Monday, May 18, 2015

What Is It With Surgeons Who Think They Should Be President?


From the beginning of medical school I never understood the lure of surgery. It always seemed to me an occupation relatively devoid of thinking. My mentor during my medicine rotation, a brilliant kidney specialist, used to say that the most gifted surgeon he had ever known was his lab assistant George, a man with an 8th grade education who could dissect out an intact, perfectly functioning kidney from a rat in 30 seconds.

To their credit, surgeons generally are hard working, focused, dedicated individuals. They accept challenges that most of us would never consider. When successful, they relieve suffering to a degree that is hard to overstate.

But the operating room is not the ideal location to learn the kind of compromise and interpersonal skills that are classically described as essential to process of effective governing. It certainly isn't a hotbed of democracy. Within its cloistered confines, the surgeon usually gets what he (and it is still by far mostly he) wants. Woe to the nurse, or anesthesiologist who gets in his way.

Maybe that's why Dr Ben Carson, arguably the greatest pediatric neurosurgeon of his generation, thinks he qualifies for a job for which surgery provides absolutely no experiences, or Dr Rand Paul, an elite trained eye surgeon, treats every challenging interrogation from the media as a personal affront.


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