Saturday, July 20, 2013

For Babs: In Memory of AR Moosa

My chairman passed.

A wave of memories washed over my core.

In medical school, he was my mountain I had to face to become a general surgeon. I needed a letter of recommendation from him. Although my anatomy professors, cardiac surgeon, plastic surgeons, and trauma surgeons on all of my rotations enthusiastically supported my career choice, my options were useless without winning a 'thumbs up' from him.

He looked like the Grinch to me, and I was afraid of him. He was known to have power and have enjoyed using it. (many doctors who are in academic medicine are like this.)

He was from Mauritus. He spoke with a French accent because he lived in Paris for some time. He studied medicine at the University of Liverpool, and had originally wanted to go into internal medicine. For some reason, that did not work out, and he went into surgery instead.

He became a master of the pancreas, which is a very deep organ and is difficult to work with. Sewing through pancreatic tissue is like suturing wet toilet paper. During a Whipple (pancreaticoduodenectomy, of 'Steve Jobs procedure') he sews the stump of the pancreas duct which is the size of the opening on the bottom of a click ball point pen--to the bowel. The procedure takes six hours, and requires both mental and physical stamina.

'We have just crossed the Rubicon' Dr. Moosa would say in the Whipple when he had divided the pancreas, 'we have reached the point of no return'.

For all his nasty reputation, and all his rancor, something in me deep inside liked him. That is why I am writing about him today. As a woman, I am writing this about him today. This is most likely the only one that ever will!

He had been written up time and time again on his poor treatment of women. When I came on service, he had just been called on the carpet for calling all women 'Veronica' in the O.R., simply because he could not remember all of the names and Veronica was the name of his first girlfriend. As a result, the generic term for women that the University allowed was 'Young LADY'. For the men, it was unchanged, it was allowed to continue to be 'Chief'.

During a Whipple, the medical student retracts the liver with a metal instrument that has a big handle. It is like water skiing. Many a resident has fallen asleep holding the liver, standing up. I have. But not when I worked with Babs. He leaned his arms into my breasts while he worked. No one had ever done that to me before, no one ever since! In fact, there is a retractor device that will hold the liver instead of a medical student. There are many of them.

A thousand thoughts went through my mind while he was touching my breasts, acting like nothing was happening. I wanted to run, I wanted to complain, and yet, it was what I had to do to get my letter. I had to be cool and that way each of us would get what we want. He wasn't fondling me. But we both knew he enjoyed it, and that made me sad to be in that position. Who would they believe? Me? Or him?

He used to laugh on rounds and say, 'Surgery is a contact sport!'.

There was a lot of structure in the department. Rounds, conferences. Everything worked like clockwork. The teaching was fantastic.

Except for the meetings in his office. All of us sub-interns were invited after lunch to go to his office and have a beer. His brand was Rolling Rock. One girl, a muslim, came but refused the drink. I tried my best to fit in. There would be four of us together shooting the breeze and playing poker with our futures by what we had to say...

I noticed there was a prescription with his name on it by the bar. It was an antidepressant.

He liked race horses. If you look on the internet, there are two horses he must have owned--Moosa's girl, and Babs Moosa (he won over 200K!).

He thought of us sub-interns like racehorses. He groomed us and liked to watch us scramble for the top position. With all of his earnings as an expert witness ('I charge six hundred dollars per hour or fraction thereof--and I take my time!), he funded our travel to the American College of Surgeons. He introduced us to our programs we wanted to attend, and took us to their receptions. He said, 'all women need to wear Valentino'. I had invested in a private shopper at Nordstrom to help me achieve the look on my budget, and it worked.

He also invited us to his country club for Christmas Party. It was the oddest thing. We all sat around a long table, and he pitted us against one another. One question that had me floored was 'who likes to cook?' I was the only one that did. And with that I knew that I was probably not going to make it as a surgeon. I enjoyed home life too much. Sure enough, after two years, I switched to anesthesia.

It was strange how he didn't want us in his program. He thought it was better for us to go train someplace else. He was right, I think now, but at the time I felt like I was getting shoved out of the nest. Here are some stories of what he did to his residents over the years:

  • His chief resident in Chicago had to pick him up and drop him off like a chauffeur every day.
  • He also had to take care of Moosa's dry cleaning.
  • The ABC's of surgery--A--attack of be attacked, B--blame or be blamed, C--criticize or be criticized.
  • A good resident is like a fine persian rug--you have to take it outside and beat it every once in a while
Where is the psychic part in all of this? Well you knew it had to be in there, didn't you?

  • Last week I had the urge to write a post about 'scut', medical intern's 'grunt work' that nobody else wants to do.
  • I started hearing this commercial--I think it's his son--the age is right:
  • I started thinking about him.
  • A mutual friend told me he was in a coma.
  • Wednesday I had a very 'fuzzy and slow' day--he was passing, and it 'jammed my circuits'
  • Yesterday she told me he had died on Thursday. (I looked it up, he died on the 17th)
  • I told my friends from medical school about his passing.
  • He came to visit me last night.
Here is what he had to say:

There is Rolling Rock beer in Heaven.

He knew I was afraid of him, and he didn't do anything to help me not be afraid. He feels bad about this, especially now since he saw how focused I was on survival in general, and how my future and need for his letter affected me deeply.

There was a surgeon I really liked a lot who liked me back. He was also a playwright. He had spoken about me to Babs, who said, 'let her finish her training.'

He could have made the call to get me into some surgery programs that were more than B grade, but he thought I wanted to be near my family. (I actually got in because I had the same birthday as the program I wanted program's secretary to the chair's daughter, I looked pretty, and she switched the names on the rank list for those she 'liked'. I was not a 'first choice' into the program! LOL)

I asked him why he took one of our other female surgery sub-i's with him to Santa Barbara for a surgery meeting, and not me. He said, 'I like blondes--look at my wife!' (I had been to the house for one party once, and seen.)

He said to me, now, 'Thank you for your enthusiasm, for your Light.' and 'You are going to do well like he did in helping others. You are beautiful'.

Mediumship really helps.

Here is one last story for you:

A Korean businessman flew all the way out to California to see him for his hemorrhoids. He waited patiently and gave an expensive tie to Moosa as a gift. We were all in the room behind him, watching and learning. Moosa didn't even examine the man! He said, 'Take metamucil' and walked out of the room. The Korean's face fell. He had traveled far on the recommendation, and hoped for his problem to be cured by him. What he didn't know is that Moosa only liked to work on the pancreas and not anything else. (I wish Moosa had referred him to a colleague, but he didn't)

That was the kind of man that he was. A man's man, who liked gambling and ponies, rolling rock beer, and teaching surgery. He would take us out to the bars, keep us up all night, and expect us to show up at the hospital at five the next morning ready to operate! He used to brag that the average term of a surgery chair was five years. And he had been there longer! (he did twenty). But the time came where he, too, was replaced.

Babs Moosa, I love you! Thank you for teaching me surgery. Thank you for giving me 'Honors' and writing that nice letter. Thank you for helping me learn about life in so many ways. I forgive you for your 'indiscretion' on my breasts. It makes a good story, doesn't it? On 'what I had to endure and how strong I had to be to get where I am today'.

Namaste and Blessings,
I will pray for you,

Reiki Doc

P.S.  Here is a link to a website that has reviews from three others who were sub-i's like me--including quotes on the 'notorious Babs Moosa':