View from a Surgeon: Seniority

View from a Surgeon: Seniority

As I get “more mature”, my thoughts often go back to a time less stressful. As a junior doctor in Canada I was surrounded by some of the greatest names in Plastic Surgery – Hugh Thompson, Ralph Manktelow, Ron Zuker and Bill Lindsey.

Bill was retired when I was a Fellow at SickKids healthcare centre in Toronto, but he always maintained a presence in the hospital and would often walk round with us each day.

I remember he would remain silent through the round until one of us would talk about a plan for a patient, at which point he would politely shuffle or gently cough to alert us to the fact he was there. He was never pushy, but would invariably tell us a story from many years ago about a similar case he had and how he managed it. We would all stop to listen to this giant of surgery tell us these historical facts, and at the end he would smile and beckon us to move on. But the message came through loud and clear – there is nothing that changes in physiology, biochemistry and certainly anatomy. They have been the same for tens of thousands of years – in fact as long as humans have been around. There may be different ways of treating them these days, but the basics are the same and new isn’t necessarily better.

Seniority sadly only comes with seniority. That seems obvious, but if only we could all have the experience and serenity that age brings. Medicine is a life-long apprenticeship. You learn as you go, but hopefully you have senior colleagues that you can and should listen to. Take time to talk with them about what they did as a younger surgeon. Don’t reinvent the wheel – learn and enjoy the ride!

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