However, I shall not speculate on things I know little about but will instead talk about surgeons as I am in the surgical field and although junior, I do observe what is going on around me.
First of all, there is this misconception that a surgeon must be a tall, strong man gifted in anatomy, has a liking for alcoholic beverages and preferably Indian. It is true that a lot of surgeons do fit that description but I beg to differ. Everytime when a patient sees this ah moi, esp those old apek and ah poh in Teluk Intan, they think that they are speaking to the mi si (nurse). Even some of my new-found friends exclaimed disbelief when they encounter this cili padi doctor-creature…they think that I am too small and bubbly for the job of cutting up people. It is true that I find it tiring to hold the Morris retractors for too long or I need to stand on a stool to assist taller surgeons, but I do find fulfillment in doing surgery and I do enjoy the cheek of telling people that I did a hernioplasty or appendicectomy on them
Secondly, everyone assumes that a surgeon comes in, cut and sends the patient home with hardly much care for the patient’s other illnesses, emotions and welfare. It is true that we spend a lot of time in the operating theatre while the patient is ‘sleeping’ but we are the ones who do the most rounds in the hospital. Trust me when I say that we do a lot of rounds and do spend a lot of time with the patients. A typical surgical house officer see their patients more than 9 times a day while for me, around 6 times and for my surgeons, 3 times. You go figure out the mathematics for the number of times the patients see our faces..I think they must be so tired of us swarming around them all the time!
Thirdly, most people think that patients are the ones who seek the doctors but here in my department, we are the ones who seek them. Some people assume that a surgeon hardly talks but oh, we are a bunch of chatterboxes actually. We call up patients to remind them to come for their operations and we even call up those who default their scheduled procedures to ask the reasons and to give them another date. We believe in second chances you see. As we could not do a lot of sub-specialty interventions, we also do call referral centres and then ring up the patients up for their appointments in tertiary centres and to remind them to come for chemotherapy. In short, I chalk up more telephone calls here than all the other hospitals that I’ve been.
Finally, we are all not born to be surgeons. Some super-gifted ones like Harvey Cushing, John Hunter, etc, seemed to be born with the innate ability to cut but others do spend a lot of time and effort in garnering their surgical knowledge and also in honing up their skills. There are a lot of examinations along the process (sigh) and the scary ‘learning curve’ to deal with. We try our best to shorten the learning curve but with the litiginous society, I wonder if patients are going to allow us any learning curves at all…yet here, we do have opportunities to learn safely and with good supervision so I guess that it’s always a balance of both.
In short, there are so many ‘unseen’ and ‘unheard’ things happening in a typical surgical department, in contrary to common myths and misconceptions. Yet the only thing I find in common is that most of these people do care about patients in their own special ways. Here, I thank you to the two sincerely nice and humble surgeons I work with, my group of colleagues who comprises a really ‘muhibbah’ group and the friendly, kind staff at the clinic and wards.
P.S. : Do try to spot the two surgeons busy in action.