Thursday, May 24, 2007

Prostate Palooza

It's not every job that affords you the opportunity to fly all the way across the country just to be with 10,000 men who are exceedingly interested in prostates, bladders, testes, and penises. Or it's penii? That looks cooler.

Anyhow, this entire week I was at the American Urological Association's annual meeting. And let me tell you, it was one helluva time. I flew in Sunday night and arrived very late at my sahweet hotel in Anaheim, not too far from Disneyland. Being tired and being that I had a pretty early wakeup, I went to sleep.

I think the first part of my Monday is best recapped as follows:

5:30am- wake up. Look at alarm and am saddened by the hour. And that I'm not up at said hour to watch a sunrise or because I've stayed up from the night before having a party with friends
6:15am- breakfast while reading USA today and an article about greys anatomy- aahhhh usa today has such a high caliber of reading material
6:45am- board shuttle bus to conference. I'm the only one on the bus. Am I late? Really? I double check my watch and see that yes, it is really only 6:45
7:00am- go to pick up my registration materials only to find that I'm not in the system. As in, the woman who I "registered" with on the phone 2 weeks ago, with whom I spoke for over 10 minutes, she definitely didn't register me. And there was nothing they could do cause I, of course, didn't have a confirmation number, or know the woman's name. They basically looked at my like I was straight up lying to them. And of course the 2 sessions (lunches) I wanted to attend were booked. Aaaaaawesome. And there was absolutely "NOTHING WE CAN DO." I'm sorry, but it's YOUR mistake, not mine. Well, apparently my "story" wasn't so believable because apparently they don't register people over the phone, so they looked at my like I was sitting on a throne of lies and I just filled out a new form.


7:30am- attending my first session on high risk prostate cancer (great way to start out your day, I highly recommend it), I go to reach in my bag for my notebook and pen, and on my notebook is a smashed Junior Mint. I bought Junior Mints at the airport so I could have a snack, figuring that my flight would most assuredly be delayed/late/struck by lightning or otherwise inexplicably messed up. But I failed to take them out of my bag on Monday morning. And so they were ALL over my bag. With my computer, smooshed mint everywhere. mmmm yummy.

9:00am- leave first session, go to first bathroom in sight, clean out entire contents of bag, scraping gooey mint off all surfaces.

9:30am- meet up with Kate, whose flight got in at 1am, instead of 11pm, and whose driver from LA to Anaheim got lost. So she went to bed at 3am. We look around the room and see only men in their 50s, the vast majority of whom have male-pattern balding, take a deep breath, hug one another, and go off to our next session cursing ourselves for thinking this was the most genuis idea we'd ever had.

However, after that, the day went remarkably normally (as much as is possible when you're learning about prostates). I made it through morning 1, and I even got into one of the lunches I wanted to attend.

Some of my favorite quotes from the week (and believe me, there were many, I'm convinced you have the have a pretty twisted sense of humor to even become a urologist in the first place, but wow...):

"When my patients come in, it's usually as a couple, the man and his wife. And I have to have a very frank conversation with them about sexual function. Now, in America, the sexual function conversation is a hard topic. No pun intended"

"When we do surgery on the penis we don't do rehab. Really, it's the only surgery to a muscle we don't do rehab for, and probably one for which you need it the most"

"We like to close the barn door before the cows get out" (on why they would remove the whole prostate rather than do radiation which has a greater chance of leaving tumor behind)

On infertility: "In rat models, we don't say that a male rat is infertile until the one male has failed with 5 known fertile females. But in humans, you only get one wife at a time, so you can't really test it that well"

So, I gained a lot of booty from this trip, both literally and figuratively.
Tuesday Kate and I ventured into the exhibit hall. This would be where everyone (and by everyone I mean everyone) comes to display their drug, device, scalpel, scrubs, ultrasound machine, mri machine, hokey homeopathic cure-all, etc etc etc. And every gimmick under the planet to get you to remember them and their product. You think that marketing on TV is bad? Well just imagine when they're trying to target the people who actually going to make decisions about their product.

This year canvas and "beach" bags were in. I have about 5. I'm not sure which is my favorite- the neon blue VIAGRA bag, the neon green zippable Cialis bag, or the Canvas Flomax bag with yellow handles. Tough call.

Flomax (which is for overactive bladder... they're really creative with their names) had a waterfall at their display. A waterfall for people who can't pee? COME ON now. I took a picture in front of it. And the sales people laughed.

One display was for a radiation therapy that is a big machine thing, and they made their display out of legos.
I mean, check this out, these are just TWO displays for TWO drugs/technologies. Now picture that time 500 and you have the exhibit hall.

LOTS of free coffee. I have a travel mug AND a nalgene.
And a squishy kidney.
And post-its like woh.
And pens.
But the coolest thing I got was a triple laserpointer/pen/USB device. It's awesome. I had to take a quiz to get that one. It was for detrol, one of pfizer's drugs, also for overactive bladder. But luckily Kate is all over that shizzle for her project and she knew it all.

But the funny thing was that ok, so 95% of the people (no exagerration) at the conference were men. Mostly, as previously stated in their 50s and with some form of balding. I think I can say with almost 100% certainty that I was the youngest person in attendance. So, in walk me and Kate to the floor show and it was like we had a big arrow above our heads saying TALK TO ME. I don't know how many sales reps you've ever met in your lives, but they're almost invariably in their mid-late twenties and early thirties. And hot. Really really good looking. And because of the specialty, it was mostly male reps. So I got the feeling that sale hot young male reps were really kind of tired of talking to older male urologists. And Kate and I have no shame, and since we weren't in a position to buy or not buy their products, we just had a really really fun time. But I promise I learned stuff too... we were just more... creative about our methods.

And I loved being there cause everyone just assumes (probably fairly) you're a doctor/resident. So people would ask questions like, "So when you do these procedures on your patients, what type of do you use?" It never failed- each and every time someone asked us that question, Kate and I looked at one another and tried to come up with some new wacky response. It was amusing to see the range of responses we got when people found out we were consultants though... from mildly amused to totally uninterested to really entertained and candid (the younger hot guys were usually in the latter camp) with us.

But I will say, I learned a lot, and it's good to have a sense of humor. I think my sense of humor (or irony?) came most in handy when I went to a session that, unbeknownst to me, was really to go step by step through "tips" for the process of surgically removing the prostate (prostatectomy). With live video footage. I swear to you the first time the movies came on I was SHOCKED (though not quite as shocked as when I saw the videos of catheters being put in places that I had only heard they could go and hope that none of my male friends ever have to experience), and actually more shocked that no one around me was shocked. Then I remembered- these men do this. Every. Single. Day.
By choice.

So prostates. Ahhhh, the word just rolls off the tongue, no? I'm lovin them more and more every day. Although I'm totally paranoid now that everyone I know over the age of 50 is going to die of prostate cancer (please, have your PSA screened regularly, really). Ohhhhh my job. What adventure will it bring me to next? Stay tuned.

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