Physicians

PHYSICIANS: An Open Letter to Harvard Medical School By Dr. Terry Bennett

Doctor Terry Bennett
became the focus of national attention two years ago when he brusquely told an
overweight patient that she was fat, warning that unless she changed her
lifestyle she faced serious healthcare problems. The woman complained to the state Medical Board.  Last year, the New Hampshire
physician  fought off the attempt to punish him. The
experience convinced Bennett that the practice of medicine in America
must change.

Like many physicians he
believes that doctors are treated unfairly and that the healthcare system is on
the verge of collapse.  He argues that
out-of-control HMOs, high malpractice rates and the financial burden of earning
a medical education
are ruining the  practice of medicine, creating a generation of
young doctors that has forgotten what makes a doctor a doctor.

Instead of sitting in
his office in
Rochester, New Hampshire  and watching it happen, Dr.
Bennett has decided to do something about it by nominating himself for one of the highest profile jobs in
medicine. He recently launched a "write-in" campaign to interview for the Dean’s
job at Harvard Medical School, generally considered the cultural heart of
the medical profession in America.
What follows is his open letter to the Harvard
search committee requesting an interview.  For the record, THCB neither
endorses nor opposes his candidacy. We
believe, however, that the views Dr. Bennett expresses are important and worthy of very careful
examination. He also turns out to be a gifted writer, which makes this piece a very compelling read. An insider at Harvard Medical School who must remain anonymous calls Dr. Bennett’s letter "one of the most beautiful pieces of writing on medicine I have ever read." I fully agree. —  John Irvine

To the search committeeHarvard Medical School

I would not press for the job of Dean of Harvard Medical School, at my age, and at my station in life, if I did not think the Dean’s job did not need a rethink, a change from, an inarguably good man, the present Dean and most of his predecessors, to a zealot, of sorts, with a considered and announced, very public, totally non-secret, pro patient anti "money only" agenda, one which will change the life/lives of the man/people on the streets of America, and by extension, the world.

Humor me a little:

Ask the first one hundred people you meet on the streets of Boston if they know the name of the present Dean of Harvard Medical School, or what, if anything, has he stood for, while he has been Dean, and how has his tenure positively impacted/affected their lives and those of their families?

What has the Dean of Harvard Medical School caused in the way of useful change in their lives? What has he changed, for the better, or at all?

I will be surprised if one person in one hundred knows his name, or thinks his existence in any way affects their lives, and so will you.

It is my belief that so much has changed for the worse in American Medicine, that the HMS Dean’s name should be a byword, his/her positions clearly known, and the positions inarguably pro bono publicum, as he/she struggles publicly to change the status quo, tries get the 45 million uninsured into a universal healthcare program of some kind or another, tries publicly to get US drug prices within the reach of patients, tries to get American community hospitals to return to full and fully charitable services offered to their communities, and vows to be producing debt free zealot "gonna go out and change the world" physicians from HMS to go out and effect the necessary change(s), before all is lost, forever.

What is my own track record, and why should it commend itself to you? To HMS? i.e. Why do I think you should choose me, a doer, not a talker, nor a quiet Academic?

1. I   figured out how to "work my way" though HMS, so as to avoid debt, keeping my   dreams of adventure alive, in so doing. I sold blood and semen, then ran a   used car lot out of the Vanderbilt Hall parking lot, borrowed only $2800,   total, and, thus, preserved my dreams of adventure. The preservation of low   debt/no debt status cost me any chance of finishing in the top of my class,   but facilitated the furtherance of my dreams, my own "go out and change the   world" plans. There was nothing simple nor easy about it.

2. A   choice had to be made, big debt, and totally dead dreams, or small debt, and   dreams neverending. Next, as part of my plan for adventure/dream facilitation,   I arranged my training at LACGH, and my during Residency moonlighting jobs at   "battlefront ERs", so as to be prepared to meet anything, anywhere, anytime,   and never be unprepared/terrified again. You have no idea how many dead people   I carry with me, as I travel through this life, and of what I learned/had to   learn therefrom, about disaster prevention and critical timing, while trying   so desperately to stay the clock and save them, then. Some I did save. 

3.    Some I could not. The dead ,and the lessons they taught me, I carry still.

4.  I then took my   Harvard education and my LACGH, Pasadena Police Dept Ambulance Doc, Bon Air   Hospital in Watts, battlefield training first to the Peace Corps, which was   difficult enough, and then to some of the most difficult places imaginable,   where i delivered solace and care without any loss of quality, going,   defiantly, to prison, 7 times, in 5 years, ( overnight stays, then released   again, as some Prince or some Bin Ladin or some other well placed patient   intervened)I went voluntarily, to prevent a truly evil landlord from evicting   me from my clinic, while working in Saudi Arabia, so as to be able to continue   to deliver care by my own standards, to all comers. Show me another Western   physician who ever got a private license there, and you will begin to see what   I have gone through and made happen.

5.    Upon my return I   worked walkin clinics, prisons and insane asylums, precisely because I   believed ( and still do believe) that the indwellers and uninsured people   living near or in such places suffered from substandard/zerostandard care.   Their care is marginal even now.

  6.  I have been in Rochester, NH,for 18 years, now, running a walk in clinic,   where we accept all comers, insured, uninsured, unbathed, penniless, and treat   them all the same, to the best standards I can reach, and get them seen by the   best specialists, by begging on their behalf, when necessary. It is for that   reason that you have in the file a single letter of recommendation with over 100 signatures on it .They call themselves "the Havenots". They call me the "Havenot  from Harvard".

  7.    Part of the continuous pursuit of excellence, is to refuse to set any   artificial boundaries about access to your knowledge, or your person. In my  view a "complete physician" may not have preset notions of who may or may not   be let into their presence.

8.    Some of the most extraordinary experiences of my life as a physician   have occurred while taking care of the destitute, the marginalized. 

9.    In addition to the   clinic, I worked prisons…see attached story "Prendergast", and I demanded   decent care for the inmates.

10.    I have not won   each battle I chose to fight, no one can. Bet that nobody who was on my side,   or the other side ever forgot the battle, though. I have somewhere around 1 million patient visits behind me now. For 43 years I have done my work,   and done it with as much love and respect as I could muster.

I never set limits, except time, for anyone of any origin, any means or lack thereof, to gain access to me/my services.

I never cared about money.

I did care immensely about quality of care, and about being a complete   physician to my patients, which is why, at age 68, I still have over 10,000 active charts.

I could go on, but my CV speaks for itself, as do the letters written on my behalf. So does my 1991   multimillion dollar donation to HMS and HSPH so that the indebtedness of young   doctors at Harvard would cease ( It has Not)

If I am interviewed, as a serious Deanship candidate, I will   speak to the issues I feel most pressing. I look forward to it.  Conversely, if I am not   interviewed, that, too, will speak volumes.

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uggs sale ukClaire simmAnonymizerJohn IrvineBarry Carol Recent comment authors
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We’re screwed. Seriously. We’re screwed. But in the meantime, I’ll take my 1M+ / yr and continue until they come for me. Because there IS NO ALTERNATIVE now is there?

terry
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terry

Pubished By Local Paper Rant: ( the devil made me do it) The Author , Terry Bennett MD MPH is the last remaining non employee physician in Primary Care Practice in Strafford County New Hampshire. Both his degrees are from Harvard, and he has written Healthcare Policy all over the world earlier in his career. UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE DEMYSTIFIED Forty five Million or so Americans are, at this moment, without healthcare insurance. Already politicians of every stripe are proposing “Universal Healthcare” as part of their “VOTE FOR ME, YOU CAN TRUST ME” message. The actual take home message? Forget it !… Read more »

terry
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terry

Barry, It is an imperfect world, and doctors are no different than the rest of humanity. Some are greedy and unfeeling. Almost all of us came to Med School to “Do some good in the world, and take care of people” Debt takes most of that altruism away, and it is gone by first year’s end. It is for that reason that I wish Medical Student debt to vanish for Student Doctors. Maybe the Plastic Surgeons and Dermatologists-to-be, can borrow, because they are going to be working in lucrative areas all of their lives,but not the GPs We work the… Read more »

Barry Carol
Guest
Barry Carol

Dr. Bennett,
How would you deal with doctors who consistently order too many tests, either due to defensive medicine and/or a desire to make money by maximizing utilization of doctor owned equipemnt and labs? I don’t believe that every test a doctor orders is medically necessary and insurance companies are always wrong to refuse to approve or pay for a test or procedure.

terry
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terry

And while I am on a Rant, here is the HMO Rant, another set of true stories: Greed is excessive or uncontrolled desire for or pursuit of money, wealth, food, or other possessions, especially when this denies the same goods to others. It is generally considered a vice, and is one of the seven deadly sins in Catholicism. (People who do not view unconstrained acquisitiveness as a vice will generally use a word other than greed, which has strong negative connotations.) Some desire to increase one’s wealth is nearly universal and acceptable in any culture, but this simple want is… Read more »

terry
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terry

And as a Post script. Jack Meyer and the greedy bastards he had with him at the Harvard Endowment took over a CHARITY of 400 years standing and converted it to a Piggy Bank for themselves. They spent it down at $575,000 per day. That continues even though they are gone. The Endowment could/can be put out to bid and it would cost about 20-25 basis points to get the whole deal done, essentially for bupkus,so long as the Contract Endowment managers had access to the 300,000 living Harvard Alums and could offer them retail sevices. I asked, and these… Read more »

terry
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terry

Thanks for the commentary. I do not propose a “free lunch” for medical students, It is possible to “indebt” them in time served in underserved areas in return for their educations. I have worked prisons and Indian Reservations and I presently work in an underserved area, Rochester NH. All of it has been graceful work, and I have no regrets, nor should anyone else, who set out to be a “real doctor” If “Prevention” is a goal, then it cannot happen in ERs. Prevention really only happens in Primary Care Offices. Ergo, no Primary Care Office, no Prevention. If all… Read more »

John Irvine
Guest

A very interesting post with some interesting responses. Quite frankly, I don’t know what the chances are that Dr. Bennett will win an interview – let alone emerge as viable candidate for the job. (A polite way of saying the deck is not exactly stacked in his favor.) In many ways he is the antithesis of the sort of person picked for this kind of role in the American university system — call him an “anti-candidate.” That having been said, I have a sneaking suspicion that more than one medical student will be reading what he has to say in… Read more »

Barry Carol
Guest
Barry Carol

Dr. Bennett tells us that the average new doctor graduates from medical school with $300,000 in debt. I wonder how much less income per year he thinks doctors would be willing to accept if they graduated debt-free. If we assume an after tax opportunity cost of capital of about 8% on the $300K of debt (assuming it were invested 50% in high quality stocks and 50% in government and investment grade bonds) which is in line with the projected long term investment return used by most pension funds, the implication is that a new doctor with no debt should be… Read more »

Barry Carol
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Barry Carol

Jack Meyer, and several of his top money managers, have since left Harvard to form their own firm. Even though their compensation was, I believe, justified by the performance they achieved over both the short and long term, they got tired of dealing with the drumbeat of criticism. While Yale is extremely fortunate to have David Swensen and his team willing to work for far less than they could earn elsewhere in money management, talent of this caliber is rare and plenty of investors are more than willing to pay handsomely for access to it. Interestingly, Warren Buffett plans to… Read more »

terry
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terry

Doctor: Greed subverts health care Text Size: A | A | A Print this Article Email this Article Share • • • • • • Photo 1 of 1 | Zoom Photo + Dr. Terry M. Bennett, an independent family physician poses in his office at Clinic on the Common in Rochester. Rich Beauchesne photo 3-30-2007 By Shir Haberman shaberman@seacoastonline.com March 31, 2007 8:05 AM PORTSMOUTH — Dr. Terry Bennett, the controversial and opinionated Rochester physician who has traveled the world practicing medicine — including a stint as physician to the Saudi royal family — does not have high hopes… Read more »

terry
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terry

Some Alumni Balk Over Harvard’s Pay to Money Managers By STEPHANIE STROM Published: June 4, 2004 Last year, Jack R. Meyer, who oversees Harvard University’s mighty endowment, the largest university endowment in the country, was paid $6.9 million. His counterpart at the University of Texas, Bob L. Boldt, was paid $743,316 for managing the second-largest university endowment, while David F. Swenson, who manages the third-largest, at Yale University, was paid $1,027,685. The disparity is even larger when looking at the five highest paid money managers at the Harvard Management Company, two of whom made more than $35 million last year.… Read more »

Maggie Mahar
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Maggie Mahar

Thank you for publishing this letter.