In a previous article I wrote down the spiel I usually give to medical students when they ask why I went into anesthesiology. I listed all the medical fields I considered and rejected. Now I will discuss the profession I did match into after med school. That would be General Surgery.
Imagine me, an introverted, bookish nerd wanting to enter the exalted world of surgery. On Match Day when our results were revealed, there was an audible gasp in the auditorium when classmates found out I had matched into surgery. It wasn't just any surgery residency either--it was a highly coveted categorical program, which meant that I had a clear path through the entirety of residency. I wouldn't have to compete for an open position each year like the transitional residents stuck in the pyramidal side.
Why did I choose surgery? Let me count the ways. Surgery was the complete antithesis of everything I disliked about Internal Medicine. The consequence of treating a patient was immediate and understood. It's a great feeling knowing that you are taking a sick patient into the OR to make them better. No more waiting for the patients' symptoms to improve by mere watching and waiting. When in doubt cut it out. I loved that philosophy.
There's also a certain hero complex involved when entering the surgical realm. It seemed you got a certain level of respect when people knew you were a surgeon. Surgeons are frequently the physicians of last resort when a patient is on a downward spiral. When the Medicine docs can't understand why a patient's septic and all the labs and scans come up equivocal, the surgeon is the one who gets paged. After days of watching an ICU patient slowly deteriorate, the surgeon swoops in, rushes the patient to the OR, and makes everything better. "Those dumb ass internists. What the f*** were they thinking watching a patient for a week when it was so obvious what the problem was. If they had waited one more day, the guy would be dead." Mockery of other specialties was a frequent and bonding experience with surgeons. Fun times.
Finally I had several groups of great guys as mentors while doing my surgery rotations. Med students gravitate to fields where they are led by talented attendings and residents. Who wouldn't want to grow up and be just like them? The surgeons I rotated with made their work seem so much fun and important. Their intellect and confidence was everything I wanted to be as a doctor. I was hooked.
So why am I an anesthesiologist now? That will require a long answer best reserved for the next article in this series. It is not for nothing that I call my surgical career My Lost Years. Stay tuned.