Brain Surgery

Two things happened recently which are in my mind connected:

First, last month a brain MRI I ordered on a young boy showed a very small tumor, highly curable.  The reason this is remarkable is that I ordered an MRI for a headache that was not highly suspicious.  I don’t even think the headache was caused by this tumor, but there it was, quarter inch or so in diameter.  I ordered that MRI and it got done.  It would not have been done in any country that has socialized medicine because none of the factors that indicate a high risk for a tumor were present.  None, except parental concern and my desire to serve my patient to the best of my ability.  I should mention, too, that neither this boy’s parents, nor mine, were born in this country.

Secondly, Dr Sanjay Gupta was announced a few days ago as the new administration’s choice for Surgeon General.  Dr Gupta is (coincidence?) a brain surgeon whose parents were (coincidence?)  not born in this country.

The reason I think this is great is: as a neurosurgeon, Dr Gupta should remember the faces of the patients he saved because a timely MRI was made,  and those he did not becuase the MRI came too late.  The road to a neurosurgical career is far too arduous for anyone to undertake it becuase they like statistics; Dr Gupta had to have done it to see the lives he changed himself.  And I expect him, an Indian-American, to understand why his parents chose to emigrate from a country that had a public health system to one that did not.

As did my parents.

And the boy’s.

I support Dr Gupta’s selection, in part, because  of his great skill in communication.  I expect him to do what public health specialists notoriously do not: trace the effects of proposed initiatives down to the individual patient who will be affected, and communicate these concerns to the American people.   I expect him to know the difference between health care that generates great statistics and health care that works for the individual patient — and I expect him to speak out against people who confuse the two though they should know better.
I applaud Dr Gupta’s selection, not because I think he will preside over a great health care revolution, but because I think he will do to the many insidiously well-meaning revolutionary proposals what he had done to the many insidious brain tumors:

Brain surgery.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>