Cancer Medicine

Where does Georgetown get the money?

Last week, upon arriving back at my office after a day in clinic, I noticed an odd box sitting in my “in” box. I didn’t recall having ordered anything recently, and my first thought was that an order for the laboratory had somehow been delivered to my office instead of my lab by mistake. It’s uncommon, but it occasionally happens. Curiosity piqued, I picked up the box. It was small, only a few inches high, and lighter than I had expected. I couldn’t hear any swishing that might indicated a powdered reagent in a bottle in the box. Moreover, upon closer inspection, I noticed that the box had no markings. So I opened it, to find this:


What on earth? Why would Georgetown University be sending me a combination alarm clock and thermometer? Was it a peace offering for forcing woo down the throats of its medical students in its mandatory curriculum?

Not very likely, I’ll warrant.

Then I noticed a flier included in the box. Here’s what it said:



An ad touting the addition of a second CyberKnife radiosurgery system? Georgetown spent all this money to mail this clock to me for that? How many other cancer doctors along the East Coast were they sending these to? It didn’t take long for me to find out that many of the physicians at our cancer center had received the same package as I had. Given that we are located over 200 miles away from Georgetown, it made me wonder exactly why on earth Georgetown would cast its net so widely. Four years ago, when Georgetown was the only center on the East Coast with the CyberKnife, I might have been able to understand. Might have. But it’s not as though there aren’t CyberKnife facilities much closer to us than Washington now. Heck, there’s one a mere 40 miles or so away.

What is Georgetown playing at? It seems like a long run for a short slide, if you know what I mean, given that the vast majority of patients referred for CyberKnife treatment in my area would be referred to the nearer center, not the one that’s over 200 miles away.

I can understand where the money comes from when pharmaceutical companies offer up outrageous swag to try to sway physicians, but where does a private medical school like Georgetown, which was in serious financial difficulty a few years back and still lost over $5 million last year, come up with the cash.

I realize the CyberKnife is a very expensive piece of machinery, but will sending this stuff out to physicians who are very unlikely ever to refer a single patient to Georgetown really help the bottom line?

By Orac

Orac is the nom de blog of a humble surgeon/scientist who has an ego just big enough to delude himself that someone, somewhere might actually give a rodent's posterior about his copious verbal meanderings, but just barely small enough to admit to himself that few probably will. That surgeon is otherwise known as David Gorski.

That this particular surgeon has chosen his nom de blog based on a rather cranky and arrogant computer shaped like a clear box of blinking lights that he originally encountered when he became a fan of a 35 year old British SF television show whose special effects were renowned for their BBC/Doctor Who-style low budget look, but whose stories nonetheless resulted in some of the best, most innovative science fiction ever televised, should tell you nearly all that you need to know about Orac. (That, and the length of the preceding sentence.)

DISCLAIMER:: The various written meanderings here are the opinions of Orac and Orac alone, written on his own time. They should never be construed as representing the opinions of any other person or entity, especially Orac's cancer center, department of surgery, medical school, or university. Also note that Orac is nonpartisan; he is more than willing to criticize the statements of anyone, regardless of of political leanings, if that anyone advocates pseudoscience or quackery. Finally, medical commentary is not to be construed in any way as medical advice.

To contact Orac: [email protected]

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