Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Perhaps I’m Destined to be a Surgeon: C-Sections, Hernias, and Buruli Ulcers, Oh My!

I think I’m in the minority in that I am a med school student and I have no idea what I want to specialize in. I’m under the impression that all of my classmates know that neurosurgery, cardiology, infectious diseases, pediatrics, or urology is their calling and I still can’t even make the decision between medicine and surgery. However, my time here at Agroyesum in St Martin’s Hospital may change that.

In addition to my research work, the physicians and staff at St. Martin’s have been kind enough to let me shadow and observe their work. I have been in the maternity wards to watch deliveries, and in the pediatrics ward to see the buruli ulcers on children. But, without a doubt, my favorite place to be in St. Martin’s hospital is the operating theater.

It could be because that this is the only area of the hospital with air conditioning, or the only place I feel clean, or that surgery is the only area of medicine that I feel confident enough be able to follow the entire procedure (yeah for anatomy!). In just three days, I shadowed three different attendings and got to see a caesarean section, a breast biopsy, the repair and suturing of a severe mouth wound, an inguinal hernia repair, an incisional hernia repair, an abscess debridement, and four skin grafts to repair buruli ulcers. The technical precision and clinical creativity of each procedure, no matter how routine, absolutely fascinated me.

Even though there is a standard best practice for surgical procedures from administration of anesthesia all the way through to the close of the surgery, each body seems to contain within it a different collection of details as if carefully selected by a curator with a keen eye. This degree of human variation affects all of those standard best practices. How quickly will each individual metabolize the anesthesia? How much subcutaneous fat does each individual have? How much blood will the individual lose throughout the surgery? What kind of sutures would promote healing and minimal scaring? These are all considerations and decisions that surgeons must calmly, quietly, and efficiently make while standing with an individual’s health and life in their hands. Isn’t that awesome?

There is just enough uncertainty within the certainty of surgery to keep things interesting. And the best part is that at the end of the procedure, after you have finished closing, you have the satisfaction of contributing to the health of the individual’s life with your own hands.

What would totally convince me is if I was asked to assist by holding onto a retractor or even helping with cutting through the subcutaneous fat. How could you sit in an office all day when you have this excitement happening in the operating room?

1 comment:

  1. Hey :)
    I really want to be a surgeon & i absolutely love anatomy! At the moment, I'm doing my Honours in Anatomy but not sure what project to work on. My supervisor has offered me to work on 3D architecture of Rotator Cuff muscles but I'm not sure how useful will that be in the long run. Can you PLEASe advice me on this mater. Thank you so much & all the very best in your decision making, you'll never regret being a surgeon ;p