What Goes into the Making of a Surgeon?


There are certain character traits that you may find more commonly among surgeons but it is not possible to predict based on character traits alone whether one is more or less likely to become a surgeon.

As a person from a non-medical background I had no idea of what I wanted to specialize in when I got selected for medical school. I just knew I wanted to be a doctor. Prior exposure to doctors was limited to clinic visits to the pediatrician or physician which is what I thought being a doctor was all about.

During medical training, you are exposed to all specialties from preclinical to paraclinical and clinical. This was the second choice to be made. I liked to be involved in the care of patients and decided that a clinical branch was my path. During the final professional and more so during my internship, I liked my posting in surgical specialties. The characteristics that appealed to me were that they appeared to be confident about themselves and their work made an immediate difference to the lives of their patients. For example, a patient with a cancer was operated on and by the end of a few hours, was cured of her disease. Medical specialties were impressive with their analytical thinking skills, but had to rely on medication to work. By the end of my surgical posting, I was decided that I wanted to specialize in surgery.

Once in surgical residency, the training is intense. Quotes such as a good surgeon should have the eyes of an eagle, fingers of a lady and heart of a lion were repeated by our seniors. We used to eat, sleep and refresh whatever was available, whenever we got the time & wherever we could. Any sign of weakness was looked down upon as being unbecoming of a surgeon. Scrubbing up to join in a surgery was a previlige and no resident takes a break from surgery for eating, sleeping or even using the restroom. A good surgery resident had to be a go getter. No (no time, forgot, not available) was not acceptable for an answer regardless of the difficulty level.

These character traits get ingrained into you over time. Surgical training can last anywhere from 6–8 years. If these qualities attract and appeal to you, then you already have the makings of a surgeon. If not, don’t lose heart, it will be drilled into you during surgical residency, should you happen to choose it.

However, there is a caveat to all this. After all this training is complete and you have become a skilled surgeon, at the end of the day it is not about how skilful or flamboyant you are. The true hallmark of a good surgeon is to be a good human being. The work that we do has to be motivated by a genuine desire to help those in need using the skiils you have aquired. Other considerations (such as name, fame, position, power, money) should never be the focal point of your life. They may come and go. Then you will be truly happy wherever you are and in whatever you do.

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