About 20,000 psychiatrists attend the APA annual meeting, and as you wander around the convention center, you bump into people you wouldn't ordinarily be rubbing shoulders with. Even people you might go out of your way not to rub shoulders with. This is a good thing, because you find out quickly that your "enemy" is no monster, but a person just like you. And possibly not an enemy at all.
Two examples from the 2008 meeting stand out; I'll describe one today and one tomorrow.
As I was browsing the publisher's exhibit area, I saw Stephen Stahl at the Cambridge University Press booth, signing copies of the latest edition of his immensely popular textbook, Essential Psychopharmacology. Apart from being a prolific author, Stahl is the head of NEI (Neuroscience Education Institute), a medical education company specializing in industry-funded CME. I mentioned him in this prior post, when I put him in the company of Charles Nemeroff as one of the more industry-conflicted psychiatrists in the profession.
Well, I went up to him and introduced myself, and we got talking about industry influence in psychiatry. "We're moving away from pharma funding," he said. For example, he said that he plans to stop participating in industry-supported symposia. "I consult with industry," he said, "and so I shouldn't be doing these symposia." I told him that I was on an APA work group tasked with adapting to future loss of industry funding. I asked him how he thought the organization would manage. "We're not going to make as much money," he said, "and maybe we shouldn't. Sometimes we just have to do the right thing."
I was impressed. But it was ironic that our short conversation was just then interrupted by a Pfizer employee asking him to sign her copy of his book. "We'll be seeing you tonight, Dr. Stahl," she said graciously. I don't know what event she was referring to, but I do know that the Pfizer was giving away his book at their display in the exhibit hall, and had scheduled him to sign copies for the dozens of psychiatrists happy to stand in line for a freeby.
Nonetheless, I believed Dr. Stahl was sincere in his plans to reduce his spigot of industry money, and I hope that we'll start seeing changes in NEI's business model over the coming year.
Tomorrow: Close encounters with John Shelton, publisher of Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.