Losing Terra Firma: The Case for Volunteerism in Surgeons


Junaid Nabi. 2016. “Losing Terra Firma: The Case for Volunteerism in Surgeons.” Journal of Advances in Medical and Pharmaceutical Sciences, 6, 1, Pp. 2394-1111. Publisher's Version


Surgery. The field of medicine, that has played a pivotal role in the evolution of healthcare delivery for generations, even centuries. We have moved far from the time when breast surgery was a grotesque scene in a lecture hall to a state where dozens of operations are performed at outpatient (OPD) facilities. This change has brought with it certain limitations to the growth of the psyche of a surgeon. The tsunami of machines and technologies, which brought comfort and ease to the struggling patients, has also brought mindlessness and arrogance to the practitioners of this beautiful art. As we rely more on machines now than ever before, our approach has become, unsurprisingly, more mechanistic, and we may have lost our grip on the ambition we had when we entered our career: to help humanity. One of the most gratifying aspects of surgery is that we can actually heal a patient in real time; heal their wounds, both physical and metaphorical, with our own hands. This notion was consolidated in my mind as I volunteered at the Savar building collapse a while back, but the lessons I have learned are still very fresh. In this article, I have attempted to put my feelings and my hopes in to words, as a token to the global surgeons-in-training so they can take heed. In our classrooms, the focus on humanity has greatly reduced, and this has in turn produced surgeons who rarely follow the path of volunteerism. There is a solution to this disarray: separate the money from the art, not always, but occasionally. Surgeons have always been the beacons of volunteer activities; there is a reason Doctors Without Borders (MSF) constitutes more of surgeons than any other disciplines. With volunteerism, surgeons understand the world outside the hospital ward and gain insights into patient’s mentality and their fears at a more visceral level. The empathy we gain from such activities will eventually help us become better guardians of health when he re-enters these hospital wards.