Outliers wanted to say that an event hosted by a physician faculty member at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Baltimore, raised some eyebrows, but then we realized that "Botox Night at Hopkins" probably left some attendees unable to do just that.
The free event last week was marketed exclusively to Hopkins students, faculty, residents and fellows on Hopkins stationery by Patrick Byrne, M.D., an assistant professor and director of the Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division of Hopkins' Department of Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery.
The party was made possible by the April 15 approval of the Food and Drug Administration for the use of Botox in removing forehead frown lines. Since then plastic and cosmetic surgeons have marketed the injections, at an average of $500 per treatment, to throngs of patients seeking more youthful appearances at "Botox parties" around the country. The Botox Night at Hopkins promised not only information about the drug and free refreshments, but a live demonstration of its many uses and an offer for "any interested in receiving Botox treatments to receive them on the spot" at reduced cost.
Byrne declined comment, as did Edward Miller, M.D., the medical school's CEO and the recipient of a letter from Washington-based Public Citizen's Health Research Group urging them to cancel the seminar. The consumer health organization chided the medical school for approving such an "unseemly, unprofessional" event that it said "undermines the core educational mission of the university."
Toward a better Q rating
Move over Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington. The American Association of Health Plans has hired the talent firm William Morris Agency to change managed-care's Draconian image in Hollywood movies.
"More Americans receive their healthcare information from Hollywood than from the nightly news, yet most groups in Washington focus on news media and entirely ignore the entertainment industry," says AAHP President and CEO Karen Ignagni.
Films such as "As Good as It Gets" and television shows such as "ER" have routinely depicted managed-care plans as more concerned with costs and profit than providing care. By connecting with Hollywood, the AAHP hopes to start a dialogue with producers, writers and directors; serve as a resource; and highlight its positives such as helping to reduce the incidences of breast cancer and HIV, says Geoff Freeman, an AAHP spokesman.
It hasn't been a good year for the industry in La-La Land, with two movies attacking HMO practices in no uncertain terms. "John Q" depicted a man who held hostages in a hospital until his HMO let his son have a heart transplant, and a made-for-TV flick called "Damaged Care" focused on a Humana utilization review doctor who was forced by the HMO to turn down a heart transplant for a man, who then dies.
The surgeon of Seville
Surgery and opera have many similarities. Both are dramatic, involve life and death struggles and have a lot of blood. But you usually don't think of them together other than those surgeons who like to work with the music blaring in the background.
In fact, that's just how a Houston composer found the inspiration for his opera-in-progress. Todd Frazier, a composer, was watching his father, O.H. "Bud" Frazier, M.D., a famed Houston heart surgeon, perform a heart transplant while the last movement of Aaron Copland's "Symphony No. 3" was playing in a surgery suite at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston.
When the recipient's sick heart was removed, and its functions were taken over by machine, Todd Frazier said he felt a sense of blood, and life itself, being suspended: "It was a point of no return," he told the Houston Chronicle.
The donor heart isn't beating when it is put in, he said, and he found it amazing that the seemingly dead organ would begin to function once again when blood rushes back from the heart-lung machine.
Frazier said he sees his opera as "a way to recognize through art the advancements of science that are happening in particular in Houston ... but also to shed light on all these modern challenges that are created."
A new method for old-time care
Following the lead of employer groups, a small Rhode Island town hopes to offer a medical savings account plan to its residents by September 2003.
State legislation passed by the Rhode Island General Assembly in June has cleared the way for the town of Scituate to create a hybrid, locally based healthcare coverage and delivery system. "State legislation gives the plan credibility," says John Marchant, town councilman and chair of the Scituate healthcare plan committee.
The system will include its own primary-care center run by a family practitioner. Both the center and plan, run by an as-yet-unknown national insurer, would take care of as much as 95% of its participants' healthcare needs. To entice residents, plan participants would be eligible for an annual $200-per-person tax credit in what the town calls a "patient savings account." The town has applied for some private grants to cover administrative costs as it gets set up. The system itself would be self-sufficient, Marchant says.
Scituate, population 10,500, used to be a farming community and is now a bedroom suburb of Providence. Most residents are insured, but Scituate officials approached state Rep. Carol Mumford, a Republican, with the plan last year as a way to localize healthcare. "Years ago ... medicine was community-based," says Michael Fine, M.D., a local family physician who is under consideration to run the medical center. "What we're trying to do now in Scituate is get back to what we know has worked."