Year 1 Surgery talk

I had a lot of fun talking to our Year 1 medical students today about Surgical Therapeutics! Here are some images from the session, and a list of questions they asked. I’ll try to answer as many of them as I can over the next few days…
Note: we are looking for students with an interest in scripting, editing and video production to get involved in Surgery 101 Studios this year.  If you’re interested, please email us at or send a tweet to @canadiansurgeon.

What has been your most rewarding experience as a surgeon?
Too many to count, it’s being able to make a difference in people’s lives. Like when a patient gives you a big hug, or shakes your hand and says “you saved my life, doc.” (of course, it’s the whole team that does the work, but it’s nice to get thanks!)

What is the most embarrassing anatomical error you have ever made and how did you recover?
I usually spend 5 or 10 minutes in each case looking for the left ureter. Eventually I realise it’s been sitting there looking at me all the time.

Do you feel hungry after a long surgery?
Yes, I often hit Tim Horton’s for a turkey club after a long OR, they stay open all day unlike the other lunch places in the hospital.

What’s your favourite song to listen to in the OR with your team and why?
I like “Catch My Disease” (start of the operation, reminds me to double glove), “Fix Me” (when we’re doing the main bit) and “Closing Time” (at the end). Also, the whole of David Bowie Live in Santa Monica 1972.

What is the easiest surgery you have performed?
The easiest surgery to do is the one you don’t ever book. Zen, baby.

What has been your biggest surprise during surgery?
Hmmm, I once took  a pencil out of a person, they had eaten it 6 months before. You could still write with it.

Has a med student ever fainted in your OR?
Sometimes they feel faint and sit down, but no-one has ever actually hit the deck.

What is the coolest thing that ever happened to you as a surgeon?

Let’s see. I get lots of cookies from patients, that’s pretty cool. And the nurses baked me a cake when I became a Canadian. 🙂
What is the lifestyle like?

It’s pretty cool. I take call about 3 nights a month and do clinical work 3 days a week and education for the other 2. And I have lots of outside interests.

When did you know you wanted to go into surgery?

Right after I got out of med school and worked on a surgical ward for 4 months. The impact on patients just blew me away!

Do you experience a lot of lawsuits?

Nope, not a single one, at least not yet! (touches wood)

Which aspects/career paths within surgery do you think will be most resilient as we move into the future of medicine?

It’s going to be a while before technology makes us redundant. I reckon we’ll have cancer and cardiovascular disease for a long time yet.

What is your view of performance enhancing drugs in surgery (eg.propranolol)

Don’t do it, man!

What was your longest surgery?

16 hours, cardiac case, re-do valve + bypass.

Have you ever been tempted to throw down the scalpel and run out of the OR in the middle of a surgery? (overwhelmed)

Yes, at the start of my training, but I’ve never done it. Even in practice, there are still scary moments, but your training kicks in and it’s all good.

Is it possible to start a family during a surgery residency, considering its intensity?

Yep, and I know lots of people who have done it. I hear that starting a family is pretty hard no matter when you do it. And all residencies are pretty busy, not just surgery. But it can be done, life is to be lived!

What was the hardest thing you had to overcome when first training as a surgeon?

Not thinking I could do it. Worrying if I could deal with unexpected intra-op events. Worrying about complications.

Was surgery a clear choice or did any other speciality attract you?

I went thru med school pretty much ruling everything else out. I chose Gen Surg because of the breadth of practice and the variety.

Do you blast gangster rap as you operate?

Sometimes, but it’s not my thing. Maybe a little 50 Cent or N.E.R.D. from time to time.

When you have your hands inside and moving things around, how do you know where to put it back?

You’d be surprised, it mostly just goes back where it was, you just have to watch out in case you twisted it around while it’s out!

What’s the biggest misconception you had about surgery when you were a medical student?

That surgeons only had to operate, they didn’t have to talk to their patients or deal with medical problems. Boy, was I wrong!

How much money do you make?

Enough. Really, we’re super-privileged, I don’t know any poor surgeons, or any poor physicians for that matter.

What was your favourite experience in the OR?

I like it when our team high-fives after a case.

How many hours a week do you work?

Maybe 70 or 80, I guess? I don’t usually count.

what is the longest you have been on call/ awake for?

We used to take call from 0800 Friday to 1700 Monday, but that was more than a decade ago. Even then , you’d get a little sleep. Nowadays, I take call three nights a month, and I usually get to sleep a bit each night.

would you consider surgery an interpersonal field? Are there any sub-specialties involving non-sleeping patients?

Yes. And all surgery involves non-sleeping patients, the part when patients are asleep is only a small part of the whole package.

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