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Narrative Medicine: Staring a Gift Horse in the Mouth

Basrai, Zahir, MD

doi: 10.1097/01.EEM.0000530199.20515.3d
Narrative Medicine

Dr. Basraiis an emergency physician practicing in Los Angeles. He is the creator of The Physician Grind (, a site for physicians to share the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly in medicine, where this post was originally published. Connect with him on Facebook at follow him on Twitter @nuMosemed.





It was the bottom of the ninth. What a game. I was sitting at Dodger Stadium five rows away from first base. I was not used to sitting so close. Usually I get a nosebleed on the way to my seat, but one of my good friends, Boon, had gotten tickets from one of his firm's clients and invited me along. This was the Kettle One section. We got unlimited food and drinks. I had no idea that such an oasis existed. This was one of the greatest days of my life.

As I sat there on that glorious sofa after the game, I started reflecting on my life. It's so interesting that my friend could receive gifts from his clients and take people like me along for the ride. I remember going to a psychiatric conference in Washington, DC, with my dad. He always had a negative opinion of pharmaceutical companies, but his friend did not.

I was 15 at the time, and remember going to a bunch of private events like one at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. (Rocket ships are rad.) I even remember eating at President Clinton's favorite Indian restaurant. This is coming from a family that thinks spending $20 on steak is too expensive and has a palate adjusted to the exotic flavors of Taco Bell.

After I got into medical school and residency, I was astonished to hear all my mentors and teachers discuss how terrible it was for pharmaceutical companies to try ti buy physicians. They talked about how inappropriate it was for companies to take physicians to vacations in the Fiji Islands. In my mind, I was thinking, “What? You mean I am not supposed to take a free trip to the Fiji Islands? Are you kidding me? I'm smart. I can enjoy the vacation and not prescribe the medications.” But apparently, I can't control myself, per all the research, and taking a trip like that would brainwash me and alter my prescribing habits.

After this and seeing that pharmaceutical companies are not allowed in the hospital, I guess this is my new reality. No more free stuff. But at least I am lucky enough to have friends who take me to some great events. All jokes aside, I am happy that I can practice unbiased medicine and give my patients the best medical treatment possible without worrying if I'll get that new Ferrari from a pharma company. Dang, it would be really nice to have a new Ferrari.

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