leave an open mind on such topics because I think that you would be amazed at the breadth and depth of their influence over many areas of medicine!!!!