Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Give Me Twenty (-twenty hindsight)

Twenty years is a mere blink to the elderly, a sizeable chunk of time to the middle-aged, and an unfathomable span to the young. As of the end of May, it it also represents the length of time I will have been able to write "M.D." after my name. In a few weeks, I'll travel to Dallas to attend my 20 year reunion with classmates at The Best Medical School in the Country. We'll probably end up sitting around a table with a bunch of margaritas, bitching about what ails "Medicine" presently, complaining that the young whippersnappers being trained today don't have any appreciation of how hard we had it in our day, and generally starting to look and sound like the old farts we are becoming.

Twenty years after graduating from medical school, I'll be 46 years old, and I'll probably be looking at another 20 years in practice (unless I miss my bet and the government doesn't take over health care in this country, in which case I might be able to retire at around 62). So, let's call this the halfway point of my career, which means that I am legally allowed by The Society of Disagreeable Olde Men to start giving the type of advice that can only be gained by the use of a complicated instrument, the retrospectoscope.

The retrospectoscope is a curious device, made available only to us older types, and is mainly used by the male of the species. It allows us to say things like "Trust me, I've made that mistake before;" "Don't do it! You'll regret it;" and "You'll put your eye out" with a straight face. So, now that you know that this represents the beginning of the end of my mental faculties, let the Aggravated DocSurg Twentieth Reunion Hindsight Advice Delivery begin:

  • Listen -- listen to your parents, to your teachers, to your friends' parents, to anybody that is giving you any type of information or advice. You never know when it will come in handy or be comforting.
  • Smile -- it puts people off guard.
  • Read -- as much as you can.
  • If you are married, give thanks every day that she has the patience to stay with you.
  • If you have children, give thanks every day that no matter how bad you think you've screwed up, they are the best part of you.
  • Thank your parents. Often.
  • If you are a doctor (this is a medical blog, after all), be nicer to your patients than to hospital administrators or insurance folks. They are why we went to medical school in the first place.
That's it. That's the sum total of what I have learned as a surgeon in the past 20 years that can be put into little soundbites. I only hope I can put a bit of it into action in the next 20.

Oh, and one more little thing. I happened to get married just before I graduated. SWIMBO may be in the mood for an anniversary present, and I've been advised that a gray flannel nightgown is, well, not the best option. Suggestions are, therefore, most welcome.