Sunday, May 1, 2016

How I Almost Did Not Become a Urological Surgeon.

If anybody had suggested that I would become a urologist when I was a medical student or even as an intern, I would have told them that they were dreaming. My exposure to the field was fairly minimal during my time as a medical student and the thought of operating amidst urine just did not spark the slightest interest.  If anything at all, I was interested in becoming a plastic surgeon or a general surgeon. 

At the commencement of internship, we were all allocated to do at least one surgical term out of the 5 terms for the year. I was allocated urology for my surgical rotation. It was known to be horrendously busy and quite ironically, the two interns allocated to that rotation were probably lucky to ever have time to empty their bladders. I was horrified at the thought of doing the surgical specialty that was of least interest to me.  I quickly got in touch with a friend whose career interest was in psychiatry and he was completely unfazed about which surgical term he would do.  The swap was made and I got out of urology and did a plastic surgery rotation instead.  I just loved my time doing Plastics and by the end of the term, I was virtually unmovable in my desire to be in that specialty.  

For the second post graduate year (or resident medical officer year), it was again a fairly general year and to my horror, I was again allocated urology. I thought ‘hang on a sec, isn’t urology meant to be an intern rotation?’  Given that the term was so stressful for two interns, it was thought that it would be better to replace one of the interns with an RMO. Having that extra year of experience was going to make a huge difference.  I again hit the phones and on this occasion could not find anybody who was willing to do a swap. Begrudgingly, I accepted the fact that I would have to do this rotation. In spite of the adversity, I threw myself into the job and to my great surprise found the specialty extraordinarily interesting.  Urologists were both physicians and surgeons of the genitourinary tract and were not beholden to masters in any other specialty group in order to have a practice livelihood. On top of this, the urologists to whom I was to be exposed to, took great interest in my work ethic and general interest in surgery.  Their kindness and support for me had a profound impact on me although I was still steadfastly obsessed with having a career in Plastic Surgery.  

My primary career focus during my RMO year was to pass my surgical primary examination which at that time has a pass rate of around 25%. It was at that time, a clear barrier to restrict entry into the surgical profession. Fortunately I passed the examination on my first attempt which was pretty good going since my undergraduate academic record at university was fairly ordinary (after I discovered the medical revue, I never saw another credit or distinction grade for the remainder of my medical degree).  I now had to think carefully about where my next career move would be.  Something that I had noticed about the plastic surgery trainees at the time was the fact that they were all relatively old compared to other trainees.  At that time, those entering into plastic surgery training would first complete their general surgical training and then spend a year or more in non-accredited plastic surgery positions before commencing core training.  I came to realisation that the majority of those who were undertaking plastic surgery training were going to nudging 40 years of age by the time they were ready to commence independent surgical practice.  I thought that this was crazy and that I did have a life to live and made the tough decision to abandon the idea of training in plastic surgery.  My mind kept me returning to my time in urology and I soon became convinced that this was where my future lay.  

As is so often the case, it can be the mentors that you meet in the field rather than the field itself that can initially draw you towards it. 

To this day, I have no regrets.