What Makes A Great Surgeon?

The beginning of surgery can be dated back to the Neolithic and pre-Classical ages, which was proven by all sorts of evidence like small holes drilled in the skull for craniotomy procedure. It was even found that ancient Mayans had practiced dental surgery; evidenced by filling cavities with stones like turquoise and hematite. Surgery was also conducted for religious purposes and cosmetic reasons as well.

Surgery has a rich history and it has been looked upon with awe for the longest of time. Today, many students who have completed their A-levels and looking into entering the path of medicine are apprehensive about the thought of entering the field of surgery for their career.

So, what makes a great surgeon? What do students have to have in order to be competent surgeons?


If you want to be a surgeon, you need to embrace the idea of thinking about medicine almost every minute of your day. Somehow someway, your mind will be engaged with your work and it is often a struggle to detach oneself from it. This is one of the important reasons why surgeons often complain about not being able to strike a work-life balance.

Medicine is a vast field that requires medical students and doctors to keep themselves updated every now then. Even experienced surgeons need to refresh their memory on surgical anatomy!

With the advent of technology, there are new, more efficient surgical procedures that surgeons need to learn in order to adapt to the changes. There is constant learning, unlearning and relearning which surgeons need to engage themselves in. And this is only possible if one loves medicine to infinity and beyond.


The human body is an intricate piece of art. Each and every cell works with such great complexity and every system in the body coordinate with one another to function harmoniously. In order to dig into the body and perform minute and complex surgical procedures, one needs to have dexterity.

Dexterity is of utmost importance and hand-eye coordination is an important skill that one has to have. Things like suturing and know-tying techniques take a relatively long time to get the hang of. It is also important to note that some subspecialities are more demanding, so extent of practice required would vary for different areas within surgery itself.

All this comes from plenty of practice! In order to master these skills, young surgeons need to keep in mind that they need to have the patience and motivation to keep trying and to keep pushing themselves forward.


Surgeries can extend for long periods of time, and it’s also a time-sensitive matter. Some long-hour surgeries would demand surgeons to stay upright on their feet for extended periods of time. Surgeons need to get used to skipping meals and losing sleep because unfortunately a patient cannot be opened up on the table for long hours.

With sufficient practice and mental acceptance, you would start to enjoy the teamwork and you will find happiness in motivating each other during the surgery to keep the momentum going.

Surgery is a career that can give solid outcomes and it can be rewarding for most of the times. But it’s also important to have the mental stamina to overcome the inevitable poor outcomes that can be emotionally draining.