August 1997


By Michael J. Katin, MD

(continued from May column) . . . institution of a system of awards and ranks to be awarded to practicing radiation oncologists, similar to the situation in the military but also found in private industry. Years ago, when I was a sub-teen numismatist, I came across this impressive-looking heavy coin-like object which turned out to be a medal awarded by the Honeywell Corporation. I wasn't sure what to make of it since it didn't specify very much, but the person who had received it must have been very proud. Why he or she didn't have it anymore was unknown. Presumably it left that person's possession when he or she was evicted after being laid off two months later. Speculation aside, the point is that awards and other recognition are widespread in the non-medical world whereas we usually feel rewarded mostly by the knowledge that we helped relieve suffering, and also got paid.

Now that we don't get allowed to relieve suffering because of managed care restrictions and probably won't get enough monetary compensation to avoid stampeding toward opportunities with Amway, maybe we need to have the same system of gratification found elsewhere, allowing people to think they accomplished something without as long as they don't think too long about the intrinsic worthlessness of the prize.

The readers of this column will probably want to submit suggestions for types and stratification of awards. For example, a radiation oncologist starting in practice could aspire to move through the ranks as a Fletcher Third Class, Fletcher Second Class, and, finally, Fletcher First Class. I won't get involved in recommending the ordering of the levels, such as whether this should be a greater distinction than being a Second Luther or a First Luther. When a radiation oncologist is involved in producing a cure in one or more individual patients, that physician could be awarded the equivalent of a bronze star, perhaps called a Bronze Suit (an actual bronze suit would not accompany the award, only a ribbon or medallion).

Needless to say, this speculation could go on indefinitely, but I would suggest that the highest honors be conveyed in a way similar to knighthood, with appropriate ceremony making fellowship and other current distinctions look meaningless. This could ideally result in creating a greater sense of camaraderie and decreasing the likelihood of selling each other out. Again, we could argue about naming these honors, but the most obvious would be the Order of Del Regato, the Order of Stan (sorry, but you saw that coming), and, the most distinguished of all, allowing recognition of the new president of ASTRO, the Order of the Rose.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com