In light of all the concern over issues around conflicts of interest in
psychiatry, I would like to share a positive experience that I have had in my
own district branch chapter.
Six years ago I became an officer of the Pittsburgh Psychiatric Society. At
that time, we were presenting monthly CME programs that were largely funded by
drug companies. I advocated that we wean ourselves from this funding and find
alternative ways to pursue our educational goals.
The society gave my advocacy more than a respectful hearing: it took the
suggestion to heart. We moved our meetings from a hotel meeting hall to
conference rooms at cooperating local hospitals. We substituted sandwiches and
bottled water for hot buffet meals and a bar. We eliminated most flown-in
speakers and honoraria, and we brainstormed about how to present educational
programs using our home-grown psychiatric talent (who were only sometimes the
professors at our local academic centers). I and another forensic
psychiatrist, for example, presented one such program, "When Your
Patient Gets Arrested," which we hosted at Allegheny County Jail,
complete with tour!
Admittedly, we have had to cut down on the number of CME programs. Also, we
spend some more of our chapter and state funds on our programs, and we still
accept a small amount of industry funding. But overall, our chapter remains
healthy, and our programs are still popular.
Our effort exemplifies a model for moving toward independence. I am proud
that the Pittsburgh Psychiatric Society took these steps voluntarily before we
were pushed to do so by public opinion or by restrictions that came to be
imposed by the companies themselves.