Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Legend of Bob the DERF

From the ACMI Archives:
The Legend of Bob the DERF
Click here to listen to the song
The College has received several solicitations from potential members - requesting reviews of health IT related lyrics or recordings.  We thought it would be instructive to bring out some of the original works that led to the establishment of the College.  There is no better place to start than at the very beginning...

The National Council for Prescription Drug Programs (NCPDP), is an ANSI-accredited standards development organization focused on pharmacy-related electronic information transactions headquarted in Scottsdale, Arizona.  In 2005, Dr. Ross Martin offered to compose a song for NCPDP for their Annual Conference.  His offer was accepted and a sponsor stepped forward to support the recording and reproduction costs for a CD.  Special thanks go to Lee Ann Stember, NCPDP's President, for sponsoring the song.  The lovely and talented Eric Schwartz (WARNING: he is brilliant, but uses his powers for evil, so his site is not for those of sensitive dispositions) produced and recorded the song, adding many of the vocals and most of the instrumentation.  Dr. Martin performed the song twice at the conference and several hundred copies of the CD, now considered a collector's item among devoted informatimusicologists, were distributed.  

The song, "The Legend of Bob the DERF," tells the tale of how we moved from our darker days of winner-takes-all standards setting to our current consensus process.  Those unfamiliar with NCPDP and its methods may be curious of the meaning of the term DERF.  It stands for "Data Element Request Form" and is the main document used in the NCPDP standards development process to establish or modify a standard.  Many who heard the song and are familiar with the history of NCPDP opined that the two characters depicted in the song - Bob the DERF and Margaret, aka, The Wacker - bore striking similarities to two long-time members of NCPDP, Bob Beckley of Surescripts and Margaret Weiker of EDS, both of whom are known for their strong leadership and equally strong opinions, which have occasionally put them at odds with one another, creating some of the more tense moments experienced at workgroup meetings.  Their southern accents and Margaret's diminutive stature (she is rumored to be around 4' 5" tall, though no one has had the kahunas to actually measure her or ask) provided reinforcement for some of these opinions.  In fact, the characters portrayed in the song are not based on any known individuals, living or dead.  Anyone who says otherwise is itchin' fer a fight!

The Lyrics:

Way back a hunert years ago
In a desert land devoid of snow
’Fore Scottsdale started dottin’ any maps
Snake Oil Salesmen roamed the West
Pitchin’ potions from their treasure chests
And shaftin’ any sucker wearin’ chaps

There was one man who had a dream
’Bout raisin’ druggists’ self esteem
By protectin’ the apothecary’s turf
He saw that standards were the key
For improvin’ drugstore quality
That man was known by all as Bob the DERF

Now any tale worth bein’ told
Includes a woman, guns or gold
Our hero’s rival ponied up all three
Margaret was her given name
But winnin’ gunfights brought her fame
So the name “The Whacker” fit her to a tee
And ev’ry time The Whacker flashed her gold incisor in a grin
The undertaker knew he’d soon be callin’ next of kin

Hoo-ee ’n’ Yippee-ki-ee
Before the NCPDP
Consensus was a notion seldom found
Hoo-ah ’n’ Yippee-ki-yaw
The fastest shot laid down the law
The other laid down six feet underground

Now The Whacker had her standards too
And had in mind just what to do
To make sure things got done by her own rule
She called on Bob the DERF and said,
“You lily-livered pudd’nhead
It’s my way or the highway, ya’ dang fool!”

She knew her taunts would be enough
To razz him so he’d call her bluff
He slammed his whiskey down as if on cue
“Well we’ll just see ’bout who’ll be number one
High noon, tomorrow – bring your gun
But I’d skip town tonight if I was you!”

The bookies laid odds eight-to-five
The Whacker’d make it through alive
Her dead-eye aim was known throughout the land
It’s true that Margaret had her chance
But once they started in to dance
The DERF felt sure he’d be the last to stand
And so they set the stage to see whose standards would prevail
One slinger’d see sweet victory – and one the gates of Hell


The clock chimed twelve – the wind was still
Too scared to see red rivers spill
And learn who’d bite the dust who’d survive
The two stepped out into the street
To face their fate at fifty feet
Then in a flash their pistols came alive

Bob the DERF’s resolve came through
His steady hand shot straight and true
A normal foe no doubt would have been dead
But one fact he failed to calculate –
The Whacker stood at four-foot-eight
And so her Stetson flew clean off her head

The DERF’s luck went from bad to worse
Didn’t even have a chance to curse
As The Whacker’s dental work gleamed through her smile
Her single shot was on the mark
It pierced his heart – the sky went dark
Right there he fell into a bloody pile
And as he died, The Whacker cried, “Oh, help me, Lord above!
All in the name of standards, I’ve just killed my one true love!”


She lay her pistol down and swore upon her golden tooth
Consensus now will be pursued in healthcare’s quest for truth
“No longer will our blood be shed for standards to be set
We’ll gather round and talk until a compromise is met”

So now you know just how we formed the NCPDP
And how this modern standards settin’ process came to be
And after endless hours of meetings why my eyes will glaze
I’m dreamin’ ’bout how things got done back in those glory days when…


Words by Ross Martin
Music by Eric Schwartz and Ross Martin
Lead vocals: Ross Martin
Background vocals: Ross Martin and Eric Schwartz
All instruments and sequencing: Eric Schwartz
Produced and engineered by Eric Schwartz, Claritone Music
Special thanks to Kevin So

Monday, August 30, 2010

Ross Sets New Pen Spinning World Record

In his relentless quest to achieve eminence through hyper-specialization, Dr. Ross D. Martin, MD, MHA, FACMI*, President, Founder and Fellow of the American College of Medical Informatimusicology (ACMI), has been officially recognized as the world record holder in over-the-thumb pen spins in one minute, completing an astonishing 48 spins in a minute on August 26th, 2008, hereinafter known officially as Dr. Ross "Pen Spinmeister" Martin Day.  A video of this monumental achievement can be found at the Universal Record Database website at


Dr. Martin is equally proud of his son, known to the blogosphere as RobotBoy2001 for setting several records on that very day, one of which has been officially recognized by the officials at URDB:  Most bounces on BOSUs by Two Boys in One Minute.  Other RobotBoy2001 records are currently under review.

Greatness clearly runs in Dr. Martin's family.  Someday, perhaps, his son will follow in his footsteps and become a great informatimusicologist like his father.  The world waits with great hope and anticipation for that day and will rejoice should it come...

*Fellow, American College of Medical Informatimusicology

Monday, June 28, 2010

United, We Stand - Reimagining an Anthem for Our Nation

A couple of weekends ago, PRI’s Studio 360 asked listeners to think about updating a couple of our traditional icons as we approach our annual 4th of July celebrations. One was Uncle Sam – what would a “mascot” for our nation look like today? The other, our National Anthem (which, according to one pole, 27% of Americans believe has a last line of “And the home of the brave… Play Ball!”).

I personally like our National Anthem a lot – it is a beautiful song with brave and poetic lyrics. But it is undeniably a challenge to sing for all but the upper tier of vocalists, with its greater than 1½-octave range (for perspective, Madonna never sings anything with more than a one-octave range, not that this is a shining example, but I hear she has made some money as a singer).

So last weekend, I posted a reimagining of the National Anthem in response to the Studio 360 challenge based on some Infinite Poetry® I wrote after 9/11. Let me know what you think… The song and a quickly assembled video are posted on YouTube:

It’s a simple song with only five lines that intuitively cycle back on themselves, so they are easy to remember:

…United, We Stand
Standing, We Rise
Rising, We Soar
Soaring, We’re Free
Free, We Unite
United, We Stand…

The simplicity of the song makes it easy to add parts, variations on the theme and personal interpretations—which reflects, to me, the bedrock of what makes our nation such a compelling and inspirational place: simple principles that allow for diversity and creative growth to live in harmony.

If you like it, please vote for it (you may have to join the group to vote). You can also leave a comment or “like” the video (you will need a Google or YouTube account).

Thanks for taking a look. If my submission is one of their favorites, it will be mentioned on the show this holiday weekend. Fame and fortune are sure to follow, so my future is in your hands...


Happy 4th!

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

To Dr. Ida Critelli Schick, Dean of Xavier's MHA Program, On Her Retirement

Word of your retirement escaped the ever-expanding pile of unexamined mail in my office. It gave me pause to reflect on the tangible and lasting impact your diminutive powerhouse of a self has had on my own. Your academic mentoring, your words (and letters) of support, your example of integrity in its purest form, your comforting words of assurance during a dark passage of my life—all speak of an investment you made selflessly.

As I rough out the calculus and consider the hundreds upon hundreds of lives who have similarly passed through your gravitational field and continued on to their own places of influence and investment, I can see that your impact on the human condition in general—and the ethical delivery of healthcare in particular—exponentially approaches the immeasurable. Even as you close this rich and meaningful volume of your life's work and begin scribing the next, your clarion contributions will continue to resonate and empower those like me who were so fortunate as to hear the sounding from its origin.

With highest regard and gratitude,


Saturday, March 27, 2010

To the Design Engineers at Thermos

I know I'm a geek, but I just wrote this note to the design engineers at Thermos:
It's not often that a product as routine as a water bottle gets me motivated enough to write a letter to the company about it.  Your intak bottle, however, is worth the trouble.   
My wife picked four of these up for our family a few weeks ago.  We go through water bottles like we go through, well, water.  Most of them do the job, though occasionally you wonder how anyone could be shameless enough to create such a lousy product.   
But when I saw the intak bottle, I was immediately struck with the quality and ingenuity of the design.   Click, it's open, with the lid back out of the way--where it stays until you shut it.  Snap, it's closed tight.  Flip the latch, no fears of leaks.  It's easy to clean (which, as Chief Bottle Washer, is a must-have feature), easy to carry and hold, and--oh, yeah--it has just the right sized opening for drinking--without spills and without having to suck and slurp and make a bunch of noise.   
In a word, this bottle is brilliant.   
I'm not an engineer, but have always appreciated the simple elegance of a good design where it is evident that the designers actually dug into the lives of the people they were designing for.   Keep doing what you're doing and I'll keep telling everybody I know about how great these bottles are.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

David & Goliath on YouTube

GreenPaperMonster's posting of my March 1st debut of The Meaningful Yoose Rap at the HIStalk Reception at HIMSS broke the 1000 view mark on YouTube in the last 24 hours Click here for the video and here for the lyrics.

For perspective, while that may not seem like many when comparing it to something like the 5million+ views of the Old Spice “I’m on a horse” commercial (a work of pure marketing genius in my view), the rap is a bestseller in HIT-land. We HIT aficionados are all so deeply immersed in the details of meaningful use and EHR adoption and HIT news of the day fills our inboxes--it seems surprising when we lift our heads and see that the rest of the world is thinking of a thousand other things.

But in our little world, when looking at all the other HIMSS-related videos, no other 2010 video comes even close. And only two videos from any year surpass it--a Cisco video from 2008 (1100 views) that looks like it had all of its employees watch it (lots of links from Cisco sites) and Eric Schmidt’s 2008 keynote (73k hits), but how can you really compete with Google when they… well, they’re Google…

That’s pretty cool when you think about it… I love that little more than some clever thinking and a grainy video clip can still run circles around the marketing machines of all the behemoths on the HIMSS exhibit hall floor.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Meaningful Yoose Rap

Maybe I'll finally get around to posting stuff on the Medical Informatimusicology blog. Here's one...