Today's News

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Barry prescribes laughter in keynote

By Kathleen Misovic

Humor columnist Dave Barry warned AAOS members that attending his talk would cause them to lose CME points. Despite the warning, his keynote address on "Medical Care in the 21st Century…Who Are We Kidding?" was standing room only.

With his boyish looks and shaggy haircut, Barry provided comedic relief by poking fun at various topics ranging from his hometown of Miami and his parenting skills, to exploding whales and, of course, the medical field.

In most cases, his comments were direct and pointed. For example, his solution for the frequent patient complaint of long waits in medical office waiting rooms turned the tables on physicians. "I think if you have an appointment to see a doctor and have to wait more than 30 minutes," he said, "you get to give the doctor a shot."

He also had a comeback for doctors who are pestered by patients asking for the latest "mystery" prescription drugs they've seen advertised on television. He advised the audience, "Whenever patients ask you about some drug they've seen on TV, you should say, 'Oh man, that stuff will kill you!'" His suggestion received hearty audience applause. "If you tell your patients that, I guarantee the drug companies would have to stop the ads," he said.

Barry, who was born in New York but now lives in Florida, found both states were sources of laughter. He joked about Miami, where things happen that don't occur anywhere else. "Every day, there's a story about someone driving into a building," he said, "and people try to pass you in the car wash."

He related a true story about a police chief in Homestead, Fla., who was sitting on a porch during a neighborhood crime watch meeting when he was hit on the head by a 75-pound bale of cocaine that fell from the sky. Drug smugglers from the Bahamas had been flying overhead when customs agents intercepted them. So the smugglers began throwing their load out the plane. "The chief of police was almost killed by a bale of cocaine falling from the sky; that's something that wouldn't happen in Cleveland," he said.

Barry encouraged members to visit Miami, which, he said, is actively seeking more visitors with its new tourism slogan: "Come back to Miami; we weren't shooting at you."

Barry started out his career as a conventional journalist, but decided to switch to comedy writing because it was a better match for someone who has a hard time asking hard-hitting, thought-provoking questions. He related his experience meeting former First Lady Barbara Bush during a press tour when the best thing he could think to tell her was that he shopped at the same supermarket as her son, Jeb. "My fellow journalists spent the bus ride back to the news office ridiculing me and speculating on what I would have asked Lee Harvey Oswald if I had the chance to interview him," Barry said.

The meeting with Mrs. Bush also provided the perfect segway into a discussion of parenting.

Barry described his parenting style as "parenting by embarrassment." He admitted that he's not above embarrassing his teenagers to get them to do what he wants. "If you're going out with your teen in a public place, like a mall, just start singing," Barry said, demonstrating with a tune. "Your children will do anything you want to make you stop; they will enroll in medical school on the spot."

Since he was speaking in Washington, D.C., to a group of doctors, Barry had to include a couple of comments on politics and lawyers. He admitted that he didn't see the problem with the current Social Security situation. "As I understand it, we get the money, but there won't be anything left for our kids," he said. "That's not a problem; that's 'payback time.'"

Barry's final story involved a situation that occurred in Oregon a few years ago. Faced with a large, dead whale on the beach, local officials called in the Oregon State Highway Department, which decided to dynamite the whale into little pieces so it would become food for the seagulls and other scavengers. Their plan was less than successful, however, because that the explosion scattered pieces of rotting whale carcass for miles, damaging cars and raining down on the crowd of spectators.

"You may be wondering what lesson I can bring to orthopaedic surgeons from this story," Barry said. "When you have problems in a surgery, whatever you do, don't ask the Oregon State Highway Department to help you."

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