The decision by the University of California at Los Angeles to name its new medical center after Ronald Reagan has drawn its share of criticism--perhaps deservedly.
But you can't really blame the school: It got paid a pile of cash to do so.
In a news release, UCLA Chancellor Albert Carnesale says, "UCLA is proud and honored to name this facility after President Reagan."
But the same news release says Reagan's name was picked "in response to a gift of $150 million from a group of prominent Southern California civic and cultural leaders." The fund-raising campaign is headed by television executive and Reagan friend A. Jerrold Perenchio, according to local media reports.
Critics have pointed to the Reagan administration's slow response to the AIDS crisis as evidence that Reagan doesn't deserve to be memorialized in healthcare.
The federal government is picking up most of the $702 million cost of the 525-bed replacement hospital, which is scheduled to open in 2004.
And for those with a lot of money to burn, UCLA offers other naming opportunities. For $250 million, a donor's name can be placed on the UCLA School of Medicine. The trauma and emergency department will be named for $10 million. The hospital chapel is a relative bargain at $1 million.
For comment, Outliers contacted the Harris County Hospital District in Houston, where the Lyndon B. Johnson General Hospital, opened in 1989, honors the Texan who spearheaded Medicaid and Medicare.
But in today's tight financial climate, even such a treasured name would be up for grabs, says district spokesman Bryan McLeod.
"The increasing financial burden experienced by healthcare organizations nationwide has created a need to look elsewhere for funding," McLeod says. "That said, I think we would be more than happy to rename our entire organization after someone for $150 million. (Comedian) Don Rickles even comes to mind."
Smoking gun. The Citadel Group, a Chicago-based healthcare financial services organization, has for several years invited healthcare providers and financiers on May field trips to the Indianapolis 500 car race. For the last three years, the invitation has featured a picture of Rick Mears crossing the Indy finishing line first in 1991 in his No. 3 car emblazoned with the logo of his corporate sponsor, a prominent cigarette manufacturer.
Asked why the company used the image even as it looks for clients among healthcare providers, Senior Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer David Varwig says, "It was certainly unintentional. And of course we don't mean to promote smoking."
Of the thousand-plus healthcare executives who have received the invitation in recent years, he says, not one has ever complained about the photo. Makes you wonder.
While we're at it, Outliers wonders why Varwig's company couldn't put another winning car's picture on the front of its invitation--with a different, less lethal corporate sponsor. How about 1998 winner Eddie Cheever Jr.'s Rachel's Potato Chips car? Perhaps that's too fatty. Then how about Arie Luyendyk's winning Wavephore/Sprint PCS car from 1997?
With all that in mind, will the company continue to use the image to promote the yearly outing? "We'll probably try to find something else," Varwig says.
Now that's a good idea.
Fickle alliances. The Kentucky Medical Association is rescinding its support for U.S. Rep. Ernie Fletcher (R.-Ky.), who's a physician, because he voted against a patients' bill of rights. The association helped Fletcher, a Lexington Republican, defeat Democrat Ernesto Scorsone in 1998. Fletcher is running unopposed for re-election in this month's GOP congressional primary.
But the board of KEMPAC, the KMA's political action committee, recently recommended that the American Medical Association contribute to the primary campaign of Democrat Scotty Baesler, who is running again for his old seat after an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate.
Physicians on the KEMPAC board say it was tough to vote against a fellow doctor. But Daniel Groves, a spokesman for Fletcher, says the campaign expected the KMA's decision.
"The AMA has aligned itself with the Democratic Party, certainly on this issue," Groves says.
The AMA's political wing supported Fletcher heavily in 1998, spending more than $350,000 on his behalf.
But Fletcher argues that the patients' rights bill the AMA backed last fall would have driven up costs and opened employers to liability for decisions made by employees' health plans. He voted for a competing bill.
KEMPAC won't make its choices about the general election races until the fall. Much will depend on whether the conference committee can hammer out an acceptable compromise, says Andrew Pulito, a KEMPAC board member and Lexington physician.
"Dr. Fletcher has received a message that there are many physicians who are disappointed in the stance he's taken," says Pulito, a Republican. "To regain that support will likely require a bill coming out of conference committee that physicians are excited about."