A proliferation of diabetologists and pseudo-experts?

By TP Saran

For several years now the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life has been sensitizing the public at large about the widespread extent to which diabetes and its related diseases and conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, alcohol abuse and tobacco consumption are present in the Mauritian population. Regularly there are doctors, nutritionists and other qualified and authorized health personnel who intervene in programmes on the radio and television to give the right information and advice and answer questions from the audience.

Besides, there is a wealth of material that is available on the internet for anybody who is interested, and it ranges from the simple to the most technical, the latter being best left to those competent to understand such language. For our part, we prefer the plain messages aimed at the layman.

However, of late, we have noticed a curious phenomenon: quite frequently, in the written press, prominence is given to certain doctors who are supposedly diabetologists, or other such experts whose credentials are never known, and they give lengthy interviews repeating ad nauseam what the competent official authorities already campaign on. There was one of this kind that appeared recently, and the impression sought to be conveyed was that America was being rediscovered!

This is clearly a marketing exercise with the willing collaboration of persons who may have some interest in pushing some of these so-called eminences. However, on enquiry we have come to know that they may not have any real standing in the medical profession and whoever be the persons that are pushing them forward may have some vested interest in doing so.

An elderly doctor, now retired, told us that the most prominent is not necessarily the most eminent. He had seen this throughout his career, namely that colleagues who were usually below par and had difficulty attracting patients tended to go to the papers and make a splash, using their connections and other influence. They ventilated their opinions loudly, and the acid test was what their peers thought about them: cheap and lowly!

Worst of all, they use official facts and figures as if these were their own findings, and make pseudo-authoritative statements which could in fact mislead the public. Unfortunately, the public’s gullibility is being exploited.

The genuinely good practitioner does not need to advertise himself like a cheap item of goods. It is by word of mouth mostly that people come to find out about who is who, and no amount of marketing will ever make of an incompetent a good practitioner! 

Advisers: Lessons from Sarkozy

In the wake of l’affaire Bettencourt in France, described as a ‘high-society money scandal,’ we read the following which we thought might have some pertinence to our local situation: ‘Mr Sarkozy has ordered ministers to clean up. He has cancelled the traditional garden party that he throws on Bastille Day, July 14th (it cost euros 730,00 last year) as well as the presidential boar-hunt. He has told ministers to travel by train and to reduce the number of advisers they employ. He promises to abolish 10, 000 official cars and 7,000 official apartments by 2013…’

When we get the métro léger, maybe there’s something to think about at official level…

* Published in print edition on 20 August 2010

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