Updated: May 7, 2020
By Yatharth Verma
To be honest, I did not initially think I would want to become a doctor, much less a surgeon. Since both my parents are doctors (dad is a surgeon and mom is an anaesthetist)- talking about their work was the usual dinner table conversation. Though it was always amazing to hear how they saved lives everyday, I was just so bored of them talking about medicine all the time. I wanted to talk about fighter jets, because I wanted to become a pilot and join the Air Force. I was not really into medicine. This was because firstly, everyone thought I would go into medicine just because both my parents are doctors and secondly, the long years of study it takes to actually become one.
However, one day I asked my dad out of curiosity if I could go to the operating theatre. I was really inquisitive to see what my parents jobs really involved on a daily basis. This was my first time witnessing a surgery. I honestly don’t know what it was but, as soon as the procedure began, I was hooked. I didn’t realise the hours ticking by as the surgery took place. When the surgery came to an end, I realised I had been standing for over two hours! There was only one thing on my mind: ‘when will I get to come in here again?!?!’.
When dad went out to tell the patients family that the patient would be fine, I tagged along like an excited puppy. Now I can tell you with certainty that it wasn’t so much the surgery itself, but the look of relief and gratitude on the faces of the patients loved ones, when they were told the patient was going to be ok. The whole experience made me fall heads over heels in love with this profession. I decided that I was definitely going to become a surgeon.
After school was over, I spent about 9 months in the hospital doing a pre-clinical internship and had multiple rotations in different surgical sub-specialities. During my rotation, sometimes if you answer the questions that the surgeons ask, they would let you scrub in to help. It was when I first scrubbed into a surgery that I realised what it meant when surgeons say they feel a rush when operating. The adrenaline going through you when standing over the operating table is insane. It’s addicting. I just want to feel that rush again and again. I think it’s known as: “the thrill of the cut.”
However, nothing gave me as much of a thrill as my placement in neurosurgery did. With other organs of the body, you can cut out a bit of normal tissue and still not cause harm to the patient. If you accidentally damage even a millimetre of normal brain tissue, the patient could end up with lots of problems in the future-paralysis, losing the ability to speak or understand speech, losing vision- just to name a few.
The diversity in neurosurgery cannot be beaten. There are so many different kinds of procedures you can do: vascular surgery, surgery for cancer, correction of congenital abnormalities and other paediatric problems, functional surgery for epilepsy or movement disorders, surgery for infection, surgery of the spinal cord and lots more, which is why it’s really hard to ever get bored! The potential for trauma in neurosurgery or emergency situations that can happen, whilst operating, require you to think really quickly on your feet. Yes it’s a challenging speciality, but I’ve always loved challenges, and this only draws me more towards wanting to become a neurosurgeon. I was fascinated by the intricacies of neurosurgical procedures; be it brain tumours, diseases with blood vessels in the brain, surgery for seizures or trauma. After a few weeks, I pretty much knew that I wanted to be a neurosurgeon.
For any one who wants to study medicine, the most important thing is that you need to really love the profession. It requires a lot of hard work and takes many years for you to qualify and work independently. When you finally get through the loops to study medicine, use many different resources including videos and textbooks. There is always something new to learn about a topic and the more holistic your approach, the better understanding you will gain. One of the easiest holes to fall down is to compare yourself to others. Never compare yourself to other medics! Everyone has a different pace and some people are better at some things than others. Comparing only makes your life a misery, and won’t allow you to focus!
Finally, work hard and play hard. The journey is long and difficult, and it is important to have fun every now and then with friends! Go for night outs, explore restaurants, meet new people. Enjoy your uni life to the max!!
Now, I am a third year medical student and I can tell you that I wake up everyday excited to learn something new about medicine. Be it anatomy, physiology or clinical medicine, I am never bored and I couldn’t imagine doing anything other than medicine or surgery. Interestingly, I also talk about medicine all the time now. I think I get it from my parents!