Satire: Tips on Becoming a Famous Surgeon in India
by Dr Kamal Mahawar
Now that I have spent 4 months back in India, I have figured out clearly what it takes to become a famous surgeon here. I want to ensure that my younger brothers in the profession know this so that they don’t waste too much time doing things, I have been doing so far in my life, and can achieve “success” much earlier. Here are my top ten tips for any aspiring medical student or surgical trainee wanting to make it big in the professional world of surgery in India.
1. Never Have a Systematic Appointment System: Giving dedicated time slots to patients when they come on time and are attended to promptly are “Western” things. They do not work in India. First of all patient may not turn up (and not even bother to phone you), but even more importantly, even if they do, they will think you haven’t got enough work if your clinic is not full of people and you don’t make them wait for hours. My suggestion is not to have any appointment system, make sure patients have to wait for at least a couple of hours before you see them, and if possible, see two, three, even four patients at the same time in your “chamber”. If you don’t have that many patients, because not everyone in town is suffering with stomach cancer requiring your expertise, may be you bribe some local boys to create a crowd in your clinic. Learn something from how our politicians manage to attract crowd to their rallies!
2. Be Rude to Patients: It is a simple marketing trick that you let your customer know you exist but when you get them, you act pricey as that is the only way you are likely to get them to value you. Speaking to patients politely is a sign of weakness and any “famous” doctors should never have to indulge in this sort of behaviour. On the contrary, if you treat them with a little disrespect and show them how meaningless their “business” is to your practice, you are more likely to successfully woo them.
3. Never Give any Patient more than Five Minutes: Gone are the days, when patients valued a doctor who listened to them attentively, took time to examine them, and explained issues to them clearly. These days patients value doctors who act like “gods”. Does god ever explain to you why he is doing to you whatever he is doing? So, take a cue. Also, don’t ever spend any time examining patients. What are all these diagnostic tests for? Besides, the laboratory owner won’t fail to notice your “efforts” if you send some business their way. I have further found that any time educating patients is a total waste of time; you can’t turn them into doctors, can you?
4. Exaggerate Your Personal Wealth and Worth: If your patient finds out that your livelihood depends on him/her coming to you, they are likely to undervalue your efforts. Let us face it; patients come to you, not because you are good, but because you are rich and famous and can perform miracles. Also, who is the best person to enlighten them about these aspects of your life, if not you yourself? If you can’t tell them this personally, pay somebody else to do it for you. A third party recommendation always works! It is a time tested trick and worth the investment.
5. Never Tell Patients about Your Experience: Only a weak and insignificant surgeon would stoop down to the level of informing a patient about his or her experience. It’s none of their business anyway. If you are really proud of what you have done and feel like sharing your credentials with your patients, at least make sure you magnify them manifold. This is not because you want to lie to your patients but because your patient will automatically divide whatever number you give them by five to get closer to the truth and you don’t really want them to underestimate you, do you?
6. Exaggerate Claims Regarding Surgery: Remember your patient does not want a surgery that does not give 100% success and total cure. It does not matter if your surgery is really the best treatment available; what is more important is that your patient must think this to be the only option they have if they want to live, and without it, death would almost be inevitable.
7. Never Tell Patients about Risks of Surgery: So what if your surgery is the only chance patient has, if you tell them anything about complications, they will get confused! Do you really want to confuse a patient, who may decide against your life-saving surgery? Patients don’t want to know anything about complications of surgery and usually think it is a sign of weakness if a surgeon tells them that. My advice will be to completely stay away from making this sort of fatal error in your practice. Just ask them to sign on the dotted lines five minutes prior to the surgery.
8. Write Degrees on Your Letter Head that don’t Make any Sense: If you have been on a 3-day course, after which they give out degrees, go for it and mentions them outside your clinic, in your letter head, on your website, and anywhere else you can find. Most patients don’t know the difference between a Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh who has slogged for 12 years after MBBS to get it and pays 250 pounds every year to the college to be able to use the title and “Fellow of Global Medical University” (of course it does not exist or if it does, I am not aware of it), the title you bought on the Internet for 5000 Rupees. Write as many of these abbreviations as you can on your visiting card; it goes a long way in convincing a patient about your credentials. And if you did go to a developed country for a 3-day conference or course, the name of that country should be everywhere around you. This is value addition by association. Patients will never find out what you did in UK anyway, so just mention the two letters if you can.
9. Organise Conferences and Meetings and Broadcast them: Make sure you network with some colleagues, preferably in some other city (so you are not competing with them), and invite each other to conferences and meetings. Take it from me, it really does not matter if you and your colleague have never written any academic article or even read one in last 5 years. What is more important is that you send free tickets to some distinguished speakers in US/UK to attract a bit of crowd and ask your friends in local media to cover the event.
10. Organise Training Courses: Your patient should know that not only are you a gifted surgeon but also a globally recognized teacher and trainer. If you think, you need to first learn it yourself and then teach it, forget it; it will be too late by then. Remember the old adage, “See one, do one, teach one”.
Please note that I do not make any claims to be following any one or more of the above tips. I have my own personal beliefs that come in the way of some of them. I hope you are young (unlike me) and do not have fixed opinion on these issues.
Dr Kamal Mahawar
Senior Consultant in Bariatric and Metabolic Surgery
Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi
Source of the article