Wednesday, April 22, 2015

I really do miss the urologists

For a two-year period back in the late 90's, I served as the managing editor of Urology Times magazine.

That's absolutely true. UT is one of those obscure publications (of which there are hundreds if not thousands) that exclusively cover very narrow niches within the business world.

These "trade pubs," as they are often referred to among the journalists and publishers who staff them, are great sources of ad revenue because they deliver a very targeted and engaged readership.

UT, as the name implies, offers news of interest to practicing urologists on a monthly basis. Most of the news is scientifically oriented, but there's also notice of new products and legislative happenings that affect the specialty.

If you're not familiar with urology, it's the branch of medicine that deals mostly with diseases of the prostate, kidneys, bladder and adrenal glands, as well as the male reproductive organs.

I'll give you a minute to let out a heartfelt "Ewwwww!"

And it really does score high on the Yuck Spectrum. I watched dozens of urologic surgeries during my 2-plus years with the magazine, and none of them were especially pretty.

Which leads to the question of why someone would choose to be a urologist. I asked a urologist about that when I worked at UT. His answer was two-fold:

(1) He called it a "gentleman's surgical sub-specialty." A lot of urologists wanted to be surgeons in medical school, but they quickly realized they didn't want to be taking out someone's gall bladder at 3 in the morning. Most urological procedures are of a non-emergency nature, so they can be scheduled at convenient hours ("Convenient," that is, to the urologist who wants to make sure he gets in 18 holes of a golf on a nice summer day.)

(2) They also get paid well. Physicians in general score pretty highly in the paycheck department, but at the time I was covering the field, urologists were among the highest-paid sub-specialists.

And I'm fine with that. Someone in our society needs to worry about pee-related problems, and I doubt you or I are going to volunteer. So when a person steps up to the plate and promises to be there if I develop a nasty advanced penile cancer, yeah, I'm OK with them getting a big fat paycheck in return.

Almost to a man (and the vast majority of them were men), the urologists with whom I dealt were hilarious. Which makes sense, doesn't it? You have to have quite a sense of humor if you spend your days sticking your finger into places it shouldn't be stuck into.

I used to attend urological research meetings, and I always enjoyed interviewing the urologists and urologically inclined medical students after they made their research presentations. They were not only nice, they were also genuinely shocked that someone cared about their work enough to write about it.

I freelanced for UT for a few years after leaving the magazine and moving into public relations, and to this day I'm still overly knowledgeable about prostate tumors and the demographics of bladder cancer. It's the kind of stuff that never quite falls out of your brain, even though you have no use for it.

So I miss it a little. Or at least I miss the people.

I also miss the funny names. During my time at UT, I came across urologists whose names were (I'm not making any of these up) Drs. Wang, Johnson and Zipper. And they PAID me to write about this stuff.


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