Thursday, January 1, 2009


I won an award last year. I'm not terribly proud of it and it is still sitting on my desk. A society which I helped found and on whose executive I sat gave me its yearly "Outstanding Service" award. I begged them not to; I gave them all kinds of names of more deserving people but they still wanted to give me the award.

The afternoon of the award ceremony I was having lunch with two other doctors and we got into the topic of awards and how stupid they are (actually the other two got into the topic, I just nodded in agreement). I knew at that time I was going to get that award so I just hoped they weren't coming to the dinner that night.

Anyway, I pretended to act surprised and pleased and used the mandatory speech time to thank all the great people I have worked with or used to work with. (I of course didn't mentioned all the assholes I worked with.)

I thought about this because yesterday the New Years list of the Order of Canada recipients came out. This is Canada's answer to knighthoods and peerages which Canadians are no longer eligible for. I have long given up any pretense or hope that I will ever get one of those awards.

The first thing that raised my blood pressure was the announcement that Celine Dion had been elevated to the highest level. This means that Celine Dion already has an order of Canada. This is of course the Celine Dion who lives in the US, and who waited six months to bring her baby back to Canada just to ensure that her baby would be eligible for American citizenship.

The other Order of Canada that set me off was the announcement that one of the local cardiac surgeons (not the one whose legs are now longer) had received the award. It spoke of his leadership and his role in innovations in cardiac surgery.

Innovations? Basically cardiac surgeons work the way they have worked for the past 30+ years. They sew harvested veins onto diseased arteries. Occasionally they take out rotten hearts and sew in new hearts. They take out old valves and put in new valves. But all the advances in cardiac care in the past 20 years have come from the cardiologists. Most of the advance in transplant care have come from improvements in immunosuppression. We shouldn't forget the anaesthesiologists and intensivists without whose participation cardiac surgery would be a much more risky procedure.

A few years ago our provincial medical society in honour of the provinces 100th birthday came out with a list of the 100 physicians of the century. Now the problem with such an ambitious list is that there are probably a maximum of 20 doctors who obviously need to be included. Then you have to fill out the other 80 positions. This inevitably means you include quite a few "Celine Dions" and ignore a lot of hardworking doctors who worked in the trenches.

One of the more egregious "Celine Dions" was a young transplant surgeon at the CofE. One of the many programs of excellence at the centre of excellence is the pancreatic islet cell transplant program. Research into this had been going on for years when this individual arrived on the scene as a transplant fellow. He was English, had an incredibly posh accent and just happened to be the transplant fellow when years of research by other people reached its fruition. He of course became the face of the program and indeed of other organ transplant programs. The fact that his surgical skills were below average and that he was an incredible arrogant and pompous asshole. Becoming a physician of the century only made things worse.

Bitter, not at all. As I mentioned I got an award last year too!

No comments: