Why being mainstream is not always best

Lessons learned about being mainstream and how innovation is viewed by those within the mainstream

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to watch a medical malpractice trial first hand. My family sued a cardiologist for negligence resulting in the death of my mother. The defense decided to put her health history and even the protocols used by other doctors who supported her on trial.


What was a key lesson of the trial?

If a doctor or patient does anything other than what is considered “mainstream,” it will come under severe review, rebuke, and criticism by other doctors. Even our lawyer had wished that everything would be done in a mainstream fashion as it doesn’t raise vulnerabilities at trial. While there is safety and security within the mainstream, there is little innovation.

My mother suffered a number of different medical maladies most likely created through years of being a Type 2, non-insulin dependent diabetic. She had diabetes for a number of years before it was detected, a situation that was common back in the 1980’s. Undetected diabetes can lead to a number of medical complications including cardiovascular and heart disease, peripheral artery disease, etc.

The pioneering endocrinologist she chose to work with starting in 1994, Dr. J. Joseph Prendergast, M.D., doesn’t do everything by the “book” or what is held out as being “mainstream.” [Note: In the interests of full disclosure, I am being treated by Dr. Prendergast thanks to my mother’s introduction.]

At trial, Dr. Prendergast testified that people don’t die from diabetes—they ultimately die from the complications of diabetes, principally cardiovascular disease and vascular system disease. This is not a “mainstream” view.

Dr. Prendergast believes that you have to treat diabetic patients holistically. He treats me for high blood pressure and for diabetes. He no longer prescribes statin drugs, e.g., Lipitor, Pravachol, etc. Statin drugs have become a $29 billion a year industry despite the fact that there is little evidence that cholesterol drugs have the actual benefits touted simply by lowering cholesterol levels.


Statins are, however, considered, “mainstream.” If you prescribe them, no one will criticize you. If you don’t, the wolves will come out should litigation occur.

Dr. Prendergast treats his patients with an amino acid called L-Arginine. He has been able to dramatically reduce and eliminate atherosclerosis — hardening and narrowing of the arteries. This progressive disease process silently and slowly blocks arteries, putting blood flow at risk.

Dr. Prendergast has observed time and time again that L-Arginine can reverse atherosclerosis. He monitors large and small blood vessel pressures using a device called a CVProfiler, a device that is essentially a series of blood pressure cuffs that go on your ankles and wrists to measure the efficiency of blood flow to the extremities (wrist and ankles). L-Arginine and the CVProfiler are not “mainstream.”

Dr. Prendergast is not as concerned in managing the perfect blood sugar
readings as he is in managing the patient’s overall health. Isn’t that
what we all want?

As I heard this refrain about these treatments not being “mainstream,” it made me think don’t all revolutionary things start out outside the mainstream?

For example, wasn’t there a time when statins weren’t mainstream? Aspirin? Antibiotics? Acupuncture? Chinese herbal medicine? Chiropractic? Why is everything outside Western medicine considered “alternative medicine?” Aren’t all treatments chosen from various medical alternatives an alternative? Chinese herbal medicine may not be “mainstream” in the United States but there’s a region of the world where it is mainstream.


Fast companies usually aren’t mainstream. Innovation doesn’t come from remaining within the mainstream. Thankfully, Dr. Prendergast isn’t mainstream either. I am convinced that his treatments will one day be mainstream and people will wonder why they weren’t adopted sooner.


For over 30 years, Dave Gardner has helped companies discover that the royal road to the ultimate customer relationship is letting customers order “a la carte.”  He assists clients with strategies for “The a la carte customerTM,” and in dramatic improvements in efficiencies and profits. Dave, a management consultant and speaker residing in Silicon Valley, can be reached at +1 888 488-4976 or through his website at


About the author

Dave Gardner is a management consultant, speaker, blogger and author based in Silicon Valley. He's been in the front row for the birth and evolution of Silicon Valley, the innovation capital of the world