Medicine · Philosophy

Wisdom from the first week of CTS

I have been insanely insanely busy these past few weeks, courtesy of the selective rotation I was doing at my university.  We get this time in our uni in which we can choose any department to work in for a month and due to lack of foresight or my usual tendency to get myself in pickles, I picked the daddy of all departments – cardio-thoracic surgery. Aaaand I picked the toughest, most hardworking surgeon in that department to work with – Dr Saulat Fatimi. :/

Picking a surgery rotation is in itself giving yourself up to hectic rushing, early morning rounds and long, long hours in the operation theatre.  Picking cardio-thoracic surgery is like signing a contract stating you will not see sunlight on several days because you will spend all day in the OR or working in the wards.  Picking an elective in cardio-thoracic surgery with Dr Saulat Fatimi, however, is whole new level of torture. It’s like handing your soul over to the devil willingly, except the devil would be satisfied with that, whereas Dr Saulat wants us to work our bones loose in addition. 😛

cardiothoracic surgery = endless days + shania twain

But don’t get me wrong.  It’s been fun and it’s still fun and though there’s a week left I know I’m going to miss it when it ends.  Dr Saulat is an amazingly inspiring person, his hard work and sheer energy is enough to make even the laziest of students wake up and start working. And everyone else too, from the OR staff right up to the chief resident Dr Taimur, is awesome. I love them all and I enjoyed every minute of it, even the back-breaking work and long hours.

The first week was pretty much intro but a lot of people insisted on giving us advice and I collected some of the quotes here because I liked them so much.  Dr. Saulat has the most, of course.  Here they are:

“This is a thankless profession. There will be one patient in a hundred who will thank you genuinely or be satisfied with the treatment you gave, or whose smile or look will make it worth it. We don’t do it for the thanks. We do it for the kick we get out of it. Surgery is about the kicks you get out of working hard at it. Understand that. That’s all.”

-Dr Taimur Asif Ali (who apart from being awesome is also to-die-for cute :D)

“There are three things in life you should follow your heart in – don’t listen to anyone, just follow your heart.  The first is, obviously, who you marry.  The second is what work you want to do – what field you specialise in, your job.  The third thing is where you want to work.  I wanted to work here, in Pakistan, so I’m staying despite tremendous pressure to go back to USA.  But you shouldn’t do anything except what you want in these three things.”

-Dr Saulat Fatimi

“Always treat your patients like you would treat your mother, father, brother, sister, cousin, whatever.  Never recommend any treatment for them that you wouldn’t for your own family.”

-Dr Saulat Fatimi (and the best thing is, he actually does treat them that way.  More than any other doctor I’ve seen. He’s a great example)

“He might come or he might not: the thing with Dr Saulat is, you never know.  Be on your toes. Be prepared.  Brace yourself.”

-Dr Durriya, our intern (most important advice we received :D)

“There will be times when you think it’s you doing it, but it’s not, its something else.  By third year of medicine I began thinking about what the hell I’d gotten myself into, and I lost heart.  But there was always something else that wanted me to get through, that wanted me to pass.  And its happened several times.  There were exams I never studied for, interviews, that I passed without knowing how or why.  All I knew was that it wasn’t me, it was that something else. Its given me great faith in that ‘something else’ and over the years I’ve come to believe that this is really the right thing for me.”

-Dr Abdul Rab, also an intern

(To each and every patient) “I will advise the same treatment for you that I would want for a member of my family.  I will give you the same treatment I gave in St Louis or Long Island, or I would give the prime minister, or a member of my family.  If you need me at three at night or at two in the afternoon, you will find me by your bedside.  If I touch you, you are only my responsibility and no one else’s.”

– Dr Saulat Fatimi

“You don’t have to decide what you’re going to do right away in third year.  Third year is for smelling.  A little bit of this, a little bit of that, oo waffles! I like the smell of waffles! Then fourth year is for tasting, getting your fill of things.  By fifth year you start to really eat, and decide what you really want to do as a specialisation.  But by fifth year you need to decide.”

-Dr Taimur Asif Ali (*sigh* cute-ness)

Siddiq bhai: Sir, what’s the best music in the whole world?


(he said that because Dr Saulat loves Shania Twain and never listens to anything else in the OR)

“When you run in the Olympics, you need to be an Olympian.  You need to train for it, you need to work hard.  Not everyone is an Olympian. But if you are selected, you need to prove yourself worthy.”

-Dr Saulat Fatimi (on our failing to answer his questions ‘like an AKU student should‘)

“Never ever correct a senior if you’re in surgery.  Never ever answer a question correctly that your senior answers wrong.  You may get that momentary glory, that little over-smartness in front of the consultant, but in the long run you’ll suffer.  That senior, that resident or intern you put down in front of the consultant, he’s going to be the one teaching you stuff. And he’s not going to teach you if you don’t show him respect.  So don’t ever put him or her down in exchange for that little moment of glory. You can do that stuff in Medicine rotations maybe, but not here, not in Surgery.”

– Dr Saulat Fatimi (when we answered a question Dr Taimur happened to get wrong)

“Someone who climbs the Nazimabad mountain, you know that little hill in north nazimabad? He would also be a mountaineer, the same as someone who climbs Mount Everest.  So which is better? Climbing that little mountain forty times, or climbing mount everest once or twice? Who better deserves to be called a mountaineer? If you think climbing the nazimabad one lots of times is better, that’s fine, but then you can’t stay with me.  You need to be great if you want to work with me, you need to be able to want something, achieve something big.”

– Dr Saulat Fatimi


Its been amazing.  I don’t want the thing to end. 😦

Anyway.  Talk to you soon.

21 thoughts on “Wisdom from the first week of CTS

  1. The one about not correcting your seniors is so true!!! 😐
    No wonder the senior house officer at St. Thomas disliked me thoroughly.

    Cardio-thoracic surgery is pretty wow though :D. I never see myself pursuing surgery, any kinda surgery. I’d probably fall in a coma and never wake up from the sheer shock of it all. My worst moment was in “Vascular Surgery” when a patients brachial artery just would not stop acting like a fountain.

    Dude, we should totally meet up, if I ever come to Khi or you come to my city that is 😀

    1. I’m kinda undecided about surgery actually. I like it, its hellishly challenging, what with the male dominance and the difficult training, and I like challenges but then one has to be practical too. What field(s) are you interested in then?

      That brachial incident sounds terrifying, if I faced something like that I would freak too. The aorta bubbles a lot in bypasses, but its usually under control soon.

      I know!! We totally should. I would love to meet you 🙂 What city are you in? Not that I’m leaving my little hellhole Karachi for anywhere else any time soon, but we should definitely get in touch if you come here. 🙂

      1. Yar, a few weeks ago, I met this girl at a wedding (the groom’s sister) actually and she is specializing in Neuro-Surgery. She was stick thin and so tiny. From what I hear, her supervisor is the best surgeon in town. I was quite impressed. You’re right about it being hectic as well as a predominantly “masculine” field but who knows :D. Women might do wonders in it in the coming decade.

        I like medicine. I love rheumatology and immunology.

        The brachial incident – You know what had happened. There was a foreign body in the guy’s arterial coat. I wonder how it got there because there were no signs of trauma on his arm. As soon as the surgeon removed it, the artery went : watch me shower you now.

        And I mailed you about where I live :o. I might be in Karachi in JULY :D. Not a good time to visit Khi, I know but I will hopefully be free then.

        1. Wow. I didn’t know arteries were so vengeful. That sounds like an interesting case. I wish I’d taken vascular surgery in the selectives but then there were so many options and I picked CTS in the end.

          Oh, that sounds hopeful 🙂 except for the stick thin part. I hope more women come into surgery. Especially in the difficult ones, neuro, CTS, vascular. That would be really cool 😀

          July will be cool if I don’t have exams at that time 🙂 Its certainly not the best time for karachi but hey, so long as you come 🙂

      2. med students wanting to meetup to discuss medical stuff. wow.

        the only time i met up ppl from the net was to discuss “the shameless commercial proliferation of music that robs all artists of their mojo and how to counteract it with an anarchical noncommercial creative commons concept album to pwn the universe” with omer

        that worked out fine though 🙂 we got on MTV!

        1. Med students are cool :o.

          Shameless commercial whatawhata?? 😮

          MTV – now, that’s nice 😀

        1. didn’t the fact that you ended up on MTV as a result of a crusade against mainstream music kind of nullify your efforts? I’m just sayin’. 😛

          Neurosurgery is overrated.

  2. Neurosurgery isn’t overrated, the world is.

    and no see, we are technically Spies from the rebel anarchy pretending to be hippies on MTV Desi. ^_^

    We have gained their trust. I think thats enough of that mission for now.

    Med students are cool, says a med student XD

  3. and sorry not proliferation, it was proselytizing

    as in ‘Vehemently proselytizing the Infidel under a highly islamicised variety of Cocaine’ <- rakas song

  4. tremendous group of professionals I must say. Very excellent and valid advices. Words of wisdom you should stick to. Lucky you. I always appreciate the efforts doctors put in to save one’s life and the work they do. it is sad to see how ppl take these things for granted and then because of few black sheeps label the whole profession as “Yeh doctors ajkal bother hi nahin kartay koi maray ya jiye”. Keep doing what you are doing. we salute u all.

    1. Honestly speaking, having seen and worked with quite a few doctors, there really are some that don’t genuinely care for their patients as much as say, a doctor like Dr Saulat would. But the majority are efficient if not always compassionate so I guess you’re right. *bows to the salute* 🙂

      Lucky me! hehe. I think that too. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work with these inspiring people and to be given that chance to improve upon and become a better doctor. I really was lucky ^_^

    1. poor oddlal. don’t worry, you will breeze through too, hopefully. before you know it you’ll be looking back and thinking how silly you were to lose heart when this was where you really belonged.

  5. The wisdom is much appreciated =p
    Despite being in only 4th semester, I’ve been eying to become a Cardiothoracic Surgeon ever since. Is that perfectly okay to make your mind up that early? 😦 I plan to take electives this winter and that too in CTS.

    —– Confused-impatient Medical Student. 😉

    (Not that I assume you to be aunt agni :p )

    Oh and btw loving that bit from Dr. SF:
    “You don’t have to decide what you’re going to do right away in third year. Third year is for smelling. A little bit of this, a little bit of that, oo waffles! I like the smell of waffles! Then fourth year is for tasting, getting your fill of things. By fifth year you start to really eat…”

    1. Okay, personally speaking, its not a good idea to make up your mind too early. Go into the clinical years with your mind open and enjoy every rotation. As time passes, your ideas about what’s possible for you to do and what you enjoy will change. What your responsibilities will be and where you want to practise (here or abroad), as well as a dozen other factors, will influence your final decision. So don’t be too set on anything, and while going through rotations try to experience each with an open mind and full enthusiasm before you pick one.

      On the other hand, having decided after some ‘tasting’ 😛 a determination to go into a certain field is a good thing. It will help you through doubts and maybes.

      As for CTS, I would definitely advise you to go for electives in them. If you’re in Karachi, apply to AKU and Dr Saulat – you will never forget the experience, it is truly amazing 😀 But as a career, again speaking personally, CTS is not your best choice. People say its a field that sort of decreasing in importance and may lose value over the years. So keep that in mind if you’re thinking of it as a career choice.

      LOL when you appeal to my aunti-Agni side, you will get a response that long 😛

      and that quote’s by Dr Taimur btw. *sigh* I miss CTS now, haye. haha.

      1. Whoops, my bad! I actually had an upset stomach, typed it up in a rush :p
        AKU does not offer clinical rotations until the final year, official that is. I am in Karachi and considering NICVD or perhaps KICHD if the former proves to be really really faraway from home. Oh and these doctors, especially Dr. Rab and Dr. Saulat, I’ve heard so much of as they happened to be my mom’s teacher and intern respectively.

        And THANK YOU for the aunt agni-ed response. Btw I’ve been a silent reader/admirer of your blog for quite sometime. 🙂

        1. Unofficially tou hotay hain na. If you have any contacts with Dr Saulat at ALL, hell any contacts with Any AKU doc or anyone else who can give you a reference, try to get in. Its a great experience. Otherwise there’s also Tabba. Dr Bashir (i think?) is a really good doc there, from what I’ve heard – my friends did internships there, they said it was great. I applied too, but I was a bit late so I didn’t get the time slot I needed, so I did mine at LNH in plastic surgery. Otherwise NICVD and KICHD tou hain hee. I think the former is a better option but I have nothing to base that on lol, just that its older.

          Dr Rab was my grandad’s friend and collegue for a very long time 😀 so even I’ve heard about him a lot and met him too. Your mom’s a doc? That’s nice. Lucky for you 😀 My dad’s a doc too, its so much fun discussing medical stuff with him.

          Aww, a silent admirer. I’m flattered lol.

        2. Thank u for plenty of advice, you eeez kind 😀

          Yeps! Mom is doctor, chachoos are docs, khalaas are docs, phuphos and phuphas too :p So there’s enormous, self imposed pressure to outdo them all 😉 You must share the feeling what usually would be the topics of discussion over the dining table 😀

          The pleasure is all mine 🙂

  6. Dr. Sualat thank you very much. Arshad Son of Ashraf un nisa (Surgery 11-May-2011). Mashallah my mother perfectly doing well after surgery. Thanks to you for everything u did for my mother. Especially when she was in step-down after surgery I wish every doctor care their patients like you. You are such a great personality we really proud of you. God Bless you.

Leave a Reply to Xehra Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s