I won’t bore you with the details, but it seemed a spookily apposite problem to have, given my weekend destination: the European Association of Urologists Congress in Paris.
Urologists from Europe and further afield were gathered in this most beautiful of cities and I found myself surrounded by the men that care passionately for our tubes, tracts and valves.
And here, an important caveat: forgive me, Sisters, but I gather that only 5% of Urologists are female and I didn’t encounter one. Mores the pity, but I can only surmise that the whirring, gurgling world of “down there” is so akin to plumbing and mechanics that it holds a greater fascination to the male of the species. Who knows?
I was at the EAU thanks to the remarkable Roger Frais of Cariad Technologies, established purveyor of high-tech, world-class urological surgical equipment. By contrast, fledgling Forte Medical has developed and now manufactures Peezy MSU, also world-class but low-tech; contrasting businesses that made unexpected but complementary companions.
Peezy MSU is an efficient, elegant, hygienic and cost-saving midstream urine collection system for women. It was invented by diligent GP Dr Vincent Forte in response to complaints about the traditionally inaccurate, comedic, messy and undignified process endured by his female patients – indeed, by women everywhere. It can be especially valuable for the elderly, the very young and those with learning difficulties, because carers can provide kinder, unobtrusive assistance and get an accurate specimen in one “go”.
Having developed Vincent’s concept and brought Peezy MSU to market we have seen it adopted first by HCA, standard bearers of excellence in private healthcare and since by others; penetrating the NHS was more challenging and we endured a three-year wait for the right Tender Opportunity to emerge from the NHS Supply Chain.
Happily, Peezy MSU has recently been accepted into this powerful institution, which means that from 1st March 2012, hospitals up and down the country can order it directly, centrally and most importantly, easily. Clinicians can now opt for right-first-time analysis, diagnosis and treatment, which should mean they see less of their patients.
Our task now is to make sure that those working across urology, outpatients, gynae, antenatal, infection control and their procurement managers know about and understand Peezy MSU. One of many ways to start is to gain clinical recommendation and support from the Consultants, the Gods of Urology.
Those encountered at the EAU were James Bond smooth and charming to a man, but also friendly, conversational, witty, entertaining and musical. Yes, musical and by all accounts appearing in bands, orchestras and a local venue near you most weekends.
Peezy Champion 007 par excellence is Mr Julian Shah, Consultant Urologist and not only one of the most eminent in the land, but guitar-wielding leader of a band whose fellow members include a Plastic and a Dental Surgeon. They play regularly at a pub in Hertfordshire and have quite a fan base.
Roger my host, is recognised amongst his industry peers as an accomplished jazz pianist who plays under the moniker Count Fraisie; meanwhile, polished classical pianist (and Consultant Urological Surgeon) Mr Stephen Brown sparkles with pride and joy describing happy hours on his Steinway, a gem of a piano discovered under a dust-sheet at the back of a shop in Manchester, some years ago. Given that Peezy’s esteemed inventor continues to play double bass and jazz piano in bands (since his days as a student medic at St Mary’s when Covent Garden venues were standard fare), none of this is surprising.
Which led me to wonder: does the steady hand required for coaxing sweet notes from musical instruments lend itself to the mastery of our most delicate primary parts, or the other way round? Which is the chicken and which is the egg?
But back to the task in our very own hands: whilst Mr Shah already employs Peezy MSU in his consulting rooms and is encouraging its adoption in the hospitals to which he is affiliated, my EAU visit meant I could introduce it to his peers. Frank Chinegwundoh from Barts and the London NHS Trust, Mark Emberton of UCH, Manoah Pancharatna of West Hertforshire NHS Trust, Simon Bott of Frimley Park NHS Hospital to name a few.
From its high-level clinical and patient care benefits, to the most basic “if I don’t have to handle any more urine-soaked bottles, then I want it”, every Consultant exposed to Peezy’s charms instantly appreciates their value. The EAU may just have led me to champions who, directly or indirectly could influence the adoption of a new gold standard and drive improvements. This is after all a woefully overlooked, antediluvian process that hardly chimes with the ethics of modern medicine.
A recent antenatal clinical trial of the system in France showed an 80% reduction in epithelial cells, and this is the kind of outcome the EAU audience likes. Peezy MSU may be low-tech but it is also a highly engineered and very smart piece of kit, with global appeal.
Which means that my EAU adventure didn’t end with the Smooth Operators of Urology; I met switched-on distributors who saw how Peezy MSU works, did the low-cost-high-volume maths and will explore our markets in Spain, Italy, the Far East and the Middle East.
Of additional interest to the delegates I met – most especially those specialising in male urology – is Peezy V1, a new product that captures the first 10ml of urine (first void) for prostate cancer testing in men, and STI screening in both genders.
This, our latest concept is materialising into a beautiful, three-dimensional and diagnostically invaluable system, which will be trial-ready mid-year, undergo validation testing and with a bit of luck, find its way to market in 2014. One of my eminent NHS introductions is leading a major programme of prostate research and suggested we become involved in trials, all of which augurs well for Forte Medical.
What’s interesting is that our products are unique not only in terms of performance and design, but because their success can be most accurately determined by the extent to which they reduce their own market size. That’s the kind of anomaly I enjoy.
Pounding the Congress floor can be enervating and by close of play we were all pretty jaded. I took the Metro back to my small but perfectly formed budget hotel the Libertel Suede, limped into reception, stopped and examined my surroundings.
“What are you looking for?” asked my genial receptionist. “A Vodka Tonic.” “Where exactly do you think we’d put the bar, Madam?” he laughed, gesticulating across the modest reception space. I was henceforth known, in most friendly fashion, as Madam Vodka. I can think of worse.
An hour and a shower later, we reconvened to find that our cheerleader Count Fraisie had done his research and after strolling through leafy Avenues and Boulevards we arrived at La Marine, a traditional 1930s style Bistro alongside the canal.
Following an introductory and obligatory glass of Champagne, our traditional but sublime food was elevated by some truly exquisite St Emilion red (memorable dishes: creamy hand-made ravioli, succulent snails, juicy-lean canard and garlicky mash potato – I love food.) Even the austere, unsmiling waitress caught our merriment and we were served with indulgent favouritism; La Marine is my kind of restaurant.
The London leg of Eurostar was fabulously uneventful: swish, stylish, prompt – mais bien sûr! My lovely cab driver was envious of the Parisian weekend. “My wife has no enthusiasm for it,” he reported mournfully. “I haven’t been there for 30 years and I’ve never been on Eurostar. I’d love to go.”
We arrived at my front door and pulling the fare from my purse, I found a €5 note and had an idea: “Please promise to book your tickets? And use this to buy your wife a rose when you get there.”
His shocked expression melted into delight, the width of his smile virtually bursting the cab doors wide open and he rolled away with a happy “Thanks, love, I will!”
I mean really, who on earth can resist Paris?
Or if you’re me, Urologists.
© Giovanna Forte
Read an earlier blog about our Peezy journey here.