Marshall Allen was a bit flummoxed when a woman left him a voicemail asking him to call back about his Top Doctor Award. Not that Allen doesn’t like getting awards. It’s just that he’s a investigative reporter who happens to write about healthcare.
So he called her back to find out what was going on.
“I asked how I had been selected,” Allen wrote on his employer’s site, ProPublica. “My peers had nominated me, she said buoyantly, and my patients had reviewed me. I must be a ‘leading physician,’ she said.”
After Allen informed her he wasn’t a physician, but a reporter, he asked if he qualified. Yes, was the ultimate answer. But there was a catch—the “nominal fee” the Top Doctor Awards charged: $289. When Allen balked a bit, figuring his employer might not be willing to cough up that much for the unexpected distinction, he got a counteroffer: “It’s a great achievement. I would hate for you to miss it. I can get it to you right now for $99,” the saleswoman said.
Which is how Allen came to possess a “Top Doctor” plaque, citing him as a “2018 Top Investigator in New York.”
Being a reporter, Allen snooped around about Top Doctor and other such awards, and found a pretty general consensus, summed up by Dr. Michael Carome, director of the health research group for Public Citizen. “This is a scam. Any competent qualified doctor doesn’t need one of these awards unless they want to stroke their ego. These are meaningless, worthless awards.”