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Candy Pee and Me: How Big Pharma Seduced Me at NAVC

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve posted, and for that I apologize. I’ve been terribly busy responding to nastygrams depositing my checks from Big Pet Food sneering at plebians going to a continuing education conference this past week, and what a week it was.

Like many of you, I read the Indy Star’s expose about the loose strings of pharmaceutical companies (or, in internet conspiracy parlance, Big Pharma) at continuing education conferences such as the one I was going to attend, and also like many of you, I was surprised. And excited. I had no idea this was what I had to look forward to! I thought I was just plunking down a couple grand in fees, airfare, and hotel for a measly week of polishing my science know-how, and here’s this whole seedy underbelly of riches I had no idea existed.

I arrived in Orlando for the North American Veterinary Community Conference with 16,000 of my closest friends energized, ready to be plied with jewels, cash, and cars. Kind of like The Price is Right, but with drugs.

In the past, I’ve wandered the exhibit hall for a breather in between talks, taking a peek at the new products on the market. Sometimes the companies would give us candy, or pens- enough to get us to stop by and familiarize ourselves with the product, but not enough to justify actually changing how we practice medicine. I would have done it anyway. Because becoming familiar with new products is, you know, what we’re supposed to do.

I wanted to start my day with one of the storied free food lectures, hoping to begin my morning with roasted pheasant and perhaps a fluffy souffle. Then I learned you had to get up at 6:30 and the most they could guarantee was that the food was “hot,” so I passed and had a Kind bar instead.

"All we need is cantaloupe and these vets won't know what hit them."

“All we need is cantaloupe and these vets won’t know what hit them.”

After a few am lectures about respiratory distress, where the speaker (and every other one at NAVC) carefully informed us about their financial ties- or lack thereof- to the topics of their talk, I hit the exhibit hall in search of fortune.

Somewhere past the forceps booth and to the left of the lasers, a long line started to snake through the aisles and out into the halls. Whatever they were giving away, that had to be good.

“Excuse me,” I said to the woman at the end of the line. “Is this where they’re handing out free cars?”

“No,” she said. “This line is for Build-a-Bear.”

“This huge line is for Build-a-Bear?” I asked somewhat incredulously. The three men in front of her turned around and to a one muttered something about little girls at home. It’s cool, guys. Everyone likes Build-a-Bear.

buildabear

“Where’s the contest where everyone wins something?” I asked, and they directed me over to the east hall, where a bored looking woman instructed me to spin a ‘wheel of parasites.’ I won a chapstick with a picture of a tapeworm on it.

As I continued to wander, I heard some grumbling from around a corner, where four people were congregated around a woman clutching a big bag. “Where’d you get that?” they asked her, and she pointed to another long line snaking through the hall.

“Is that the jewelry line?” I asked.

“No,” they said. “This is for the stuffed Olaf.”

“Like Olaf from Frozen?” I asked.

“Yes,” a woman replied, “but you have to be careful. They’re really hard to get. You have to go through a screening process.”

olaf

“What sort of screening process?” I asked.

“No one knows,” she said. “All I know is that they keep turning people away who don’t own practices. I think they sell some sort of financial services. It might involve an application and a credit report.”

“I’ve tried three times for an Olaf,” said another woman. “They’re not very nice about it.”

“Isn’t Frozen kind of old news anyway?” I asked, but that was apparently not the right question to ask.

Dispirited, I walked into the booth of a large pharmaceutical company. “If I listen to your spiel,” I asked, “What do I get?”

“Information,” the rep said, pulling out a sheaf of papers.

“No car?” I asked, disappointed. “Or a trip somewhere?”

She dug into her pocket and pulled out some mints. “I have these,” she said, then brightened. “Or a pen! Do you want a pen?”

“I’m OK,” I said. “I think I just need something to drink.”

“They have coffee over by that pet food display,” she said. “I think the line’s down to 15 minutes.”

By this time, the line for the Build-a-Bear had disappeared, and in exchange for giving a journal my email address, I was presented with a small, naked bear.

“We’re having a contest tomorrow for some scrubs,” the booth person said.

“For me?” I asked. “Or the bear?’

“For the bear.”

After an hour or so of this, my tally of freebies was as follows:

-One naked bear

-A bedazzled lanyard

-chapstick

– 15 pens

-one urine container filled with yellow candy (this was actually my favorite)

schwag

“Why do you think these lines for all these freebies are so long, do you suppose?” I asked my friend Kristen. “Are we that hard up for stuff we’d wait for half an hour just for a chance to win a free ipad?”

“You’re veterinarians,” she said. “Of course you are.” Touche.

After a long day of lectures and wandering, I had worked up an appetite, so I set out in search of the free feasts. I searched every corner of the hotel, and couldn’t find a single one. I realized everyone must have gone to the free rock concert instead.

“Free concert?” I said, intrigued. Maybe there was some credence to this Indy Star thing after all! “Who’d they get? Dave Grohl? Bruno Mars?”

There was a long pause as my friend flipped through the conference brochure. “38 Special,” she said.

38special1

“38 Special?” I replied. “Are those guys still alive?”

“Apparently.” Pause. “My dad’s gonna be so jealous. He almost took a cruise with them last year.”

Hungry and alone, I went to my room at 10 pm and decided to order room service. After 15 minutes on hold, I placed an order for a Cobb salad and was told it would be an hour and a half, because shutting ourselves in our rooms alone with our papers is apparently a popular choice for veterinarians. I’m so predictable.

 

Filed: Blog, Daily Life, Featured Posts, Goofball Antics, Lifestyle, Musings Tagged: , , , ,

On the tenth day of clinics…

On the tenth day of clinics, my clients brought to me:

derp

9 beggars prancing

8 screws a-stabilizing

7 mites a-swimming

6 Old Souls Graying

5 Moldy Rings!

4 Gastric Grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Daily Life, Featured Posts, Features Tagged: , ,

On the ninth day of clinics

My boarders gave to me:

beggars

Hold on! That’s eight? Where’s number nine?

begdance

Hamming it up by the ham, of course.

8 screws a-stabilizing

7 mites a-swimming

6 Old Souls Graying

5 Moldy Rings!

4 Gastric Grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Daily Life, Featured Posts, Features Tagged: , ,

On the eighth day of clinics

Hey everyone, thank you for all your kind words and your sharing the piece I wrote the other day. All of the commenters coming on here and talking about how much they love their vet and feel they have a wonderful collaborative relationship is the best Christmas present you could give me. Truly. OK! Now I have to get back on schedule so we’re done by Thursday on the 12 days of clinics!

My Newfie gave to me:

Xander's Knee

 

7 mites a-swimming

6 Old Souls Graying

5 Moldy Rings!

4 Gastric Grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Jessi, who sent me this radiograph, writes: “this is my Newfie, Xander after his first TPLO — 8 stainless screws….”

Note the way she said “first”. BTDT! Thanks Jessi and Xander!

Next one also coming up today! Stay tuned.

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Featured Posts, Features Tagged: , ,

On the seventh day of Clinics:

My bald dog gave to me:

mites

 

6 Old Souls Graying

5 Moldy Rings!

4 Gastric Grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Featured Posts Tagged: , ,

On the sixth day of clinics…

My clients brought to me:

 

6pic

 

5 Moldy Rings!

4 Gastric Grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Daily Life, Featured Posts, Features Tagged: , ,

On the fifth day of Clinics

On the fifth day of clinics, my ref lab sent to me:

moldy rings

 

4 Gastric grommets

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown up Gloves

And a linear Foreign Body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Daily Life, Featured Posts, Features, Goofball Antics Tagged: , ,

On the fourth day of clinics

My clients gave to me:

grommet

 

3 Dead Pens

2 Blown Up Gloves

And a linear foreign body!

 

Thank you to Jessi J for the radiograph! She writes: “Boo ate a leather drawstring bag, and my only clue were a few remaining pieces of string. The radiograph was our confirmation…” 

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Daily Life, Features Tagged: , ,

On the third day of Clinics…

 

On the third day of clinics, my best tech gave to me:

pens

 

Two blown up gloves

And a linear foreign body!

 

 

Seriously, the agony of a stack of dead ballpoint pens when you just want to finish your records and go home still haunts me.

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Featured Posts, Features Tagged: , ,

The Second Day of Clinics

On the second day of clinics, my best tech gave to me:

glovescollage

 

And a linear foreign body!

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog Tagged: , ,

The Twelve Days of Clinics

I miss singing the 12 days of Christmas with you all, so I’m working through the 12 days of Clinics from a clinic perspective. Feel free to toss me ideas- we have 12 days to work through after all.

Shall we begin?

 

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me:

linear fb

 

 

Tinsel never looked so sinister.

tinsel5

 

 

Filed: 12 Days of Petmas, Blog, Health Tagged: ,

The Long Dark Twee-Time of the Soul

As you probably know, I have a bit of a complicated relationship with the PTA moms. Not moms in general, mind you, just the small subset of Pinterest loving, glue-gun wielding domestic lifestyle experts whose expectations I can never, despite my best efforts, seem to live up to. It doesn’t matter what school we’re at, it happens every time. First it was the art project/pooper scooper incident in kindergarten. Then it was the Have a Very Agro Valentine’s Day episode. And now it’s crudite, crudite that torments the soul.

It started simply enough: an email asking for volunteers to bring in food items for the teachers this conference week. I looked on the sign up sheet and put my name next to crudite: veggies and dip. Easy, I thought, a quick run to the grocery store for some carrot sticks and dip and done.

I forgot where I was.

(Not two weeks ago, I found myself in the midst of a malestrom for the fifth grade Halloween party when all the room moms got together and asked the parents to bring in food. I asked my class parents to bring in pretzels and fruit. The other moms showed up with cookies shaped like rotting fingers with almond nails and jelly blood, and eyeball eggs with veins hand-painted on with food dye. My pretzels were shoved under the table.)

So now, a few minutes after signing up for the veggie tray, I received an email instructing me to be creative!  which is always concerning. To illustrate her point, the organizer included this helpful photo:

crudite

As to what our vegetables should aspire to be.

Now at this point a normal person would laugh and say, “OK, lady,” and bring in a tray from Costco, but unfortunately I still have the sin of pride to contend with on a regular basis, so I instead spent the afternoon standing in line at the grocery store watching YouTube videos of Martha Stewart blanching asparagus. Three hours of cursing later, with piles of peeled burnt chestnuts and carrot shavings dripping out of my hair like Jackson Pollock on a bender, I came up with this:

IMG_7317

This is the dogged tenacity that makes people like me get through vet school even when all indicators point to the “why?” factor. We can’t explain it. We just have to.

I shared this with my friends, and they all got a good laugh out of how silly it was, and then later in the day my friend in Ohio sent me a link and said, “See? You’re not alone.” It was a photo of some artfully arranged food items a group of mothers had arranged for their teachers.

It was, upon further inspection, a photo from my very school from earlier in the day. It had already made the Pinterest rounds and ended up in Ohio, where my friend saw it and sent it to me as an example of Moms Gone Styled. I scrolled through it, looking for my contribution.

Notably lacking? The crudite. They were apparently so lackluster as to have not even rated a Facebook photo, and when I returned to pick up the dish I found they had been shoved in the corner in order to make way for some gluten free turkey wraps with hand-whisked dressings in, of course, Mason jars.

At this point, even a not quite normal person would just give up, which is theoretically what I should do, but it’s become clear to me I live in a parallel universe where I am destined to almost-quite get it, over and over and over, but not get it entirely. This is why I am a veterinarian, the almost-quites of the medical field.

So you know what? I’m embracing it. This afternoon I decided to go on a Pinterest binge and make a little Pinterest and dog-friendly crudite platter my way. Hope you enjoy it.

twee

A bright autumn day, full of promise and gently whispered secrets amongst best of friends, calls for sustenance.

IMG_7370

Lovingly hand-extruded kibble, with ingredients sourced from local artisans in an organic human-grade facility in Portland by men with bushy beards. In a Mason jar.

IMG_7373

We end our afternoon in the garden of delights (it’s water friendly succulents! We’re eco friendly here in drought-parched SoCal) with hand-cut carrot bones from the local CSA, mint from the garden, words of wisdom from the dog sketched in canine-friendly peanut butter hand ground at Whole Foods. And of course, no pet garden of delights would be complete without the coup de grace:

IMG_7368

nitrate free ham roses.

IMG_7369

 

You saw it first here, folks. I’m waiting on sponsors for a YouTube tutorial but I think a ham bouquet is a lovely thing.

Filed: Blog, Cooking, Goofball Antics, Mother of the Year, Musings, Photography Tagged: , , , , ,
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