Selection Bias

The bulletin boards of every major hospital I've worked in are bombarded by signs of variable quality, soliciting research subjects or volunteers. Passers-by are asked to call a phone number if they fit within a certain demographic, take a certain drug, or engage in a certain behavior.

Where I went to medical school, the research solicitations were amateurish and fun. For whatever reason, investigators at that hospital were performing a lot of research with alcohol (on, with, and for)... Signs were frequently up, in bright neon colors, asking for young men and women to drink alcohol and give blood (for an immunoassay), drink alcohol and enter a driving simulator, drink alcohol and take a quiz. I have many fond memories of being paid to drink -- doing my part for science.

Now, I notice in some hospitals where I work, the ads are a little more slickly produced, but the 'image' conveyed to me is not exactly upbeat. Investigators are looking for patients with refractory depression, or active genital herpes, or WTC responders with respiratory problems.

When I see that many of the contact-stubs have been torn off of these solicitations, it prompts a different reaction than when the "drinking quiz" was recruiting.

Of course, I'm glad research on these diseases is being conducted. It gives hope, for both the volunteers and all patients.

Maybe the ED is warping my perspective on illness. Since I don't spend much time in clinics anymore, it's hard to remember what patients look like when they're not having an acute infection, or flareup of some chronic condition.

When all the tabs are ripped off the posters, it hits home that there are sick people everywhere, making their way, just walking around me in the lobby, by the bulletin boards.

And that's when I really wish for another alcohol study...