University of Southern California
Artist & Gallery

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Monitor

The professor's muttering while he worked was a form of teaching. He felt inside the cavity and described each organ simply.

Then he began the cutting, cauterizing, and irrigating. It all seemed so everyday, so unpretentious; merely a workshop with special tools. It called to mind a print of Rembrandt's, The Goldsmith; a plain-looking, middle-aged, careworn man creating something more enduring than himself. I also associated the surgical gown with seventeenth-century robes in the etching. The professor's personality was full and unique, and so my attention was not on the props around. It made the room hushed and surroundings appear ordinary.

By afternoon, the professor suggested that the medical student take a five-minute break so he could soak his hands in cool sterile water to revive his circulation. The woman anesthesiology resident checked the patient's blood pressure and the intravenous drip. The chief resident in anesthesiology came in to check her from time to time. The anesthesiologist assumed the role of the supportive physician, as he was the one who was with the patient before the surgery, put him to sleep, stayed with him during the operation and kept him alive (breathing), and got him to awake afterward.

The professor listened to the comments of his chief resident, and offered in a joking way twenty-five dollars to anyone who could locate some bile juice. By now it was 3:00 P.M.

The next day, the student told me he had been excused at 6:00 P.M. to get some orange juice and rescrub, that the procedure had lasted until 9:30 P.M. They finally had to cut the lower lobe of the liver and do a bypass. He said how much he admired the professor. "Why, he is a big, big man. He did three operations like this the last two months that another surgeon might only do once in a lifetime." He had been nice to the student in the little conversation he had had with him.

-May Lesser

Excerpt & image from: Lesser, May H. The Art of Learning Medicine. New York: Appleton-Century Crofts; 1974. p. 262-3.

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