Day 29: Teach, teach, teach

‘Doctor’ comes from the Latin word ‘docere’, meaning ‘teacher’. ‘Surgery’ comes from the Latin ‘chirurgia’, or Greek ‘kheirourgia’, meaning ‘working with hands’.

I believe as a surgeon I am called to be a teacher who works with my hands.

The primary duty of a doctor/surgeon is to teach. To teach patients how to live better. To teach students the causes and treatments of diseases. To teach nurses how to care for patients. To teach families how to support a patient in need. To teach, teach and teach. You’ve heard it said before, “Give a man a fish, and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you’ll feed him for a life time.” And that is true. Caring for one person for a day limits my impact. Teaching how to care for a person will teach the patient, their families, their carers, their nurses, my students, colleagues, and many others the art and science of better living. Teaching is foundational to the legacy of health I will leave with my patients and the doctors after me. Long after I’ve laid down the scalpel, it is my legacy of education that will continue to bear fruits of healthy outcomes. By teaching, I do not mean a transfer of information. No, the photocopier does that. Teaching, to me, is primarily measured by a change of action or behaviour resulting from an educated mind. A life change, like stopping smoking, caring for ear health, vocal hygiene, etc, are the outcomes of my teaching as a doctor. Antibiotics and surgery are just some of my tools. And when I see a non-ENT doctor being good at managing BPPV, otitis externa, chronic rhinosinusitis, salivary stone, etc. then only have I done my duty as an ENT surgeon. Teaching is not focused on the teacher, but the student. Teaching a patient to stop smoking requires a different technique to teaching a medical student the biochemical carcinogenic effects of smoking.

Every moment is a teachable moment. Not a lecture session, but a teachable moment. Be proactive in teaching today. Fulfill your ancient Latin calling as a doctor/teacher.