What is the foremost quality you look for when you are looking for a surgeon? Chances are most of you will say ‘experience’. If there is one thing young surgeons would envy older ones for, it is the fact that the latter are known to have experience.
Isn’t it a given that experience is good, then? Yes and no. Experience has made me a man. But it has also made me a sadder man. It has reduced my expectations from people and from life. It has made me harder and stronger (in the wrong places). It has tempered my emotions, but also made me less receptive to the emotions of others. Experience has not only made my arteries hard, but also my heart harder. It has made me a wiser, but balder, man.
Experience is the sum of one’s mistakes in life, they say. A more discerning person would say ‘no’. There are three kinds of experience:
First hand experience: you have been in battle, and are scarred. No one knows it better than you.
Second hand experience: you have studied the phenomenon of the experience and analysed it.
Third hand experience: you have heard of it from somewhere or someone.
Of the three, which would you prefer your doctor to have? Instinctively, I think we all would prefer to have had first hand experience of the various aspects of life. In the case we started out with (surgery), surgeons would all prefer to have seen complications and disasters in our own lives so as to avoid or solve them in future. This is the best thing for a doc, right? Wrong!
Though it is great for a doc to have first hand experience, it is perfectly likely that he would be biased or plain wrong in the lessons he has learnt from them. In a typical (hypothetical) case, a surgeon uses no mesh to repair his hernia cases because the one time he did use it in 1982, his patient got an infection and lots of problems. This is the main problem with first hand experience. While life must have taught a lesson to the doc, it might have taught him the wrong lesson!
Third hand experience is, obviously, of limited value: who knows what someone told you is right or wrong?
Which brings us to second hand experience.
If you have seen, observed and analysed someone do the right or wrong things, you will have learnt the right lessons. You don’t need to start off with a steep learning curve and create all the complications and make all the mistakes others before you had made. Because you have trained for it. Forewarned is forearmed. It is this second hand experience that is commonly called wisdom. So, it is better to be wise than to be experienced. Therefore, whether it comes to choosing a surgeon or a spouse, better chose a wise, rather than an experienced, one!
Finally, should you not choose a young surgeon? Remember, you can be young once, but you can be immature forever! Hence, young and trained is not a bad combination to have, especially in the present days of changing technology and evolving treatment methods.
(pic source: forgotten. Sorry!)