A Taste of Your Own Medicine, Columns
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Choosing General Surgery: Reflections from a Fourth-Year Medical Student

ATOYOMWhy do I want to become a general surgeon? The real question is why wouldn’t I want to become a general surgeon? I enjoy the operating room, I find the cases interesting, and I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. Even more than all the usual reasons, I feel like there’s something so unique about surgery that is almost indescribable.

Being a surgeon is unlike any other career: you get to operate on people. You improve and sometimes you even save their lives.

There is a unique bond between a patient and surgeon. The patient allows the surgeon to do something life-altering. The surgeon has the responsibility of someone’s life in their hands. The complications are real, but the outcome and satisfaction is exponential.

By the end of a general surgery residency, I will be able to do everything from a mastectomy to a colectomy to a carotid endarterectomy and so much more.

Surgeons not only have to learn all the surgical procedures, but they also have to know medicine. A patient rarely comes to the hospital with solely a surgical issue. They will usually have other medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease, which a surgeon must take into consideration during management.

Medicine is constantly evolving. Therefore, surgeons must dedicate their lives to studying and learning so that patients get the best possible care.

Some people consider lifestyle when deciding what specialty to choose. I pick the lifestyle of general surgery: operating, constantly improving my skills, and giving my patients the opportunity for a better life.

General surgery is known for an intense residency: 30 hour calls and four days off in a month. I will be pushed to my limits and then some. It’s exhausting, to say the least. The amount of work hours deters many people from picking surgery.

Since I know that I wholeheartedly want to become a surgeon, the long work hours don’t bother me. I know my free time will be limited, so I must use it wisely. I will have to plan for how my work will affect my significant other and my future children. I know that many surgical residents raise a family during residency. Though sacrifices will need to be made, the end defines the means for me. Residency will be exhilarating and exhausting. I will be operating a lot and learning a tremendous amount in an encouraging and educational environment with the support of family and friends, and it will all be worth it because I’m doing what I love.

I will have more freedom in determining my lifestyle after residency. If I want to operate a lot, then I expect to work more. If I want to spend more time with my family, then I expect to operate less.

Ultimately, I will be able to choose: to start right away in a private practice, to do a fellowship, or to split my time with academia or research. I will have a lot of options to do a great deal my career.

When it’s all said and done, I try to live up to my motto: “Do your best and forget the rest.”

But it’s icing on the cake when the patient says: “Thank you for saving my life.”

Valentina Bonev Valentina Bonev (21 Posts)

Columnist Emeritus and in-Training Staff Member

Loma Linda University Medical Center

A Taste Of Your Own Medicine is a column that gives you a taste of medicine. It focuses on important and interesting topics relating to medicine and being a medical student.

Valentina is a general surgery resident at Loma Linda University Medical Center. She graduated from University of California, Irvine School of Medicine.