Monday, January 7, 2008


Every academic program has at least one. An old surgeon, usually a former Chair of the department, who at one time was a legend. Perhaps even one of the greats of surgery. And if they weren't great, they knew the greats.

We have one of those. He goes to every M&M conference and adds his two cents to an interesting discussion, usually with data and practice patterns that were cutting edge thirty years ago. We all listen politely, giving him the respect and deferrence someone of his years and experience deserve.

When I was an intern, he still operated. At the time, he would only operate with the chief resident because, more often than not, he was not capable of doing the operation himself due to his tremor. But he had enough experience that he would be able to walk a chief through it. He doesn't operate anymore.

There is a clinic that he staffs for the residents once a week. (Don't ask me what he does the rest of the week, but he still comes to work.) I wish we could just divide up those patients amongst the rest of the attendings in the division. I'm sure his bedside manner was acceptable when he was younger, but you just can't talk that way anymore. Allow me to provide some examples:

Number 1: "You're much too fat. Just look at these rolls. [Grabs rolls of fat on the abdomen and shakes them.]" Then he turns aside to whatever resident or medical student is in the room and says, "We could put her in a cage for two weeks, not feed her, and she'd be fine."

Number 2: "You're too fat. What do you eat? Tacos and beans all day?"
"I'm not Mexican. I'm Bolivian."
"What do you eat then?"

I could go on, but the other examples are just as bad and all in a similar vein. As much as we respect him for the phsycian and surgeon he was, someone needs to sit down, talk to grandpa, and take away his keys. He can't drive anymore.


make mine trauma said...

Well, he is definitely politically incorrect with a touch of cruelty and bigotry. What is it about age that loosens our tongue?
For a "definition" of politically correct, see this......

lights n steel said...

mmt: An old, loose tongue is something I've noticed quite a lot, too. But it seems to be worse among surgeons. That is a *great* quote.