Outliers has to wonder, what is it about troubled healthcare companies and rock 'n' roll? Last year, Richard Scrushy, lead singer of Proxy, but better known as the indicted founder of HealthSouth Corp., fronted his band at Fortune's Battle of the Corporate Bands (Oct. 21, 2002, p. 36).
This year, it was DaVita's turn on the bandstand for the event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland. If the name DaVita doesn't ring a bell when it comes to corporate woes, perhaps you're more familiar with Total Renal Care, a dialysis service provider that opted for a new appellation in 2000 after it broke some of its loan covenants and hired a whole new management team.
The DaVita Blues All-Stars drew a large following of fans to the dance floor for their 15-minute set during the October competition, but the judges, who included legendary punker Marky Ramone, passed them over to hand the title of best corporate band in America to the Residuals, a little ensemble from Fleet Capital Leasing. And who says corporate rock sucks?
Honoring Dr. Richmond
Child development researcher and former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond added another achievement to his curriculum vitae last week when he won the Heinz Award for Public Policy, an honor that comes with a hefty $250,000 check. Richmond, a pediatrician, was one of five recipients of Heinz Awards this year, handed out by the Heinz Family Foundation in honor of the late Sen. John Heinz.
"Dr. Richmond's life's work has had a profound influence on our nation's collective health, creating no less than a revolution in how we regard and take responsibility for our own well-being," Heinz foundation Chairman Teresa Heinz says in a news release. "His energetic and steadfast leadership has produced profound results, significantly reducing our nation's mortality rates, particularly those of our children. He has been a courageous and dedicated advocate for America's public health for more than 50 years."
Besides serving as surgeon general from 1977 to 1981, Richmond was one of the founders and the first director of the Head Start program, and has served as director of Harvard University's Division of Health Policy Research and Education. He also has been a director of the Judge Baker Children's Center, which promotes children's health through research and education.
He also took on the dangers of cigarettes while serving as surgeon general, with his 1979 Smoking and Health report stating that smoking was the "single, most preventable killer in America."
"From an individual standpoint, we must assume responsibility for our own health and vitality by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, one that we know can prevent disease," Richmond says in a news release. "But it is also critical that we ensure that the most vulnerable among us, especially young children, have access to adequate nutrition and healthcare."
Other Heinz recipients this year include Robert Langer, a medical researcher, inventor and professor of chemical and biomedical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who took the prize for technology, the economy and employment; and playwright August Wilson, who won the arts and humanities award.
Breaking into fashionable attire
Nothing cramps one's style more than a dreary cast or sling, especially during the gala holiday season. So the fashion slaves at Outliers were elated to learn that someone is addressing the problem of unsightly orthopedic wear.
Broken Beauties, a company started in August by Kentucky designer Michelle Kirk, markets slings and cast and crutch covers in fabrics adorned with pinstripes or skulls with roses, selected to, as Kirk puts it, "drag the orthopedics industry out of their terrible time warp."
The company, which also sells lotions, aromatherapy heat packs and other products to ease living with breaks and sprains, is doing about $7,000 in monthly sales, Kirk says. She says her movie producer sister inspired the start-up by complaining of looking drab after breaking an ankle.
One image-conscious orthopedic patient is Kentucky Gov.-elect Ernie Fletcher, who is expected to wear a black satin sling at his inaugural celebration Dec. 9. The Republican, who happens to be trained as a general practitioner, underwent shoulder surgery in November, and was supplied by Broken Beauties with four slings to match his business attire. The slings, at $24.95 apiece, were ordered by Fletcher's wife, Glenna.
"She doesn't want her husband coming across looking weak or disabled. He's coming into this new powerful position and she wants him to look sharp," Kirk says.
Broken Beauties has signed on with a major medical distributor, Physicians Sales & Services. But one orthopedics supply veteran warns that it's tough to make money on designer pieces.
Dan Swanson, owner of manufacturer Precision Orthopedics, says he tried to market bold colors and patterns in the San Francisco market years ago but found that it's inefficient for manufacturers, hospitals and physician practices to stock wide assortments. And besides, he adds, most adult consumers prefer neutrals such as beige and dark blue.
"I don't see it happening," he says.