To be a surgeon, one spends countless hours studying for tests, writing papers, doing research, and learning surgical techniques firsthand in the operating room (OR). But is that enough? Bestselling author Malcolm Gladwell suggests that a college graduate with enough training hours could perform cardiothoracic surgery.* However, surgeons disagree with this statement because learning to manage nonoperative care or dealing with complications and unusual circumstances takes years of experience to master. Beyond the tangible aspects of surgical training lies “the hidden curriculum in surgery.”
This year, the Resident and Associate Society of the American College of Surgeons (RAS-ACS) Communications Committee invited residents to submit essays describing what they learned during or after residency training outside of the lectures, textbooks, ORs, and patient wards, hoping to capture life-changing experiences or personal lessons learned. Essays were judged by a panel of RAS-ACS members from all four standing committees: Advocacy and Issues, Communications, Education, and Membership. The author receives a $500 prize, and the winning essay is published in the Bulletin.
We are pleased to select “The things I carry,” by Krista Terracina, MD, a third-year resident at Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, as the 2015 RAS-ACS Communications Committee essay contest winner. Dr. Terracina’s piece exemplifies heartfelt experiences that will forever change her career path as a surgeon. I anticipate that as you take the time to read her essay, you will empathize and gain further insight into what is not formally taught in surgical training.
*Gladwell M. Outliers: The Story of Success. 1st ed. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company; 2008.