Surgery Pitch

By Bryan Hadlock Posted on Sep 14, 2011

Last week I was talking to a friend, a successful neurologist in Pittsburgh, about all of the pitches we’ve been in lately here at the agency, and how the process is both exciting and complex. He informed me that oddly, the same concept has appeared in his industry as well. Apparently the field of neuro-medicine has become rather crowded and competitive and my friend was recently asked to “pitch” a very ill patient needing a number of complex tumors removed from his brain.

“Wait. What?”

The request came in the form of a letter from the patient’s “representative,” asking my friend for relevant information about himself and his practice: how long he had been a doctor, staff size, number of patients, how much he was billing them—stuff like that. He was also asked to submit two specific case histories: what was a really successful operation and why? Describe a procedure where the patient didn’t make it— what would you have done differently and what did you learn? He was also required to submit a video of himself and his surgical team discussing the patient and his problem and how they had solved similar situations.

“We all wore our white doctor coats to add some theatre,” he added wryly.

He went on to describe the next phase. Having been selected to go to the next round, he was briefed by the representative on the patient’s actual condition and was then asked to submit several ideas of how he would remove the growths and his rationale for the approach. This would require extensive research, study and construction of scenarios. Work around the clock, straight through into the weekend.

“I swear,” he said, “if someone had ordered sushi one more night, there would have been a brawl.”

He and his surgical team would then have to travel to Springfield, Missouri where the patient apparently lived, and present their “concepts” to the man and his family for critique and review. All of this would of course be at the expense of my friend’s practice.


Finally, having been selected to continue in the search, which was now down to just him and two other surgeons, he and his team were required to go ahead and cut out just a bit of one of the man’s tumors in a surgery “shoot out.” After this the patient would, with the guidance of the representative, make the final decision and select the winning surgeon to perform the complete operation restoring the patient to good health. Provided, of course, the fee could be successfully negotiated.

“What?” Fascinated, I asked, “And did you win?”

“No,” he replied, “the job was awarded to a famous specialist out of LA.”

“Oh no,” I said.

“Yeah. Apparently however, too much time had passed and the patient died right after the contract was signed.”

“Oh no,” I said.

“Yeah,” he said.

“So, if the patient had just gone to a qualified brain surgeon and gotten the work done right away he’d still be alive?”

“Yeah… right,” he replied. “It ain’t rocket science is it?”

We both laughed at that one.

Bryan Hadlock is Chief Creative Officer for MARC USA


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