This is too good to pass up. I picked up the May issue of Archives of Surgery, and found an address by Dr. Richard Thirlby to a surgical society entitled, “The Top 10 Reasons Why General Surgery Is A Great Career.”

“10. Training is fun.” The author quotes from another editorial, “No other profession comes close in terms of duplicating the level of intensity, fear, or anxiety that comes with the first day of internship.”
All I can say is, if they think this counts as fun, surgeons are even stranger people than I gave them credit for being.

“9. Job security.” Various calculations about number of surgeons, number finishing residency, growth and aging of the US population. Encouraging, if I had been concerned about finding a job in the US.

“8. The pay is not bad.” No one will believe this, but I picked surgery without realizing that, after the notoriously well-paying specialties like radiology and anesthesiology, the various types of surgery come next. However, the author here concludes by taking some shots at anesthesiologists for “sitting in the lounge drinking coffee” and earning more than the surgeon doing the case. I don’t know whether that’s really true or not, but it’s rhetorically effective.

“7. Your mother will be proud of you.” Awww.

“6. Surgeons have panache: the surgical personality and the culture of surgery.” The author quotes extensively from Pearl Katz’s book The Scalpel’s Edge (which to my mind purports to be a cool anthropological study of the surgical culture, but uses such loaded language that it could better be described as an exposé; kind of like Harry Reid apologizing for GW; but this author seems oblivious to her double meanings).

[from Katz] ‘The dominant themes of surgical culture – action, heroism, certainty, and optimism – are not compatible with identification with, or communication with, helpless, hopeless patients. . . [you can see why I don’t like her] . . . Surgical culture perpetuates itself by the recruitment and training of residents through a long apprenticeship process. [not sure how else she’d like to do it] Residents are often attracted to surgery by the image of the surgeon, with its prestige, power, and heroic mystique that is shared by most people in North America.’

I’ll plead the Fifth, and decline to comment. . .

“5. You have heroes; you will be a hero.” He talks about the importance of mentors in surgical training.

“4. There’s spirituality if you want it.” (Which would be the common American misconception, that spirituality is a take-it-or-leave-it option, that God winks in and out of existence according to our whims.) The author’s discussion consists mainly of observing studies which show that at least 50% of Americans consider religion “very” important in their daily lives, and 77% of patients want their physicians to “consider their spiritual needs.” Lastly, he refers to an article by Jerome Groopman, the well-known medical author, who relates the occasion when he was talking with a dying patient, who asked him to pray for her. He was so at a loss for words that all he could do was ask what she wanted prayer for, and when she said, “for God to give my doctors wisdom,” he responded, “Amen.” Consistent atheists are handicapped.

“3. You will change patients’ lives.” Here he quotes some touching thank-you notes from patients. Very nice. This is a good reason to do surgery – but I suspect it applies to other specialties to.

“2. Patients will change your life.” He relates the stories of patients who are determined to carry on and overcome their difficulties in spite of pain and illness.

“1. I love to cut.” Ha! That’s the bottom line. “With the exception of professional baseball, I cannot think of another job where the pay is so good to do something so fun.”

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