Off to Copenhagen for another conference, this one on rheumatoid arthritis. I had the morning free before the conference so I wandered around central Copenhagen. Despite being in a cranky mood after a lack of sleep in my hotel, I was soon chuckling as Doug Lansky, from Lonely Planet, had set up a street exhibit with reproductions of amusing signs people had seen around the world. I thought of Lydia for the "Changed Priorities Ahead" sign and Russell for "No Windpassing", while my personal favourite may have been the directions to the "Secret Nuclear Bunker".
With the rest of my morning I took a cruise around Copenhagen.
"København" is a corruption of "købmannehafen", meaning merchants’ harbour, and much of the city's design since its foundation in 1167 is based on the building of canals and ports for merchants. From the land you can't really appreciate just how much the ocean penetrates Copenhagen, but on our little boat we were able to nip up narrow canals and under low bridges to see the many beautiful buildings of the city.
Of course we had to visit the Little Mermaid. Now the most famous statue of Copenhagen, it was designed by a little-known sculptor Edvard Erichsen as a gift from Carlsberg Breweries to the city of Copenhagen, to celebrate Hans Christian Andersen. Carl Jacobsen saw the dancer Ellen Price dance Fini Henrique's ballet "The Little Mermaid" in 1909 and asked her to be the model for the statue.
She agreed, but backed down when Edvard Erichsen said he wanted her to be naked. In a move which must have caused marital tension, Edvard used his wife as the naked model and put Ellen Price's head on her body.
Off to the conference. I had forgotten how cranky medical conferences make me, but I soon remembered. For a conference with 15,000 people the halls for the talks only sat around 100 each. Sadly, even then the hall didn't completely fill up, so I have my doubts that many medicos actually earn that "Certificate of Continuing Medical Education" they picked up on the first day to prove that they are up to date with the latest biomedical results. Instead all the medicos were milling around the commercial product show. In a scientific conference you'll be lucky to get a few pens and maybe a crummy T-shirt.
Not so at medical conferences. You can almost hear the sponsorship money sloshing around. The USB-drive with the conference abstracts on it was bound in leather (why do you want a leather-bound USB drive?). As an invited speaker they gave me a limited run reproductive of a royal wedding broach designed by the goldsmith Ghita Ring. Some companies hired origami folders, other set up a cafe giving away personalised smoothies and hot chocolate, some used a robotic engraver to give away personalised dictaphones, others gave away beer and wine. A company selling deluxe kitchen-ware didn't even pretend to be medically related, and just took orders for different kitchen gadgets. There were large touch screens everywhere, designer furniture and gadgets. Companies set up gaming units for all the medicos, water-skiing simulators and quiz shows.
It was depressing to see how many Rheumatologists got wrong all the questions on contra-indications for prescriptions or even the "in this diagram which cell is the T cell". I just hope I never get treated by anyone on team B, who finished with zero points. I assume that all this junk works on at least some medicos, or Big Pharma wouldn't spend more on advertising than on biomedical research. It would be more honest if they just wrote a cheque to every doctor if they promise to inject Drug X into their patients. Being pulled into a "relaxation zone" by one of the reps I was asked to give my impressions of the display. I replied that they must think doctors are corrupt or infants if they think they can persuade them to chose their patients drugs based on which company provided the most entertaining magician. I was so cranky I left before the welcoming party began.