The decline and fall of the physician practice management industry is burning up the T-1 lines on the Yahoo! Internet investment message board, a forum that allows anonymous contributors to trade sob stories or hot tips about buying stock in PPMs.
Each company has its own site, and shoot-the-bull (or, in this case, the bear) activity often increases when the stock falls. A few notable extremes in a forum noted for extremism:
Most clogged pipeline: FPA Medical Management's site. In the three months surrounding FPA's July 19 bankruptcy, the site logged an astounding 12,000 messages. With FPA no longer trading on Nasdaq, the site ceased to exist.
Scariest fate: To be linked to FPA, thanks to its drop from $40 per share to bankruptcy in mere months. On sites dealing with at least 20 companies, debates occur over whether their subjects will be the dreaded "next FPAM (the company's stock symbol)." One PPM chatter uses the online nickname "Lost it all on FPAM."
Most hated message-monger: Freddypiller, a chatter on the MedPartners site. Freddypiller chimes in every five messages or so with all-capped diatribes against MedPartners and anyone who invests in it. In Internet chat, all capital letters is equivalent to screaming. Other chatters scream back, and things degenerate to the point where Freddypiller and his foes question each other's heterosexuality. What that has to do with investing, Modern Physician has no idea.
Most common adjective used to describe doctors: "Whiny."
Gap in the resume. Something was missing in the news release announcing Richard Gilleland's hiring as chief of Tyco International's healthcare group: Gilleland's last job.
Most hiring announcements name the subject's previous job, but Tyco, a Bermuda-based manufacturer, left out that Gilleland (shown at right) was chairman and chief executive officer of beleaguered Physicians Resource Group, a Dallas-based eye-care practice manager. He resigned as CEO on Oct. 1 to take the job at the $4.5 billion Tyco division but remains PRG chairman.
Instead, the only job listed for Gilleland was chairman and CEO (from 1990 to 1995) of the Kendall Co., a disposable medical products company Tyco acquired in 1994.
"(PRG) only muddies the release," Tyco Senior Vice President Brad McGee says. "What we were trying to do was say what he was doing for us."
The next day, PRG announced that Gilleland was stepping down as CEO "to pursue other interests" but didn't mention Tyco. "We were following Tyco's lead," PRG Senior Vice President Jonathan Bond says.
Writing 101. Lobbyists frequently ask organization members for a little grass-roots support on certain legislative and regulatory issues. So it came as no surprise when lobbyists at the Medical Group Management Association convention last month in Denver suggested practice managers write letters to their local Congress members.
What was a bit shocking was the brief lesson in effective letter writing during the convention breakout session, complete with a sample presented on an overhead projector. Managers who attended were told to clearly indicate their positions and include personal examples of how issues affect them. Lobbyists even told the managers what to write their letters on: personal stationery or business letterhead.
Maybe next year's meeting will include a session on how to address an envelope.
Music mon. At 19, Cosmo Fraser gave up singing reggae in his native Jamaica to become a physician in the U.S. Twenty-five years later, there seems to be a demand for him to give up medicine and become a full-time singer.
Fraser, the chief of geriatric nephrology at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in San Francisco, is getting rave reviews in the reggae press for his second CD, "Fire This Time." The first 5,000 CDs, released in July, have sold out; a second pressing of 5,000 is under way. Promoters in London want to book Fraser on a worldwide concert tour.
"To me, it's so great," says an enthusiastic Fraser.
Fraser, who grew up in Westmoreland, near Negril Beach, won singing contests in Jamaica but wasn't sure performing would be a stable career. So at 19, Fraser went to Columbia University to study engineering before deciding to pursue medicine.
He got the performing bug again three years ago. He spent "a couple hundred thousand" dollars of his own money to produce and distribute the most recent CD, which lyrically and musically evokes the style of reggae superstar Bob Marley and other 1970s reggae acts.
But Fraser, who performs under his first name only, says he's not giving up medicine. "For me to leave . . . is difficult. But in order to do justice to the music, I will have to take some time off."