I sat there in the front row, myanticipation building, awaitingthe wisdom of one of my favoritelecturers. Witty, urbane, andinsightful, he had always thrilledme with his numerous ideas on howbest to practice medicine.
The introduction of this man, professorJohnny Deep, MD, was fittinglyeffusive, but ended with the obligatory,"Dr. Deep declares he has noconflicts of interest. He does not havea financial interest in any businessthat provides health care-relatedgoods or services."
Pardon me? This man, an idol ofmine, has not invested a single dime inany business related to his profession?How smart can he really be? Or has hebowed to the current obsession withpolitical correctness so much that he iscutting himself off from a secure retirementby purposely refusing to properlydiversify his investment portfolio?
It's pretty difficult to get rich practicingmedicine, but many physicianshave become rich by making goodinvestments. The richest man inSaginaw, Mich, an idol of many, is afamily physician who got his startlargely by investing in nursing homesand assisted care facilities. Other doctorsinvest in medical office buildings,x-ray facilities, urgent care centers,same-day surgical centers, and evenhospitals. Most include pharmaceuticalcompanies, medical service companies,and medical device manufacturersamongst their portfolios.
We know, as do most seriousinvestors, that many factors affect thesuccess of a business. One of the mostimportant is the ability to providegoods or services that are genuinelyneeded by the general public. As physicians,we are often appraised by theworld's most knowledgeable expertson needs of the people. These expertsare also called "patients." In the past,they've told us they were unhappywith their sex lives. Maybe we putthem off with, "You know, middle-ageddiabetics on blood pressure medicinecan be expected to be impotent."But maybe we should have listenedand invested in companies developingimpotence drugs. Other recent examplesof our working knowledge thatcould become a veritable guide toinvesting include the following:
•You notice that certain drug repsfail to excite your interest in theirproducts. It seems their company hasfailed to develop important new drugs.
•You observe that another companyhas more reps than necessary callingon you. That company could be duefor some restructuring.
•You realize that you're orderingmore labs and imaging studies thanyou used to. Why? To decrease yourliability, of course. But those companiesmay present some great investmentopportunities.
•You see the intense interest ofpatients to obtain pharmaceuticals thatimprove their indulgent lifestyles, suchas GERD drugs, statins, and psychotropics.Strong companies witheffective products in these categorieshave excellent investment potential.
Dr. Deep no doubt accepts his inabilityto capitalize on his insiderknowledge of health care as a necessarytradeoff for him to be able tocontinue his vital work of spreadingmedical knowledge to eager fans likeme. But what about you? What's yourexcuse for not investing?
, a family practice physician
in Saginaw, Mich, is the editor of the
Saginaw County Medical Society Bulletin
and Michigan Family Practice. He welcomes
questions or comments at 3350 Shattuck
Road, Saginaw, MI 48603; 989-792-1899; or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Louis L. Constan