Americans have woken up to the fact that conflicts of interest are rampant in medicine. Doctors may prescribe certain medications because they have financial interests in a pharmaceutical company or because they receive Lakers tickets or trips to Cabo from the drug representatives who visit their offices.
The problem exists in the orthopedic world, as UC Irvine spine surgeon Charles Rosen has often pointed out. Rosen is featured in BusinessWeek this week for his efforts to prevent conflicts of interest from affecting patient care in orthopedics. In February, he testified before a Senate committee and said he worries that some patients receive unnecessary artificial knee or hip joints or artificial discs because the manufacturers of these devices have cozy relationships with doctors. In 2006, Rosen founded the Assn. for Ethics in Spine Surgery. He is also a vocal supporter of a federal bill called the Physician Payments Sunshine Act of 2008 which would create a nationwide database listing payments and gifts to doctors.
The BusinessWeek article notes that Rosen isn't afraid to challenge his colleagues on ethics.
"Activism hasn't made Rosen particularly popular, either on campus or in industry. His soft-spoken manner belies a combative intensity and a desire to shine, which may have been honed during the years he spent as a competitive figure skater. Often, he has found himself at odds with other professors over the appropriate role companies and their physician consultants should play in training other doctors."
Rosen's resume states that he entered college under an early admission program from his junior high. And, besides figure skating, he has expertise in tennis, piano and French. His biggest challenge may be in persuading his colleagues to change how they do business.
-- Shari Roan
Photo: UC Irvine