“If you want to be a private doctor, be a private doctor, but if you’re a teacher, be a teacher,” [a university lawyer] said.

Und so weiter. It’s easy to find observers puzzling over the stubborn tendency of people who want to make a lot of money to also want to be professors. From the perspective of high-profile medical researchers who have developed lucrative ties to pharma, continuing to be a shittily paid professor (a few hundred thousand a year, versus millions from sitting on do-nothing corporate boards, pushing sketchy drugs and devices, and receiving all manner of other underhanded forms of payment in exchange for conferring an aura of legitimacy over what pharma does) would seem an obvious waste of time. And yet in many cases you don’t get to that coveted position of legitimacy-aura-conferrer without also first having gathered unto yourself the selfless idealistic purely intellectual aura academia gives you. You have to gird yourself with the symbolic capital of the university before you can generate real capital by passing yourself off as the neutral not-profit-motivated objective evidence-based independent respected expert pharma needs to gain FDA approval for oxycontin.

It’s a kind of Catch-22: You have to keep being a professor for pharma to want to use you as a classy unimpeachable kind of thing; but being a professor is a Real Fat Pain in the Ass. Universities are thrilled you’re bringing in a lot of corporate-sponsored research money, of course; but universities can’t look like the pharma-whore you are. They’ve got that whole… lemme look back over that list I just wrote… that whole selfless idealistic purely bumpadah bumpadah to keep going or they lose their non-profit tax status and a whole lot of other goodies. Universities have to make sure that they don’t look like institutions set up to house the profit-making activities of medical entrepreneurs, so they cook up rules to monitor how much outside money you’re making plus how much time you’re spending doing business off campus. Since many medical faculties are making money hand over fist by moonlighting for pharma, they rather resent the intrusion.

The way they deal with this intrusion is by the simple expedient of ignoring outside income/outside time reporting rules. It’s not as though only a few miscreants do this; chairs of departments do it. At some schools, everybody’s doing it.

Take this guy.

One UC Davis professor of veterinary medicine allegedly ignored the [reporting] requirement. In 2014, the UC Regents sued Dr. Jack Snyder in state court, accusing him of making — and keeping for himself — more than $1 million in unreported income from clinical work and consulting in multiple states, including California, Montana and Hawaii. Snyder, who is known for his expertise in equine surgery and has provided veterinary care for equestrian events at the Summer Olympics, frequently missed scheduled meetings, clinical shifts and laboratory classes without receiving prior approval, the complaint states.

In court documents, Snyder denied the allegations and said the university had not been harmed in any way.

Parker White, a lawyer who represents the university in the pending case, said the university does not discourage faculty from doing work outside the university, but it wants to take the profit incentive out of it. The primary responsibility of veterinary faculty should be their teaching and clinical duties, he said.

“If you want to be a private doctor, be a private doctor, but if you’re a teacher, be a teacher,” White said. “He’s not here showing the students how to be doctors.”

Synder left the university shortly before it filed suit in 2014. Last year, the federal government indicted him for filing false tax returns and tax evasion.


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3 Responses to “‘“People who get in there and are trying to make money on the side: Why bother being a professor?” said Stanton Glantz, a UC San Francisco professor.’”

  1. Stephen Karlson Says:

    Yes, the “Mr Chips” image helps both as a consultant or expert witness, or as the public face of a company doing well by purporting to do good.

    It doesn’t help that university administrations place the emphasis they do on sponsored research (whether by grant or by contract). The resulting incentives turn promising researchers into one-trick ponies and limit the creativity the faculty shows to those lines of inquiry the granting agencies, or the technology companies, are favoring at the time.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Stephen: All true. And the one-trick pony part is just the beginning.

  3. charlie Says:

    It was bad enough when profs forced you to buy overpriced books they wrote. Now, they’re prescribing drugs to you they invented. Talk about a captive market…

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