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How Robert A Chase changed my life


Why surgery wasn't my thing
Sherwin Nuland Surgeon
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Well, you know, actually Leo wasn't quite as poor as I thought he was. When his father died, about 10 years ago, I discovered that Leo's father was a ship owner. He had a whole bunch of freighters. But Leo was very antisocial, and, you know, kind of had the same hesitancy about things that I did. In fact, at one point during that first day, I heard him. He was standing behind me, and he – this was for my ears, and I did hear it – he said, I don't really belong here. Which is what I felt, but I wouldn't say it. You know, I acted like I was to the manor born.

Medical school was a great time for me, and then I… God, I don't know why I'm telling you all this detail, but some of it fascinates me to this day. I was never going to be a surgeon. You know, we went through these various clerkships, surgery, paediatric, psychiatry, internal medicine. And I liked psychiatry. I was very interested in psychiatry, because of my old interest in why people do the things they do, and what it is that they do. But all the smart kids went into medicine. It's not that I thought I was the smartest kid in my class, but there was sort of an air to the people who went into medicine, whereas the guys who were going into surgery were seen to be of a lesser breed. And also, I had, by that time, met a lot of surgeons, and they all looked to me they were about 6'3”, had big shoulders, former football players, wore pinkie rings, drove fin-tailed Cadillacs. That was my image of… surgeons. Told dirty jokes in the operating room. That wasn't my kind of thing.

Sherwin Nuland (1930-2014) was an American surgeon and author who taught bioethics, the history of medicine, and medicine at the Yale University School of Medicine. He wrote the book How We Die which made The New York Times bestseller list and won the National Book Award. He also wrote about his own painful coming of age as a son of immigrants in Lost in America: A Journey with My Father. He used to write for The New Yorker, The New York Times, Time, and the New York Review of Books.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is a London-based television producer and director who has made a number of documentary films for BBC TV, Channel 4 and PBS.

Tags: Yale School of Medicine, Leo Cardillo

Duration: 1 minute, 55 seconds

Date story recorded: January 2011

Date story went live: 13 September 2011