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Table of Contents
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 33-34

Surgeons as community teachers in times of pandemic - Spreading cheer, not fear

1 Department of Laparoscopic and General Surgery, Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, New Delhi, India
2 Department of Colorectal Surgery, Zen Hospital, New Delhi, India
3 Department of Anatomy, Lady Harding Medical College, New Delhi, India
4 Department of Colo-Rectal Surgery, Currae Specialty Hospital, Thane, Maharashtra, India
5 Department of Colorectal Surgery, Bombay Hospital, Mumbai, India

Date of Submission22-Apr-2021
Date of Acceptance22-Apr-2021
Date of Web Publication28-Apr-2021

Correspondence Address:
Prof. Brij B Agarwal
F-81 and 82, Street #4, Virender Nagar, Janakpuri, New Delhi - 110 058
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/2666-0784.314978

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How to cite this article:
Agarwal BB, Patankar RV, Agarwal S, Mital K, Agarwal N. Surgeons as community teachers in times of pandemic - Spreading cheer, not fear. Indian J Colo-Rectal Surg 2020;3:33-4

How to cite this URL:
Agarwal BB, Patankar RV, Agarwal S, Mital K, Agarwal N. Surgeons as community teachers in times of pandemic - Spreading cheer, not fear. Indian J Colo-Rectal Surg [serial online] 2020 [cited 2021 Jul 28];3:33-4. Available from: https://www.ijcrsonweb.org/text.asp?2020/3/2/33/314978

“All I know is that I know nothing.”

The Oracle at Delphi was asked, is anyone wiser than Socrates? “No one” was the answer. Socrates always thought of himself as the most ignorant one. He didn't publish his work, but his wisdom was recorded by his student Plato, who believed “And what is good … and what is not good, need we ask anyone to tell us these things.”[1],[2] Plato, in 'The Republic' called this proclamation of being unwise as “the noble lie” a lie told as a foundation for virtuous behaviors to a healthy way of thinking.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has tried our collective experience, knowledge and wisdom, revealing our ignorance threadbare. Onset of the second wave has reminded us that all we know is that we know nothing. Despite our collective ignorance, society seeks succor in advice from us and rightly so, given our years of medical practice. Our training in surgery was premised on sayings of Halsted and Osler that “A surgeon is a physician par excellence, who also knows the craft of surgery.” This pandemic calls upon us to be community teachers, taking Halstedian learnings of being 'a physician par excellence.' This will help us construct a Platonian Noble Lie as the foundation for virtuous behaviors to a healthy way for society. We know that any disease for its continuance needs to build the triad of Pathogen-Host and Environment. The first being mysterious as it has been in the current pandemic, we need to work on breaking its link with the other two i.e., Host and Environment.

Surgeon's role as community leaders and teachers has been widely recognized. The adherence and compliance to even a nonsurgical advice given by a surgeon is better than the same done by a nonsurgeon physician.[3] This provides us with an opportunity to teach the community around us, helping them to cope better with the ongoing pandemic surge. We should proactively reach out to all segments of society to emphasize the already known about prevention, control, and management of COVID-19. We can play important role in prevention, treatment and health facility management for beating the pandemic. For prevention, we should repeatedly advise about the primacy of personal hygiene by way of not touching our body surfaces or other surfaces unnecessarily, wash our hands with soap whenever exposed to a touch, minimize meeting fellow humans by staying at home as far as possible, maintain a safe physical distance if meeting becomes inevitable and wear a proper mask properly. For treatment management we should continue to encourage fear-stricken community, telling them the self-limiting nature of this otherwise omnipresent virulent virus. We should teach our contacts, personal hygiene, drinking lots of fluids, eating healthy and healthy physical activity indoors. As for improving healthcare facilities, we should partake in endeavors to ensure:

  • That all hospital beds are connected to central oxygen source to obviate the need of cylinders with problems inherent to transport, connectivity, tubes, and flow management with cylinders
  • That we encourage our administrators to put up an in-house oxygen plant even in small healthcare facilities. It will avoid the crisis being faced in oxygen transport given the noisy, irresponsible nature of our democracy that finds itself incompetent in preventing easy and willing host for the virus, by way of gatherings in name of farmer protests, election rallies or religious regularities.

Our enthusiasm and zeal to resume and revel in restoring our routine surgery lists has also played a role in the surge of this deadly second wave of COVID-19. Like all other sections of society, we too can't be absolved of our role in this wave. Eager as always, we are to serve the society again for the misery of neglected non-COVID diseases, we have to play our role as wise physicians and social teachers, till we are out again on our voyages, as Tennyson wrote “To Strive to Seek and Not to Yield” depicting the yearning of Ulysses while at home in Ithaca. Our feelings are same as lamentations of the king idle at home:

“It little profits that an idle king, By this still hearth, among these barren crags, Match'd with an aged wife, I mete and dole. Unequal laws unto a savage race, That hoard, and sleep, and feed, and know not me.”

Let us all continue with the spirit of Ulysses “To Strive to Seek and Not to Yield” and work forwards in this age of eased digital living and digital medicine with digitally revolutionized surgical practice.[4],[5]

We, the surgeons hope for better days and life in scrubs, in operating rooms, very much Ulysses who prefers life among his sailors [Figure 1]:
Figure 1: The return of ulysses

Click here to view

“I cannot rest from travel: I will drink Life to the lees: all times I have enjoy'd Greatly, have suffer'd greatly, both with those That loved me, and alone, on shore.”

Till then, we play our roles as teachers, guides and succor providers, remembering what Lord Krishna advised in situations of helplessness. Ashwathama, a Mahabharata warrior-hero unleashes Narayan-Astr (weapon of mass annihilation). Lord Krishna tells the Pandavs and their warriors to drop their weapons and lie down on the ground so that they all surrender completely to the power of the weapon. He instructs them to not even have a thought of confronting it, advises to just lay low from the path of enemy fire, thus letting it burnout and dissipate into harmlessness [Figure 2]. Similarly, we should stay away from wasting our energies in lamenting about surging pandemic and utilize our wisdom for the community in letting the pandemic dissipate for our times at sea of operation rooms, again.
Figure 2: Ashwatthama uses narayanastra

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  References Top

Agarwal BB. Journey of the carbon-literate and climate-conscious endosurgeon having a head, heart, hands, and holistic sense of responsibility. Surg Endosc 2008;22:2539-40.  Back to cited text no. 1
Agarwal BB, Agarwal N, Dhamija N, Chintamani. Mentoring in surgery-mentor, Parshuram, Dronacharya, Krishan. Indian J Surg 2018;80:81-3.  Back to cited text no. 2
Warner DO. Surgery as a teachable moment: Lost opportunities to improve public health. Arch Surg 2009;144:1106-7.  Back to cited text no. 3
Agarwal N, Chintamani. Cashless, Tech-Savvy future surgeon. Indian J Surg 2016;78:171-2.  Back to cited text no. 4
Agarwal N. Even handed future of surgery-ambidextrous, serious gamers with innate left hand laterality. Indian J Surg 2016;78:509-0.  Back to cited text no. 5


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


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