Saturday, October 02, 2010

Even Doctors Spin

It must be the season during an election year. It seems even medical doctors can't resist spinning for a good cause. In today's Spokesman-Review (Saturday, October 2) Guest opinion, two prominent doctors with great intentions flagrantly spun the stats to prove their point. The article was about keeping medical schools and doctors in the less populated areas of the inland northwest. Dr's. Paul G. Ramsey and Warwick M. Bayly wrote a logical opinion piece about this retention in the community and in favor of Eastern Washington medical school campuses. The spin? Check it out.

"Where will you find your next doctor? The odds are good that your doctor is thinking about retiring in the next 10 years. There are roughly two primary care physicians in the work force in their late 50s or older for every one physician under 30. And that’s on top of a growing national shortage of physicians. The challenge of attracting doctors to hospitals and clinics will become more difficult. Among the hardest-hit areas will be rural regions such as Eastern Washington. Where will you find excellent medical care?"

This was their lead paragraph. They feature the gap between 30 year old and 50 year old physicians, suggesting that the field is populated with older doctors. This is all true, except for one thing. A young medical student graduates from college with a BS at age 22 or 23. He/she then goes to medical school for at least four more years, taking them to age 27 or 28. Then at least two years of residency or internship follows. In other words, these fine doctors have twisted statistics to make their point, which, incidentally is a valid one that doesn't need misrepresentation. The first chance a doctor has to practice medicine is about at age 30. This skews the average age factor in a huge way. Doctors, your goal is good. You don't have to spin to tell your story.

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