The unexpected suicide of a graduate of our surgical residency program — nearly seven years ago — still reverberates off the walls of Stanford Hospital. While he didn’t end his life on the premises (that happened during fellowship in another city), the effects of his tragic death subdue the residency to this day
It’s been about three years since Jacob committed suicide. In the high turnover microcosm of general surgery residency, there aren’t many who remember him.
His mother asks whether or not there will be a scar. I tell her yes. We’ll do our best to make it small, but there will be a scar.
From the moment I set foot in the hospital as an intern on June 24, 2016 at 4:55 a.m. to the present as I write this reflection, my life feels as though it were playing in fast forward. It is hard to believe Match Day was almost a year ago.
She was talking to another attending when I recognized her voice from around the corner. As a third-year medical student, I wanted to look busy, so I moved briskly, avoiding eye contact, trying to make it seem as if I were headed somewhere important.
Double-booking. Concurrent surgery. Procedural overlap. However it is named, the once clandestine practice is now under public scrutiny.
I didn’t know what it was, but it hurt — a subtle, gnawing soreness that I wouldn’t think about, but was never quite off my mind. Medical school had just started. I was beginning a new chapter in my life, and everything was good — everything except that unusual pain in my back.
A surgical resident writes: “Several recent studies suggest current general surgery residents are poorly trained and unprepared for independent practice at the completion of residency. In general, do you agree that current general surgery residents are poorly trained and unable to operate independently at the completion of residency?”
In an ideal world we would all die at home with our loved ones caring for us, slowly slipping away in our sleep into the placid beyond. But why doesn’t it happen this way? There’s a dignity to that way because of its organic simplicity. It’s how people used to die prior to modern medicine and before we started needing to always “fix the problem.”