Overcoming "Not Invented Here"
by Al Siebert, PhD
THRIVEnet Story of the Month - November 1995
Many people have written to me because Bernie Siegel included my description of the survivor personality in his book, Love, Medicine, & Miracles. Most people want more information. Some tell me their survivor stories. A few people have traveled to Portland to meet and talk with me. One of those is Marty Dvorin.
Marty and his wife Harriette, a retired couple, came to Portland to see me in June, 1988. Marty and Harriette had fascinating stories to tell. Both of them had come close to death several times because of life threatening illnesses. I asked them many questions about how they had managed survive and now be so happy and healthy.
They told me that they each pulled the other through. When I asked for details Harriette said "We love each other and we make each other laugh." Easy to understand because Marty is like Groucho Marx without a mustache. His constant talking is salted with puns and oneliners. Harriette grinned and added, "And when no one else is in the room we talk dirty to each other."
Marty saw the amused, amazed look on my face. He laughed and said "You've been around, Dr. Siebert, you don't need an explanation about what that means!"
Marty told me that their life-style had always been quite healthy. Many years ago his creative logic had told him that if fish can live in Arctic waters without having their body oils coagulate, then fish should be more healthy to eat than red meat.
Marty said he went on vigorous walks for up to two hours a day. On these brisk walks he would often carry light weights and exercise his arms. He said that although close to 70, his cardiovascular system was being rated younger every year when he took his stress test. Harriette smiled and said "I'm having sex with a younger man!"
After all of their years of experience with doctors and hospitals, Marty has developed a method for getting them to use the best treatment and most effective medications. Most people assume that this would be the case, but when Marty or Harriette would learn about a new treatment or medication and ask the physician to try it, they ran into a reaction they named "Not Invented Here."
The physicians would typically say that anything developed at another hospital was still unproven and that their own procedures and medications were the correct ones to use.
Marty is a retired scientist. He is internationally respected for his research in optics. He would use his research skills to learn everything published in the medical literature about the illness and its treatment. He would discover other medicines and treatments than those being used with Harriette or himself. But when he asked about trying something that might be more effective, the physicians were seldom willing to listen and rarely willing to try. He kept hearing "Not Invented Here" in their rejections.
Marty is a survivor, not a victim. He problem-solved the situation. He experimented with ways of approaching physicians. His experience led him to develop a technique that was quite effective, especially with residents. He calls it his "Risk-Benefit" assessment.
It works like this--after doing his research he asks the physician to rate both the possible harm and the possible benefits of a different medication on a scale of 1 to 5. A medication or treatment "not invented here" is evaluated for "possibly, probably or definitely" being harmful and/or beneficial by a physician. Marty says many are usually rated as not harmful and possibly beneficial (1-2). Marty has run into "Not Invented Here" so many times he carries a form he created in 1984 in his camper truck. It looks like this:
Harmful: Beneficial: 5 4 3 2 1 0 1 2 3 4 5 definitely possibly no effect possibly definitely
After a physician has responded to this evaluation, Marty asks, "Since the new treatment is not expected to be harmful and possibly has beneficial effects, why not let us try it just to see what happens." Most physicians will go along with a treatment or medication presented in this way.
Marty does his homework. He won't ask for a different treatment or medication unless he is convinced that there is proof it could get better results than what is being done presently. Then when positive results are seen, he praises the physician.
Harriette died of a stroke several years ago. Marty felt the loss of his life partner very deeply, but has now rebuilt his life. If you would like to contact him, his address is:
516 Greenbriar Circle
Petaluma, CA 94954