Wednesday, July 23, 2014


While driving through the state of Florida, my wife noticed an inordinate number of billboards advertising gynecologists. I say inordinate, because neither of us could ever recall seeing that particular medical specialty advertised on the Interstate before. When you drive as much as we do, you become accustomed to seeing restaurants, hotels, tourist attractions, and even questionable spas that seem a little too eager to highlight the fact that they service truckers. We never found this unusual since most of those businesses rely, to some extent, upon the impulsiveness of their audience. Perhaps you are tired and need a place to crash so you see an ad for a Hampton Inn and take the exit or you are hungry and decide to take advantage of the culinary offerings featured on a nearby outdoor sign.

That being said, it is difficult for me to envision someone glancing out from their car window and thinking, “You know what sounds good? An invasive medical exam administered by a complete stranger.” Even more disconcerting was the similarities between the billboards advertising gynecological exams and the ones promoting real estate agents. Both featured the same frozen smiles framed by the same focus-group phrases like “professional” “experienced” and “trustworthy”. 
Thankfully, the parallels eventually ended as only the real-estate agents promised “wider exposure” to their clients.

I suppose some people find the pictures reassuring, but I have to wonder how many people actually hinge their medical decisions on the physical features on the physician. Are there that many people thinking, “I know they are well-qualified and come highly-recommended, but do I really want someone with slightly asymmetrical eyebrows involved in my pap smear?” Conversely, if I was ever window-shopping for a doctor of urology and I saw a picture of a practitioner with comically-small hands; it could work in their favor.

Perhaps there is some regulatory parameter in the sunshine state that lends itself to outdoor advertising for certain medical procedures. Arkansas has always featured an abundance of billboards touting “vasectomy reversals” which I have yet to see advertised in other states. Are Arkansas residents in general statistically more likely to change their mind about voluntary sterility? Is that stretch of the I-40 corridor early enough into most family road-trips that dad can be convinced it would be fun to “have another one”?   
Whatever the reason, I think I would want something more substantial than the presence of an outdoor advertising budget before I would let someone fiddle with my pipes again. I will say that none of these billboards featured faces or reassuring keywords. Although more than one of them prominently displayed the word “affordable”, which is ironic considering the financial impact of the operation’s intended result.

Again, how many men are driving down the road, see a billboard, and decide that sitting on a bag of frozen peas for the next three days would be more fun than whatever activity they had planned? In one instance the “vasectomy reversal” billboard was in close proximity to a billboard catering to those facing an “unplanned pregnancy”. It was unclear whether or not the same service provider had funded both ads, but I suppose it would be rather novel way to monopolize the reproductive market. The same conglomerate responsible for making an unplanned pregnancy possible could then be in a position to swoop in a few months later and attempt to mitigate the effectiveness of the very procedure they performed on the man responsible for your current situation. 

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