There is an underbelly to every profession, and medicine is no different.
We know physicians are the “best and the brightest,” yet there is a secret lurking in hospitals, clinics, and academic institutes that poses a threat to public safety.
You might expect a cardiac or neurosurgeon to be blessed with great skills and hand-eye coordination. I have worked with doctors who are not only deft with a scalpel, but who can also tie surgical knots like a magician shuffling and dealing cards.
However, many people are unaware of how medical students are accepted into surgical programs. How is their hand-eye coordination evaluated? Can they juggle, catch a football, or pitch a baseball?
In medical school, most students are academically at the top of their class with high grades and test scores. But how can we determine whether someone has the necessary hand-eye coordination based on grades or test scores alone?
In the past, dental school applicants were required to carve a bar of soap during the pre-dental exam to assess their hand-eye coordination. I don’t know if they still have to do this, but shouldn’t there be a similar test to ensure that surgical candidates have the necessary skills?
Of course, surgical adeptness can be taught during resident training. But there are some doctors who will never attain the level of skill necessary to be a competent surgeon.
The public is often unaware of this issue, and there may be some surgeons who pose a threat to their patients. I haven’t worked in academic medicine for decades, so perhaps these problems have already been addressed. If so, I stand corrected, and I welcome my colleagues to clarify the situation.
I have been fortunate to witness some of the best “hands” and surgical techniques in the world. However, I have also seen individual surgeons create problems for patients because they lack innate hand-eye coordination.
Throughout my life, I have been a whistleblower, and even now, I cannot look away. The underbelly of medicine has its faults, but that doesn’t mean we should ignore them for decades. Now is the time for the medical profession to re-examine the criteria for becoming a surgeon.
Perhaps we need to give them a bar of soap so they can clean up their act.
Gene Uzawa Dorio is an internal medicine physician who blogs at SCV Physician Report.