Earlier this month, I attended a conference in Nagpur aimed to improve the skills of anaesthesiologists who may not have access to the latest gadgets and gizmos in their hospitals.

For the layperson, the device featured helps us identify nerves without cutting you open using a special needle-based device. A key part of this procedure is the needle location - it must be extremely close to the nerve as the drug is given. If it gets displaced by even a couple of millimeters, the procedure will fail.

Two eminent stalwarts of the field were there that weekend, demonstrating a dozen such blocks live. And they had diametrically opposite views when it came to that last key step of locating and giving the drug. One suggested we must hold on to the needle after locating the nerve till the entire drug was given lest the needle inadvertently get displaced and the drug go elsewhere. The other had done thousands of such procedures as well, letting go of the needle once he has located the nerve and allowing the tissue/muscle fibers to hold it in place as he gave the drug.
And as each block was given, both argued against the beliefs of the other.

'Hold on.' 'Let it go.' 
'Hold on.' 'Let it go.' 

Neither backed down from their preferred method as we, the 'students of all ages', sat and watched case after case being done in the operation theaters.

Here is the thing though. Contrary to what you may imagine, their differing concepts as they tried to convert us to their beliefs did not affect their high regard for each other or their longstanding friendship.
Most importantly, it did not affect their common goal - to ensure
A) the patient in front of them becomes free of pain and
B) we, the arm-chair critics, learned what mattered most - how to heal people in our own theaters in the future.

These are doctors who have paid for their own flight and accommodation and came all the way from Liverpool and Adelaide just to teach us here in India. Both have different methods - polarizing and totally binary; you choose either one or the other - and both have superb success rates via their differing methods. They share their their tricks of the trade with us because the end goal is not about JUST the patients in THEIR individual hospitals or THEIR beliefs. It's about pain relief for patients in EVERY hospital.

By default, I am all about analogies. I enjoy extrapolating lessons learned from anecdotes and applying it to larger concepts and themes. And this simple incident threw up a lot of them for me as I traveled back from Nagpur. Analogies that are extremely relevant in today's world.
  • Can people of different ideologies work together? 
  • Can they see the basic goal of humanity - improving the quality of ALL human life - or does 'winning for your belief' matter more?
 Anaesthesia was discovered 2400 years after surgery with numerous failed attempts in between. In the 170+ years since, it has changed in so many ways. But it has evolved for the better. And the people who created and improved upon it all meant for the benefits of pain relief to REACH EVERY SINGLE HUMAN BEING, not just people of their country, race or gender. Instead of hearing "Make America /India /Britain /Klingon Great Again", the idea should be to work for benefiting all mankind.

Yes, we are different. I pray with my palms clasped, you wear a burka, he does not pray at all, she votes for Congress, he for Republican and they are gay. Our ideologies, religious beliefs and attire can vary widely. Instead of focusing on this 'headline that invariably identifies/defines us', should it not be about the common end goal - happiness and freedom from suffering?

There is space in this world for you to hold on (to the beliefs that serve your people) but also let go (of the ego that can close your mind to the simple fact that a different approach can also lead to peace.)

At some point, you need to be ready to open your mind and say 'It's okay that you and I have differing views on this as long as we don't harm each other and both our people are free of suffering. There is a world where you can be great yourself and yet help the people of other countries and beliefs as well.'

our prime purpose in life is to help others dalai lama quote

As an anaesthesiologist, the combination of drugs and even the techniques I use will be different from that provided by a different anaesthesiologist in an operation theater elsewhere. My seniors will disapprove of my methods, calling it as too risky. Conversely, my juniors will find it too conservative. We will debate and we will disagree. But we DO NOT ASSAULT each other just because of that. Because we work for the common goal - RELIEF OF PAIN and SUFFERING for ALL.

Can't you take a page out of the anaesthesiologists' handbook and do the same in real life - accept your differences, accept that perhaps you will never really accept the others' point of view but still work for the common good OF ALL?

Or is winning an argument on social media destined to be the 'end goal' of our existence?

Authors note:

In the month since the conference, I have watched more than two dozen doctors who attended that conference share stories of how they have started doing difficult cases more successfully using these new techniques they learned. Patients of all ages - from a few months old to 90+ - are benefiting because of these anaesthesiologists who are paying from their pockets and flying across continents to teach us just so that your loved ones here in India - absolute strangers to them - get a better standard of health care and pain relief. 


And yes, before you ask... some doctors are holding on while others are letting go. But by using the correct technique with whichever method they chose, they are ALL successfully freeing patients of pain across India.

I am also linking to #FridayReflections. Their prompts this week include "What’s the one thing you wish others understood about you?" Well, this is something I wish others understood about why I choose not to support regionalism or any particular religion. Because everything that has moulded me into 'ME' teaches me that every person should matter, not just a few.


Boopathy said…
nice on Roshan
People fighting in the name of religion feels like electrons, protons and neutrons, of the same atom, fighting with each other! I mean the Universe is so huge, and we are such tiny inhabitants of one single planet in this Universe, and there are multiple Universes like ours...
We are actually so insignificant in the whole scheme of things! Like dust. And we fight! "Our variety of dust is better than yours!"
Human way of thinking is just beyond my comprehension.
This is a beautiful philosophy. Here in the United States, we are so divided, although (supposedly) we are working towards the same ends. Sometimes, I wonder! Will we ever listen and learn from each other again?
Suzy said…
It really angers me when I hear let's make country x great again. We should all be saying, let's make the human race great again. In the end it doesn't matter what path we choose as long as we choose the betterment of all. Nice one
That seems like such basic common sense and yet, so many educated people still don't get it. Look at the news media even today in 2017 and it is still all about religion vs religion, caste vs caste, us vs them.
Everyone wants to be proven right. Nobody really wants to help push for a better world overall.
It seems like everyone has taken a step back recently. I think the world was a lot more united earlier. Now everyone has climbed upon their war horses and are carving out their boundaries again.
And the loser invariably is humanity which gets trampled in the need for glory.
Sadly, the 'let's make humanity great again' slogan seems to have almost faded away, being replaced by this need to be better than everyone else on the basis of cultures and states instead. I don't know what it will take to slowly see the bigger picture again.
Menaka Bharathi said…
I strongly believe like you Roshan, that humanity should be held before ideologies. As an anesthesiologist you are perfectly doing the right thing - putting your knowledge and experience to the betterment of human beings rather than thinking of what your seniors or juniors would think of it. Kudos to you!
It's never a war between seniors and juniors. It always comes down to what's best for the patient. And I feel that's what's needed in the world today - what's best for the people of the world in entirety rather than this 'my caste, my religion, my state' bit. Don't know how we will get it through to others though. Probably more anaesthesia posts :)
Reema D'souza said…
Such a great lesson for each one of us to learn. Our methods may differ, but as long as our common goal is what we are looking to achieve, we need to respect each others opinions though we may not completely agree. I really liked how you weaved this lesson based on your experience.
Ness said…
I love this analogy and the quote by the Dalai Lama.
You always know how to get to the heart of the matter, Roshan. I continue to be shocked at how blasé some of our countrymen (women) have become about bashing the religious beliefs of others. I just opted out of a Whatsapp group in which an old schoolmate thought nothing of sharing some 'thoughts' about Muslims and their beliefs. It's like racists are coming out of the woodwork.
shalz75 said…
Simple yet powerful lesson about the end goal; viewing the larger picture and keeping that in the scope.Its heartening to hear that in todays day and age when we have horror stories of hospitals and doctors; there are genuine docs who work towards lessening human pain and suffering via medical procedures. Hats off to such professionals!!!
Holly Jahangiri said…
"It's okay that you and I have differing views on this as long as we don't harm each other and both our people are free of suffering. There is a world where you can be great yourself and yet help the people of other countries and beliefs as well."

I agree with this 100%. My problem is with the "winner take all" attitude that is so prevalent in politics; rather than focusing on our common goals and problems (which, alone, would take more than four years to solve), one party or the other treats politics as a football match, rather than a struggle for our common betterment and relief of suffering. I believe the world has enough to offer all; they believe in a shortage of goodness and fear they will lose it.

I've had a few surgeries in my life, and the ultimate in trust is when the patient submits to anesthesia. From my perspective, whether to hold on or let go may depend on the circumstances and the patient, and by sharing the pros and cons of different approaches, you all increase the tools in your toolbox. Being both knowledgeable and flexible, and humble enough to try the other's approach, benefits your patients.

P.S. I'm needlephobic; your featured image was hard to look at.
This is analogy for the whole world in its present state, except that unlike the two doctors, the rest of the world isn't willing to give in or listen to anyone else as long as their egos remain in place.
Your post reminded me of I'd read y Bukowski, "We're all going to die, all of us. That alone should make us love each other but it doesn't. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing."
Honestly, that alone should make us love each other, instead of holding on to little personal grudges.
***of something I'd read by Bukowski (Monday morning typos)
vishal bheeroo said…
Doc, I love your thoughts on need for humans irrespective of ideological differences to work for the betterment of human kind. I am quite scared of needles in hospital and it seems rocket science to me. I am always here to read your words that hook.

Btw, my Nokia 3310 post is on.
It's sad that this is now the minority opinion on social media, if you see twitter et al. Should have been common sense.
Thanks. I loved the quote too. :)
I know what you mean. Have been shocked seeing the comments from people I considered really close friends. Absolute hatred for people of a different religion and worse, such a horribly superior attitude. No room whatsoever for a compromise or at least working for the greater good. They are all enabled because the leaders in power show that it is okay...
There are plenty of docs doing a lot of good. The problem is there are not enough people showcasing it, whereas the bad pills often end up as headline news.
The problem is the 'winner takes all' has percolated out from politicians and onto the general public now. It's "monkey see, monkey do" season and unfortunately, that means hate people and refuse to look beyond the hate.

Being flexible in our choices is invaluable as an anaesthesiologist and I feel it is necessary in real life too. You can't survive with a closed mind. Not in this world.

And oops about the needle image - tools of the trade (literally!)
Okay, I haven't read Bukowski but he has pretty much nailed the present political climate, has he not? Think of all the main controversies on social media and then think of how irrelevant they actually were!
Thanks Vishal :) And yes, will check out the post now...
Holly Jahangiri said…
I'm never sure if it's that the politicians set the tone, or they're just pandering to public sentiment. Either way, it's ugly right now.

As for "tools of the trade," I know - you'd have to use an infant needle on me till I'm out cold. ;) My veins shrink, run, and hide. I only WISH I could pass out and make it easier on everyone, but noooo. Dentists have to give me nitrous just to come into the room with Novocain! ;) Valium doesn't work, either - I think half a glass of wine would be more effective. And no need to apologize! I can laugh about it.
True... I am blaming the politicians but they are just saying what they know the public wants to hear. Which is more depressing, sadly.