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

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