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Rising Stars: Neurosurgery: Long Hours, Making a Difference
At age thirty-six, Tom is two years out of his residency and is just beginning his work as a neurosurgeon at the private practice Peachtree Neurosurgery in Atlanta, Georgia. Although it has required long hours and lots of frustration to get him there, he is happily settled in his job at Peachtree and enjoying his work as a neurosurgeon.
Name: Dr. Tom Morrison
School: College of the Holy Cross; Emory Medical School
Years Out of College: 10+
Company: Peachtree Neurosurgery
When Tom started off at Holy Cross, he had no idea that he would end up in medicine, much less that he would become a neurosurgeon. At first his interests lay in finance, but he grew frustrated with the self-promoting culture of the industry. Tom decided that he wanted to do something that would help people more and in his junior year decided to go to medical school. After four years at Emory for medical school, he went on to seven years of residency at Northwestern University in Chicago. Like many aspiring surgeons, Tom worked insanely long hours, typically averaging 120 hours per week.
From Then to Now
One question you might ask Tom is why he chose
neurosurgery, which has some of the most rigorous training
of any field of medicine. Tom decided in medical school
that he wanted to go into surgery--a field which, according
to Tom, is suited only for those with the right mentality:
"You have to be willing to work hard and make some major
Through neurosurgery, Tom feels that he is able to really help people and make a difference in their health and lives. Now, at Peachtree, he is on the verge of becoming a full partner and becoming board certified. Without a doubt, it's a great place to be.
An aspect of the healthcare industry that Tom finds most
frustrating is the legal and liability issues surrounding
care provision. In spite of a doctor's best efforts, not
all health outcomes are good and many times patients expect
more than is possible from their care providers. As Tom
puts it, every doctor wants to help their patients, but no
one is perfect. Although Tom himself has never been sued
for malpractice from a dissatisfied patient, the
possibility of such of thing occurring just adds anxiety
and frustration to his job.
As much as Tom loves his job, he knows that he can't stay in it forever. Being a surgeon simply isn't possible much past age fifty-five, as you don't have the skills when you get older. Tom has considered going back to school to get his MBA at some point down the road. By age fifty, if not sooner, he can see himself doing something else. Without a doubt, he will put the same zeal into his future work that he now puts into his surgery.
Advice for Others
The path that Tom has taken might not be right for
everybody--the long hours, years of training and high
stress that accompany neurosurgery are difficult. Tom's
advice is that you should only go into neurosurgery if you
are passionate about it. He comments: "if you want to go
into medicine, you just have to really really love what you
want to do." All other factors like money and prestige
should not be critical reasons for your choice of career.
After all, being a surgeon isn't the only career available
in the healthcare industry.
In spite of this, if you have your sights set on being a surgeon, Tom reckons you should do it, as "it's just what you love." For him, this is definitely the truth.
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