Preserving Professionalism, One Testicle at a Time by Pat Conrad MD


The agent told me to stand in front of the desk, and held my I.D. up next to my face to confirm the bearer. Stepping around the desk she said, “Please open your pockets so I can look inside.” Sigh…okay, fine, I thought. “I need you to open those small pockets on the side too.” Eyes roll…okay, here you go. These TSA checks are such a drag. “Okay, now please raise your arms”, she said, as the metal detector wand ran over my arms, chest, and legs, before asking me to turn around to repeat the procedure. Then the agent instructed me to raise my pant legs in order to inspect my ankles. Then I was handed my driver’s license and went through the door…back to my cubicle to continue my American Board of Family Medicine board renewal exam.

This procedure did not happen once, nor twice, but on my lunch break, and every single time I left the testing room to go to the restroom during an eight hour test day. I timed it once, and found that I had been away from my exam cubicle less than 4 minutes, not quite enough time to find a piece of esoterica hidden in my microfilm board review book hidden in the bathroom, or to tag in my better studied doppelgänger lurking in the parking lot. I checked with a buddy who took his exam two days later in a different state, and he suffered the identical indignities.

I’ll have more to write later on about these board exams beyond the insultingly asinine security surrounding them. I left exhausted, depressed, and angry at everything to do with the experience, and with a clearer view of what has gone wrong. For decades U.S. physicians thought we were adopting the lofty tenets of our profession, when we have actually been perverting them into a mindset, and an industry that embraces self-harm. Too often we have heard that it is noble to “sacrifice”, which has come to mean that most physicians will be told exactly what and how to sacrifice by an oligarchy of bureaucrats, academicians, corrupt corporatists, and lapdog establishment doctors. This profession has adopted the phrase “all for the patient”, which now means the doctor is expected to be subservient to the patient, or any other agent claiming to be looking out for him.

The poor drone attendant looked genuinely sorry for me as I shook my head in disbelief after a bathroom break, and said, “Yeah, you ABFM types seem to take it the worst. I can understand it, I mean you are doctors.” It wasn’t her fault; she was just doing what she was told by her testing center, which was fulfilling a contract with the ABFM. But at age 55, after passing multiple board exams including two for family medicine, and a month shy of 20 years as a practicing physician, I was being treated like a damn criminal. Claiming this to be necessary to preserve the “quality” and “professionalism” as defined by the ABFM, ABMS, and IOM does not justify this criminalizing treatment. This is the direct result of medicine’s philosophical failure, it is an abdication of its practitioners’ duty to themselves, and there is nothing authentic about it.

83700cookie-checkPreserving Professionalism, One Testicle at a Time by Pat Conrad MD