The panel moderator for his session was an editor from the American Journal of Pediatrics. He looked very young and walked and talked confidently. He wore light blue faded jeans, a white shirt, blue blazer and no tie. Every once in a while he would move his fingers through his long hair to straighten them. It’s the new generation, Owen thought. He, on the other hand wore his best blue suit, a white shirt and a greenish tie with yellow polka dots.
There were four panelists. In addition to Owen there was Dr. Shah from New York, Dr. Blumenthal from Ohio, and Dr. Sheldon from Wisconsin. Each had to make a five-minute opening statement and then it was open for questions from the audience. Questions were submitted to the moderator who selected which ones would be asked. Questions ranged from the validity of the information available to the patients, the various online sources, the psychology of informed patients and their attitude towards their doctors. By the time it was over Owen didn’t realize they were talking for three hours and the audience wanted to ask more questions. One of the questions addressed to Owen was whether he lost any patients because of his inability to answer questions from an Internet savvy parent?
“No I can’t say I have,” replied Owen. “On the other hand I have seen an increase in new patients — probably because of word of mouth. Some have even told me that they were very happy and impressed by the Web site I have created and how it has helped them in getting more information and the ease of contacting him.”
There was a loud applause from the audience. Owen smiled in acknowledgement. He said thank you, but he doubted if they heard him.
We have time for just a couple of questions, said the moderator turning to the audience.
One man got up from the middle of the room and raised his hand. He had on a wrinkled sport jacket and disheveled hair.
“I’ve a question for the Dr. in blue,” He said.
Owen was the only one wearing a blue suit. He got up and walked to the front of the podium.
“You talked of the Internet,” the man shouted. “What about the pharmaceutical conglomerate? How much do they pay you to write those expensive prescriptions? How much do they pay you to buy those expensive suits?”
The question was off on a tangent. Owen was trying hard to stay calm. He started to say something but the man wouldn’t wait and started rattling off another question. The conference security had to intervene and take him away.
Owen was a bit perturbed by the unexpected intrusion. He was glad that there was nothing he could not answer during the formal session. He had cited some real life experiences he had with his patients without revealing their identity. But after the incident with the rude attendee, he struggled to keep his cool. He wiped the perspiration off his face. This was the first time someone had questioned his integrity. A while later he climbed down the podium. There were a few people waiting to ask him more questions. This perked him up a bit.