Dr. Xavier is renowned for his complete calm in all circumstances (certainly a valuable attribute for a vascular surgeon). On the other hand, he’s also very difficult to read. I’ve given him now a good many opportunities to chew me out, and he never does. But I’m not sure that his calm remarks aren’t his own method of being quite upset. And anyway, do I really want to know?

He’s a tremendous teacher. Even when the case is too difficult for me to be doing anything (like the endovascular cases I’ve mostly been with him for), he’s teaching continuously. “This wire is special because it slides easily; you manipulate it with your fingers like this. . . When you encounter this kind of anatomy, it’s useful to try this little trick. . . This type of pathology is almost always due to xyz; intervention is successful, but only in the short term. . . ”

He is, of course, also the guy who keeps telling me to put one finger on the artery, as though that will control the bleeding. I’ve decided that he himself is so calm and phleghmatic that even when he has his whole hand clamped down on the spot, he only feels as though he’s using one finger.

There are several legends circulating about him, mostly along these lines: An open case, hairy circumstances, unstable patient, and some unfortunate resident tears something, so that blood goes spurting all over the place. He places one hand just so, stops all the bleeding, and as he holds out the other hand for an instrument, he remarks quietly, “Generally, John, one tries to move the instruments very delicately so that this kind of injury doesn’t occur. It can be dangerous for the patient, and often makes the operation more difficult. Why don’t you tie a knot here? If you hold the clamp like this, it’s less likely to slip and cause tears. Please put a clamp on that vessel right there. Another tie please. You see this particular vessel is particularly prone to injury because it courses like this through here. . .” All without speeding up either his actions or his speech, or changing his tone of voice at all.