September 21, 2011

Welcome to the Monkey House

Day 1 of Surgery 
I'm introduced to my first preceptor, a surgical oncologist who we'll call Ted.  Ted spent most of his life in Texas (and has a thick southern drawl to prove it) before he became a surgical chief and a Colonel in the Marine Corps for many years before going into private practice.  So the first thing I have to figure out is do I call him Doctor or Colonel or both.

Within minutes of meeting him we scrub into a breast cancer surgery.  My second day, we start with tumor board, which is a pretty awesome concept actually.  It's when the group of physicians and staff who treat cancer get together to talk about particularly difficult cases.  The surgical oncologists, the medical oncologists, the pathologists, the radiologists, and if appropriate, the residents and medical students are all in attendance.  We go through each case thoroughly, with the primary doctor presenting the case, then the radiologist showing what was found on imaging, and the pathologist showing what was found in the specimen, and then everyone chimes in with their two cents.  I think it's one of the fine times in medicine where there is true collaboration.  

After tumor boards, Doctor Colonel says to me:  "I'm gonna tell you the best piece of advice given to me by an attending.  He said, son, we could teach monkeys how to do surgery.  Hell, we could teach really smart monkeys to decide when to do surgery.  But why we're special is because we can decide when not to do surgery".  

(ps: as you've probably noticed, that's not really a photo of me, I've already asked and apparently I'm not allowed to take any photos in the OR)

"I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, 'If this isn't nice, I don't know what is'"
-Kurt Vonnegut

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