As I've written on this blog before, Dr. Joseph Biederman is an outstanding scientist but is also the prototypical MGH/Harvard narcissist. I speak from experience, having attended the MGH psychiatry residency from 1992-1995. We all joked about our arrogance and hubris and narcissism. It was almost a badge of honor. When you are at the top-ranked psychiatry department in the nation (as MGH has been every single year from 1995 to 2008, according to U.S. News and World Report) you are entitled to an extra heaping of, umm, positive self-regard, shall we say.
So Biederman's seemingly outrageous comments, as reported in today's New York Times, have to be taken into context.
Here are the comments:
In a contentious Feb. 26 deposition between Dr. Biederman and lawyers for the states, he was asked what rank he held at Harvard. “Full professor,” he answered.
“What’s after that?” asked a lawyer, Fletch Trammell.
“God,” Dr. Biederman responded.
“Did you say God?” Mr. Trammell asked.
“Yeah,” Dr. Biederman said.
If you've tasted MGH culture, you'd find this comment very funny. Biederman was not really saying that he was just below God; instead, he was cracking a joke about academic hierarchy at Harvard, presumably to break the tension at the deposition.
The more damning documents are those implying that Biederman promised Johnson & Johnson officials positive data about their products. I haven't reviewed the published studies in question, but knowing the quality of Biederman's research, I suspect that it is well-done and above board. He may have already seen some preliminary data showing advantages of Risperdal over Zyprexa in pediatric bipolar disorder, or showing that Concerta was unlikely to retard growth. I'd be extremely surprised if he manipulated these studies in some fraudulant way to create the results he promised. That's not the way Biederman rolls.
Call him the King of Cringe. Disagree with his opinions about the prevalence of pediatric bipolar disorder. Call him greedy, even. But scientifically, I continue to respect him and I believe that he ultimately has the best interests of his patients at heart.