Every 20 years, one comes along...
October 25, 2013 6:22 PM   Subscribe

I remember reading a passage about (I think) the art & science of surgery, in which a professor or older physician remarked that every once in a while, a medical student would come along who was an immediate standout in their class and a natural in surgery. What book/article was this from? Bonus question: what are some other instances of this "trope" in different careers/skills?
posted by averageamateur to Society & Culture (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'm pretty sure this is in either Complications or Better (you might have read it in a piece in The New Yorker), maybe someone who has the books on hand or remembers them better can zero in on the exact context.
posted by telegraph at 6:24 PM on October 25, 2013

There's the concept of a "generational talent" in ice hockey.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 6:52 PM on October 25, 2013

Best answer: Complications by Atul Gawande has a passage that you might be thinking of:

Surgeons, as a group, adhere to a curious egalitarianism. They believe in practice, not talent. People often assume that you have to have great hands to become a surgeon, but it's not true. When I interviewed to get into surgery programs, no one made me sew or take a dexterity test or checked if my hands were steady. You do not even need all ten fingers to be accepted. To be sure, talent helps. Professors say every two or three years they'll see someone truly gifted come through a program--someone who picks up complex manual skills unusually quickly, sees the operative field as a whole, notices trouble before it happens. Nonetheless, attending surgeons say that what's most important to them is finding people who are conscientious, industrious, and boneheaded enough to stick at practicing this one difficult thing day and night for years on end. [Italics mine.]

This is on p. 19 of my copy, 2002 Picador paperback. It's in the chapter called "Education of a Knife."
posted by JuliaJellicoe at 7:56 PM on October 25, 2013 [7 favorites]

Response by poster: That's it! Fantastic, thank you.
posted by averageamateur at 6:33 PM on October 26, 2013

« Older Replace or repair   |   How can I resolidify (temper?) pure cocoa butter? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.