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Reflections on Neurosurgeons March 15, 2013

Posted by therealtinlizzy in Uncategorized.

One of the good things about the Future Physician course I’m taking is the compulsory small bits of writing we’re sometimes required to do for the quizzes each week following the physicians’ presentations. Some of the quizzes are simply multiple choice, but some or parts of them are essay/reflection type questions. Oh, and on a timer – which, for this noodly meandering writer who finds concision difficult and excels in tangents and rabbit-holing, is a good thing.


Case in point, last week’s quiz included a request for reflections on some specific elements of the presentation/talk given by a pair of neurosurgeons. It was actually one of two presentations that particularly lit up my neural net like a Lite-Brite (each of them have been brushfire-inducing in various ways, but these two even more so), so I appreciated the added prompting of an assignment to prod me to write a bit about it. Also, I had only one hour to write it – so great practice on that whole “better get my mental shit together FAST.” Too bad the MCAT is doing away with the essay-writing portion. Actually no – it’s not too bad, I felt more harried over the essay bit than I did agonizing over some obscure physics passage on harmonics and composite waveforms that I crashed and burned on. Then again, I fared better on the essay portion than I did the physics portion…


Anyway, decided I’d post my hastily-thrown-together thoughts on the neurosurgeons from last week, Dr. Andrew Grande and Dr. Bharathidasan Jagadeesan, who were both brilliant and engaging. I particularly resonated with Dr. Grande, whose enthusiasm and love for what he does, and the genuine emotion with which he talks about his life and his patients, just gushes from him.

Note – I’m just leaving the sentence frags and misspells, because it’s how I wrote it in an hour where I ran out of time to proof (gah – frags and misspells! Am mortified that I had to submit it before cleaning those up):

One of the valuable notions I gleaned from Thurday’s session included Dr. Grande’s assertion of how every single individual on the team invovled in a patient’s care is significant and necessary – from nurses to health care assistants to techs to physicians to specialists. Early on in my pursuit of medical school I grew concerned at the hierarchy I perceived within the health care professions, that it rubbed wrong my egalitarian sense of respect for everyone’s differing skills and abilities, even when those skills and abilities are quantitatively or qualitatively diverse. However, Dr. Grande’s assertion and attitude reinforced for me what a number of physician mentors and medical learning opportunities have shown me: that there are many, many physicians who, rather than perceiving non-physician health care staff as inferior or to be condescended towards, they perceive teamwork and trust of each other to be of utmost importance.

The speakers also reinforced for me that medicine isn’t a profession that you just “lock up in your desk” at the end of the day – at least the sort of medicine Drs. Grande and Jagadeesan practice certainly isn’t. Dr. Grande’s description of a particularly harried week where he progressed from a 24+ surgery, to a follow-up on another patient (or few), to an engagement to which he had committed illustrated that being a physician, or certainly a neurosurgeon is a lifestyle, not a “job.”

In addition to the many meaningful and inspiring notions I took away from Thursday’s session, one piece of advice I found particularly relevant in assisting in preparation for a life in medicine was the reinforcement of the expectation I had already settled into that the “becoming” a physician isn’t some 7-10 year grim sentence to be endured, after which one can emerge into the light of finally “being a doctor.” Rather, 7-10 years spanning classwork slogging, rotations, residency and fellowship (and everything in between) is all part of the “practice” of medicine. As a prospective medical student already in my late 30’s, one of the first notions with which I had to come to terms as I considered pursuing medicine was that I wouldn’t be a full-fledged physician until at the earliest my mid-fourties. Almost immediately in my consideration of that, it occurred to me that it made no difference to me – because clearly the entire process of becoming a doctor – all of the schooling and apprenticeship – are exactly that: part of the process. The pursuit as well as the actual “becoming” a physician are what I’m passionate to pursue. Drs. Grande and Jagadeesan assert similiar notions – that the entire process of medical school, residency and fellowship (at least after the initial classroom work) is all apprenticeship and “doing,” and that was very encouraging to me.

One of the most meaningful moments for me from Thurday’s session was Dr. Grande’s story of an older woman who collapsed while on a riverboat casino with her husband. The woman came under Dr. Grande’s care and was discovered to have aneurism which caused the collapse. After being informed of the state of her condition, the family decided to withdraw treatment or life saving measures and to instead let her body go when it would. Dr. Grande spoke of happening to walk past her room when doing rounds as her heart monitor flat-lined and she passed, and of looking in on her to find her husband curled up next to her in the bed. Dr. Grande’s compassion, caring and empathy for his patient, and her husband, was evinced not simply in the telling of the story, but by the emotion evinced in his voice and on his face. Not only this story, but other descriptions of his interactions with patients and their families, and his assertion that physicians are present in the inner circles of patients and families, the most vulnerable and fraught of places – where the most patience and compassion from a phycian is possible and needed.

Another point about compassion that Dr. Grande made which struck home for me was his assertion that true compassion isn’t about being kind and caring during the breezy times when everything works out smoothly, or even just being caring, empathetic and respectful to the patient. Compassion is about being able to care for patients and their families, to be able to be frank and honest, during the most difficult of times – when circumstances are the most fraught and traumatic, when patients and families are frazzled, anxious or even short-fused, and particularly when circumstances are going entirely “off the rails.” The ability to remain actively, heartfeltedly caring, honest, gentle and empathetic towards patients and their families under these sorts of circumstances is what true compassion is, and what’s required of any good physician.


1. Stefanie - March 15, 2013

Wow, if I ever need a neurosurgeon I want Dr. Grande!

therealtinlizzy - March 15, 2013

agreed! 🙂

2. Med school for medicine? Nah dude – wind-sailing! | Apres moi, le deluge - April 8, 2013

[…] Dr. Terrell and Dr. Grande (from one of last month’s Future Physician sessions) assert that being an Ob/Gyn and neurosurgeon, respectively, is the very air they breathe; […]

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