Thursday, March 22, 2007
Can TV make you a better doctor?
I sleep well when I go to bed on Sunday nights. I close my eyes knowing I will be in the operating room on Monday morning. The O.R. at Grady Memorial Hospital in Atlanta, Georgia, is where I feel at home, content and focused. I know the patients need me to bring my "A-game." I know the residents in neurosurgery need me to teach, demonstrate, explain and encourage. I am confident that I will deliver on both.
My day begins with orange juice and a scrambled egg - vitamin C and protein - no caffeine. Never any caffeine on Mondays. It is early, very early and during my 10-minute commute to the hospital, there is no one else on the road. It is surgeon time. From the car, I call my chief resident. This month it is Lou Tumialan. He's already at the hospital and gives me the latest updates on the patient who will be our first case.
At the hospital, it may appear that Lou and I are joined at the hip, in a never-ending, quiet, unemotional conversation. We run through scenarios, we discuss options and possible outcomes for the patient. We hope for the best and we are prepared for just about anything. We emerge from the doctor's locker room energized, unshaven, and dressed in our uniforms of green. A small wooden box containing our magnifying glasses is tucked like a football in our right hands. We scrub in together, both up to our elbows in the harsh yellow iodine soap and we become quieter, more inwardly focused. It's almost as if I can actually feel every cell in my body working to bring years of information, education and experience to the starting blocks of my mind. I am ready for the race. I feel fully prepared to start the case.
Today, I get to return function to a broken and damaged body. On the very best days, I get to save a life. A resident doesn't have that same sense of confidence and calm. I tell my residents it's fine to have butterflies, just make sure they're flying in formation. There may be surprises, there is certainly a sense of urgency, but chaos is not an option. It is never an option.
Maybe I feel so comfortable at this particular hospital because, like me, it has a history of combining health care and journalism. Henry W. Grady, editor of the Atlanta Constitution newspaper in the 1800s, worried that Atlanta's poor couldn't get good medical care. His dream of providing quality basic health care for Atlanta's less fortunate came true when Grady hospital opened in 1892. Although he chose journalism as a career, he felt drawn to health care. I, on the other hand, chose medicine as my career, but felt drawn by the power of journalism. Now, six years into a life with dueling careers, I have a clear appreciation for both. Each job makes me better at the other.
Today, because of what I've learned from being a journalist, I will not only try to educate Lou on a particularly complicated maneuver to correct a spinal injury, but I also will explain what can be gained from getting to know the patient's story. Accuracy, the cornerstone of good journalism, is also critical to the neurosurgeon, as Lou will learn during today's intense six-hour procedure.
As more than a dozen medical professionals move around a music-filled operating room, negotiating sharp instruments, multimillion dollar machines and lifesaving, yet dangerous, chemicals, the residents will also hear my lesson on clear communication. These lessons are as important for a doctor as they are for a journalist. It's my hope that my experiences as a journalist will allow me to more fully prepare and equip our next generation of doctors.
So far, so good.
To learn more about Dr. Sanjay Gupta's work at Grady Memorial Hospital, watch "Grady's Anatomy" on CNN this weekend. It airs Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. ET.
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• Creating a "culture of prevention"
• To prescribe or not to prescribe?
• Daily supplement for war?
• Binge drinking derails Denise... and others
• Running down memory lane
• My very adult addiction
• Mental wounds of war
• Spring forward, falling back: Bad for your health?...
• How do you "chase life?"
• Including STDs in "The Talk"