Chapter Three


Chapter 3

The night of Hiram’s induction into the College,the auditorium bristled with a formal festivity. Dignitaries sat in black robes in chairs lined in four rows on the stage. As the new president, Hiram stood tall, his hands resting on a flag-draped podium facing the audience, his image gleaming from four giant screens suspended from the auditorium ceiling and projecting to the seven thousand plus surgeons and families in the audience. He thanked family and friends. He introduced new officers and honored colleagues. Few could fault his dynamism, his captaincy, his vision, and Michael could not suppress a wave of envy as Hiram outlined proposed changes in the administrative structure. Michael’s heart raced.

Hiram closed his speech: “And finally, it gives me great pleasure to announce that yesterday the new executive director of the College has officially been appointed. His experience as a board member will be invaluable. He is cherished for his academic contributions. He has an MBA and is chair of one of the most influential departments of surgery in the world. Please honor his appointment with a round of applause. Dr. Tom Gardner.”

Michael’s insides trembled. He’d been passed over. Hiram had welshed on a promise; Michael silently vowed to crush him. He’d have to wait for the opportunities, but he would relish seeing Hiram suffer lifelong.

***

In the lobby after the meeting, Michael avoided colleagues who would know him. He recognized the attractive middle-aged TV journalist who approached and cornered him near the exit. Paige Sterling. He’d seen one of her TV segments on Week’s End about excavations of the bones of a medieval king. She was a top news celebrity—fashion conscious, a curt interrogator, and champion of women’s rights and minority representation. She stepped up and held out her hand that he shook. She had a firm grasp.

“You’re Michael O’Leary. They told me at the information desk.”

Michael stared. He disliked aggressive reporters, especially women.

“What’s the direction of the College with new leadership?” Paige continued.

“It’s not an appropriate question for me, Ms. Sterling. Ask the new President.”

“I apologize,” she said. “I was told you were, as chair of the executive committee, among those who nominated and supported Dr. McDowell for the presidency.” She can’t get an interview with Hiram, Michael thought. I’m second best to fill airtime.

“You’ve got it wrong,” he said. “I’m chair of the executive committee of the Board of Governors.”

“But you supported Dr. McDowell?”

“That’s confidential,” he said.

“I’m still interested in your thoughts for the future. You’ve been a member of the College for many years.”

He wondered if she knew what Hiram really was like. He answered: “The College will support better access to healthcare for all, continued advancement in control and treatment of disease, and address an affordable comprehensive healthcare system.”

“Will women play a larger role in the activities of the College?” Paige Sterling asked.

“I’m sure they will. Already the number of women surgeons in specialties and in surgery is increasing.”

“I understand there were only 200 women in a total 3300 certified neurosurgeons last year.”

“There were only two women neurosurgeons in the 1960’s. That’s a hundred per cent increase,” Michael countered with the pride of being part of an administration that let women into an organization the world saw as an exclusive men’s club. “I’m sure it’s not that small a representation in other specialties now,” he added.

“But my point is still valid, isn’t it? Women do not play a big role in surgery.”

“It is true of the past. I agree. But a new era is coming. And already women are making significant contributions not only in patient care, but in research and education.”

“And what of minority representation? Is that increasing?”

Michael endured a few more questions and then excused himself.

“Here’s my card,” Ms. Sterling said. “Call me if you ever have anything newsworthy about the College. I’d be glad to help.”

You look to destroy, humiliate, expose, and decapitate, Michael thought. And I’m not the smoking gun. Go for McDowell. He said nothing.

“Good day,” she said.