My life as a brain surgeon

December 20, 2011

I like being a brain surgeon. I like my work. The operating room is my office, and I get to say things like “STAT” and “scalpel.” Although, I have never once said “STAT” except to imitate some character on M.A.S.H., and I have always called a “scalpel” a “knife” for reasons I don’t really remember.

I know I can under-impress people after they find out what I do. I rarely have swashbuckling stories to tell, and I’m not sure I look the part—that guy on Gray’s Anatomy often makes real neurosurgeons feel inadequate. Thanks guy.

That said, I also enjoy teaching, and I like the technical aspects of what I do. I always compare surgery to an athletic endeavor, where each of us has our own skill set and emotional capacities—our own equipment of choice. Hence, it is possible to get the same job done using different styles. I’m not sure if I’m Tiger Woods (strictly referencing his golf skills) or if I’m Phil Mickelson, Daniel Sedin, or Mike Cammallari; but at this point in my life, I have my own surgical style and temperament. It gets the job done, and I believe done well. I’m very comfortable and confident with it. In one’s profession, that’s a good state to be in.

I think my kids enjoy telling their peers and teachers that their dad is a brain surgeon; but I also believe no one believes them sometimes (as I mentioned earlier).

You may wonder, what is the best part of my job? That’s easy to answer. After an operation, there’s a long corridor from the operating room to the waiting room. After surgery, I will walk down that hall, turn the door handle and make eye contact with the apprehensive family. They fear the worst, and this is apparent by the anguish on their faces, the tightly clenched hands and their stooped posture. It is my pleasure to say everything went well and their family member is just fine. Their relief is visible, audible, palpable. They are grateful beyond words. It is good, too good perhaps, for the ego. In those times, I could do the job for free.

And the worst part? Pretty much the above scenario except things have gone the opposite way; and in neurosurgery, that happens I am afraid—it is the nature of the specialty. In those times, you couldn’t pay me enough.