Thursday, June 16, 2011

The humble Noble

I attend a weekly neuro-oncology tumor conference. I can point out the brain on an MRI, and maybe a tumor or two, but beyond that I have no real expertise. But I like to listen, and watch. I am, after all, just a student.

Someday I want to participate in a meaningful way in one of these conferences. You know, House style. Wham! Bam! Slam!

That's the esprit de corp at this conference. You have the brightest of the brightest from disciplines such as radiology, pathology, neurosurgery and more, who discuss tough cases and create a management plan for patients. And they sometimes never have mercy on each other. The doctors seem young, vibrant, strong, and persuasive. You know your stuff if you wear this medical badge of courage. And if you're shot down with a whamable and slamable comment, you bite your tongue until it's your turn to strike.

These conferences are fun.

But...meaningful contribution. When am I going to make one? I would love to know it all. But today I saw something that reminded me of what medicine is all about and how I would hope to contribute. To establish context, the computer mouse and keyboard were malfunctioning, delaying the conference proceedings. So as each case was brought up on the computer, heads rolled and comments were made. "Why can't we fix this?" "This is unacceptable." "We can't go on this way."

But on we went, heads rolling. Off in the corner of the horseshoe arrangement of tables sat a retired surgeon. He had long, stringy white hair. He wore a long sleeve maroon shirt with khakis. And he had his black buckle briefcase that looked like it was from the seventies on the table, with a tooth-paste looking stain on it. He had two stacked cups that ten minutes before held his coffee, sitting in front of him. He attends these conferences, as some retired doctors do, for reasons unknown to me. I guess it's to keep up or to provide input.

As far as input goes, no one wanted to hear from him. I kid you not, when he would raise his hand to comment, the doctor as the lectern would look at his raised right hand and ignore him. No time for an old-timer who studied in the analog age with printed books and medical journals. But the old man stayed. After the third case, he got up and left. I was standing in the back and looked forward to taking his chair but thought I'd give it two minutes just to be sure he was gone.

Then, back in he walked - oh I forgot, he also had a cane - holding a mouse and keyboard he grabbed from a nearby vacant office. He weaved past the extended legs of the doctors right up to the lectern to replace the malfunctioning hardware. After the job was done, he walked back through the gauntlet of extended legs and sat down in his chair.

And the conference proceeded, in my mind, beautifully.

This retired doc got the job done, no matter how custodial it was. It was a simple event in the day but I want to remember this guy! Especially if I get in the habit of sitting back and rolling my head. Meaningful contribution.

1 comment:

NanaH said...

Doesn't it make you wish you could have heard what he had to say. It might have made a lot of difference. Arrogant people to dismiss experience!