On the getting of wisdom

Every medical and surgical specialty is exploding with knowledge. There are so many wonderful things going on in the amazing world of ENT. The future for our patients is bright, that is, if we can translate and materialise what we have learned into our day to day practice as surgeons.

The best of the best in Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery came to Adelaide for a 3-day conference. In fact, the axis of the earth moved a little. There were so many ENT surgeons in one place it became the centre of the universe. As a trainee, I saw some great surgical leaders and innovators pushing the boundaries to provide better care for our patients.

Beside gaining much surgical skills and knowledge, it was also a time for me to mingle and rub shoulders with the surgical elders and heroes of my ENT community.

Here are 3 things I learned at the Conference:

1. The patient is the focus, not the disease.

As a trainee surgeon I need to always remember that everything I do should be focused on the patient. Every new research, new developments, new procedures, and new equipments are designed with the patient in mind. This focus and single-mindedness is what separates the great surgeons from the good. I can see that the great leaders of my specialty always place the patients’ interest as an ultimate priority.

2. Surgical advancement is based on hard work and sacrifice.

These great surgeons toil and struggle. They work harder and longer than their peers. They push hard. They persist. They think outside the box. They do certain things that are not normally done, often making many big sacrifices along the way. So how much am I willing to sacrifice?  What am I willing to sacrifice on the altar of surgical advancement? My family? My health? My faith?

3. Surgical humility is the key to surgical satisfaction and longevity.

This surgical trail is a long, tough and lonely road. It takes on the average, 15 years to become a surgeon, 6 days a week doing 14-16 hour shifts and research pursuits in addition. Its tough and rough. The surgeons I look up to are those with what I call surgical humility.  They are content doing what they do. They find joy in the simple things they do. They are honest when reflecting on their outcomes. They are happy to accept responsibilities for their complications, and they are content with not having to be the top dog in town. These are the happy surgeons.

Would these 3 be also applicable to what you do?