I retired from advertising several years ago and devote the bulk of my time to writing fiction. But I couldn’t have dreamed of the phone call I received from a major hospital’s president asking me to come to work for big money and in a most unexpected way.
“We’d like you to chair our committee overseeing our department of neurosurgery,” said the President. “I’m flattered,” I said, “but I was an advertising copywriter by trade. Wouldn’t Dr. Ben Carson be better suited?” The President reminded me that Dr. Carson is unavailable since he’s been nominated as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development in Washington. “Besides,” he said, “I want you!”
“Let me think about this and call you back,” I said. “Just remember,” said the President,” I know more than the doctors about what makes brain surgery effective—and profitable.” After we hung up, I gave the matter considerable thought. I realized that the President might be on to something.
Admittedly, I’ve never been a doctor. Or a nurse. Or a medical technician. Or an orderly. But I had the common people’s association with healthcare that would offer new and vital perspectives on matters I knew nothing about—like putting people to sleep, opening skulls, cutting up brains, sticking electrical thingies into gray matter, zapping cells with ray guns, post-op nursing stuff and getting people back on their feet—or at least on their tushes.
For example, I see my doctor for annual checkups. Before I do, I get lab tests. I’ve even had a few minor surgeries. One resulted in my spending a night in a hospital. Encouraged, I thought more deeply. I’ve taken people to the hospital and picked them up. I’ve also visited family and friends in hospitals. That includes holding my father’s hand as he lay dying. I even had a friend who wanted to become a neurosurgeon. I think he did. After college, we lost touch.
I also understand healthcare’s financial side. Long ago, I had employer health insurance. After I started freelancing, I paid for a series of health plans right out of my pocket. I also paid for some procedures my plan’s deductible wouldn’t cover. I have Medicare now.
Still, when I called back I was hesitant. “I suppose I have a pretty good background in healthcare for a guy whose college major was English,” I said. “But I’m still on the fence, neurosurgery being kind of like rocket science without all that fuel that goes boom and spews flames on the launch pad.”
The President countered, “Think about this. Donald Trump recently named Steve Bannon to the National Security Council and eliminated from the NSC the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the director of national intelligence. Since the National Security Council deals in matters of utmost importance to our country’s security and the risks faced by our military personnel, doesn’t that tell you something?”
I took a beat pause, since in college I minored in theater and pride myself on my timing. “It does,” I said.
The President chuckled then said, “So you’ll chair our neurosurgery committee?”
“Looking at the example you just gave,” I said, “I can’t help but give you a clear, unequivocal answer. Hell no!”
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