I may be blowing my own horn a bit here, but the Internal Medicine News included a story, entitled, "Medical Leaders Double as Corporate Directors," on our abstract on this topic presented at the annual meeting of the Society of General Internal Medicine. It opened thus,
If accepting free pens or lunches from industry represents a potential conflict of interest for physicians, what do you call it when a medical school dean is also the corporate director of a large, for-profit health care company?
We found that of 125 medical schools, 65 (52%) had at least one faculty member or academic leader who was also on the board of directors of a large US public for-profit health care corporation. Furthermore, "7 [schools] reported to university presidents who also were directors of health care corporations, 11 reported to vice presidents for health affairs who were corporate directors, and 5 were lead by deans who also were health care corporate directors. Also, 11 schools had academic medical center CEOs who were corporate directors, and 22 schools had at least one [such] top leader who also was a director of a health care corporation." My summary was,
The bottom line is that a substantial portion of medical schools are led or influenced by people who are also obligated to have ‘unyielding loyalty’ to stockholders of forprofit health care corporations.
The report also featured some rather pessimistic comments by Nicole Lurie,
There are a lot of factors at play, including how aware you are of the potential
conflict and how much transparency protects you from acting in a conflicted way if you are conflicted.
Many physicians in practice don’t perceive a conflict at all. The first thing is to
open yourself up, look at yourself, and examine the issue. Then you have to think,
if these relationships exist, are there things you can do to make them work, because
I don’t think as a matter of public policy that we’re going to succeed in obliterating all these relationships.
Maybe if these relationships were made considerably more public there would be more support for their elimination.