June 21, 2009

Father’s Day, personal and professional

On this most holy of days, we honor our fathers and forefathers. I had the good fortune of attending church and having brunch with two of my three grown children (the oldest is in Europe pursuing her graduate studies). My resident step son honored me with a beautiful book of a collection of golf photos (all really good surgeons play golf, beware those who do not). My other step son is on a two week mission trip to Costa Rica, building a music center at our sister Moravian church in Puerto Limon. I honored my deceased father with a contribution to Heifer Project International with a donation of honeybees to some third world spot. He wasn’t perfect, as Lord knows I am not the perfect dad, but still it is an honor to be his son.

Surgeon in the trenches (SITT) thinks this would be a great day to honor not only our biologic fathers but also our father figures. For many these father figures are teachers, coaches, etc. For many surgeons, our surgery professors represent those paternal figureheads (increasingly women are joining the ranks of surgery faculty, but 25 years ago when I finished it was dominated by men). Their teaching and mentoring styles, just like real fathers, reflect the entire gamut from detached stern taskmasters to openly caring supporters. Once a surgeon leaves their residency training program, we also leave the umbrella and nest of our surgery professors and ready or not, fly on our own to create our own practices, experiences, and careers. Yet just as we carry the genetics from our biologic fathers, we are marked by our makers. Still an identifying characteristic of all surgeons is where and under whom one trained. Me, I’m a McCabe man. Brian McCabe, better known as Brian the Lion for how loud he would roar if displeased, and one seldom saw him otherwise. One merely experienced the level of displeasure. Yet, despite the overly stern teaching style (read into this brutal at times) he was the consummate teacher. If as a resident I could detach from my disdain for his style, then pearl after pearl of surgical wisdom could be found in his discourses on ENT disease and management, and to this day his sage advice and sayings permeate my mind in the OR if the right situation arises (in the middle ear “move one hand a time”, “take your lumps in the OR, it won’t get better in the clinic”, “fix it right and fix it right, right now!”, oh a few chills just went down my spine).

So today SITT honors his dedication to surgical education and SITT honors him, all of him despite his curmudgeon ways; and honors his professor and his professor’s professor, all the way back to Galen and Hippocrates. It is an honor to be his son.

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