In the world of rubber-chicken dinners and self-congratulatory fundraisers, the American Heart Association has always had a moment of sincerity with it's Coeur d' Or, "heart of gold" award - given in years past to dedicated clinical researchers and physicians. The Coeur d' Or turned into the Coeur d'Green last night, as the local AHA chapter, without a hint of irony or embarassment, gave the award to the President and CEO of the presenting sponsor organization underwriting the event, Advocate Healthcare. I had to suspend my disbelief and check the program. That's right, the same guy chairing the selection committee and authorizing the checks for the gala was the same guy being feted on the dais.
If the AHA or Advocate had experienced even a frisson of conscience, one would have at least expected the award to go to an Advocate system heart specialist. Is this for the lack of any heroic, tireless clinicians deserving such an award this year? On the contrary, the ballroom was filled with dismayed physicians and bedside clinicians, excellent professionals who devote countless hours to forward research, who run in at 11pm when a defibrillator is shocking someone every five minutes, who stands, legs swollen, at the operating table long past the point of reason trying to stitch up a dissected aorta. But here is what the physicians did NOT do: they did not head up a hospital group that made a major financial contribution. The age of unapologetic cynicism in health-care has arrived.
But why dissemble? If this wasn't bad enough, the clinicians attending were treated to a promo video about the Advocate Healthcare system - a system certainly under scrutiny recently.
Who cares if the AHA wants to pat the back of one of its' chief funders? It only matters to the little guy if AHA similarly tilts its' public policy toward the interests of its corporate supporters. Are we now to look without cynicism at the treatment recommendations the AHA makes to the public? The medical device recommendations? The dietary? Should we be asking for a financial disclosure statement? Are rewards granted to sponsors in direct violation of the AHA's of conflict of interest policy?
The AHA opens itself to this scrutiny in its' breathless endorsement of its' own funders last night - and it's abandonment of the front-line for the deep pockets. It would be interesting to know if the national organization endorses this new orientation.