March 2004


By Michael J. Katin, MD

A rod may be a unit of measurement (16.5 feet or 5.03 meters), a sensory cell in the retina, a racing car, a bacillus, a gun, a pop star, or even something to be spared, but it is also the nickname of the highest-paid baseball player of all time, Alex Rodriguez. Mr. Rodriguez has dramatically fulfilled his potential by putting together several of the greatest years in major league history, and in exchange is being paid $252 million over 10 years. To put this amount into perspective, this is in the range of the salary of many HMO executivesand greater than the annual gross national product of the country of Tonga.

So far Mr. Rodriguez has been very generous in sharing his wealth, but other sports figures and entertainment icons have not been known to be as charitable. Many have been known to spend heavily on cars, hotels, Cristal,and bling bling. Presumably this is an effort to demonstrate newfound opulence but eventually there is a limit to what can be flaunted to get attention, and then there is always risk associated with this.

Obviously there should be other venues for conspicuous consumption that will bring prestige to the nouveau riche, and preferably investments that will not be easily spilled or stolen. One suggestion would be to benefit humanity by discovering the world of radiation oncology. Which would be more impressive, owning a Rolls-Royce Silver Seraph or a Varian 21EX/23EX Platinum? Buying primo dope or a Siemens Primus? No contest! Maybe rock and rap stars and professional athletes should be solicited for contributions to radiation oncology centers and expensive hardware could be donated, with tax benefits for the donor and glamour for the recipient.

It should also be appealing to celebrities, whose period of fame often approximates the lifespan of a gerbil to consider funding academic departments, specifically, professorships. It has always seemed to be the responsibility of industrial magnates (Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gates) to support higher education, and now that there no longer is any industrial production in the United States, this burden needs to be passed on to the next generation of robber barons. Some professorships need not even be renamed. The Soriano Professorship in Oncology at Harvard Medical School could have an infusion of cash from Alfonso Soriano, recently traded from the New York Yankees to the Texas Rangers and therefore making him acceptable to donate to a Boston institution Jimmy Buffett would probably be happy to support the Buffett Professorship in Medicine at the University of Chicago , and it could be a matter of time before the renaming of the Jimmy Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Sir Anthony Hopkins University. Radiation oncology departments should be scrambling to sign up available benefactors before they lose the incentive, or their income. We will be waiting to see who is the first occupant of the 50 Cent Professorship of Health Economics, the Mark Wahlberg Professorship of Urologic Oncology, and the Snoop Dogg Professorship of Radizzle in Da Hizzle. Regardless of the amount of the donation, it might be difficult for someone to accept the Ludacris Chair of Radiation Oncology. Except probably for me.

email: mkatin@radiotherapy.com