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Studying Hands

By Daniel Foster01 Dec 2023

It had been twenty years since I withdrew from medical school, but the atmosphere hadn’t changed.

Perhaps that’s not strictly true. The classroom air was charged with the same energy and purpose, but the medical students and residents around me had weathered 4-6 of the most difficult years of their lives—via some of the most advanced and condensed training a human being can receive. They’d come through as cream-of-the-crop cerebrovascular surgical residents, not the hopeful inductees I remembered. These people were focused. Determined, but seasoned.

Additionally, this wasn’t medical school, per se. It was a flow symposium, created by one of the world’s preeminent cerebrovascular surgeons, Dr. Fady Charbel.

Dr. Charbel’s skill is renowned, and after a weekend spent with him and his brilliant residents, I understand why. Not only did I watch Dr. Charbel perform keyhole surgery on a living brain with the delicacy and precision of a diamond cutter, I watched his hand-picked residents practice-stitch with fingers that promised to soon be as steady as his own. Dr. Charbel uses our flow probes to assess the anastomotic quality of every bypass, and he won’t let his students do it any other way, because the best physicians use only the best procedures. In fact, he was so certain of the medically imperative nature of our probes, that he helped design them

Due to the staggering amount of scientific and biomedical knowledge doctors must amass, and the depth to which they must understand it, most physicians are left-brained.

And yet…

…Watching Dr Charbel demonstrate, then watching his students imitate, I was put in mind of Rembrandt or DaVinci guiding a group of apprentices whose art would soon adorn castles and cathedrals. The bypass Dr. Charbel performed was certainly driven by his logic and his scientific knowledge and experience, but he performed it with such grace that I could only describe the procedure as “beautiful.”

And so I watched young residents use microscopes to stitch together individual threads in gauze pads, then synthetic vessels, then real ones in chicken breast. With each pass of a curved needle, or each tiny knot pulled tight, I became more and more certain of a particular notion…

Yes, twenty years had been a long time.

But as I watched intelligence and focus materialize as grafts that will soon save lives, I am convinced that our future has never been in better hands.