Recent articles in professional journals and the lay press have publicized episodes of unspeakable behavior by physicians directed at their patients. Virtually all of the highlighted episodes involved a patient under anesthesia, naked and incapacitated. One might think that the physicians involved were oblivious to the presence of others. Not so–they knew and wanted the others in the room to watch and think what they were doing was funny. How true are these reports? Or does it only matter that they “feel” true?
Addressing the AAS as President in 2000, my topic was the Education of the Academic Surgeon. I talked about the joys and imperatives of teaching, of sharing moments of learning with students and residents. The theme was that education is about both content and character. The critical idea, articulated millennia ago, was that character is a product of good habits—so that virtuous behaviors become second-nature while alternative motivations and behaviors become undesirable or even unthinkable.
The members of the AAS are formidably positioned to influence the perceptions, habits, values and character of our students and trainees. We do so by being careful in observation, deliberate in judgment, resolute and skilled but flexible in action, and reflective in consequences. Alongside are the empathy and sense of humor that see differences in people as a spice of life and remind us that we all are on the same journey. This is how the newest members of our profession need to see us.