According to Malcolm Gladwell, that means I can do open heart surgery! Any volunteers?
I have a very low opinion of the difficulty of cardiac surgery,Gladwell confessed. In fact, Gladwell said he believes that operating on a person is not much harder than operating a car.
Driving is insanely complicated,Gladwell exclaimed. There’s anassumption that everyone can learn to drive in a safe way. We don’t question that. There’s no screening. My mother’s 83 — she still drives.
If you can drive a car, you can ultimatelycut into someone’s heart, Gladwell concluded.
I’ve never done surgery on a human heart, that’s true, but I do have an edge: I’ve done animal surgeries, mostly brain surgery, which is, in the conventional wisdom, really hard to do. And unfortunately, I have to confess: even those animal surgeries were a heck of a lot more difficult than driving a car. Just the stitching up afterwards, for instance, is tricky stuff, and it takes a lot of practice to master well. And then there were the little things: I had to eschew coffee before slicing into a cat’s brain, because even tiny tremors were intolerable. You can jump into a car with a giant 64 ounce cup of Mountain Dew, no problem.
But then, of course, Gladwell’s claim isn’t that you could just jump into the operating room and get to work: you have to commit to it first.
I honestly think that…the overwhelming majority of college graduates, given the opportunity, could be better-than-average cardiac surgeons.
That is to say … if we put them through 10,000 hours of deliberate practice, they could all up end being good cardiac surgeons.
I don’t think there’s any magical talent, in other words… If you’re smart enough to get through college, you can be a great surgeon.
Huh. So anyone can be a heart surgeon, if they’re dedicated, invest years of effort in practicing, and master all the learning involved. I can almost agree with that; my experience with animal surgeries was enough to tell me that I had the basic skills and understanding that if I had gone on to medical school, I probably could have done it just fine. But my experience with animal surgeries also made me aware of how difficult it was, that I was not competent to do any surgery that complex then, and that it was going to take an intimidating amount of work to master.
I can also tell you now after years of experience working with college students that no, the majority of them I would not trust to do open heart surgery on me, and most I would not recommend to a medical school. It’s nothing personal, but not everyone is surgeon material — they have other strengths and interests. I’ll just point out that Charles Darwin briefly attended medical school, and he decided it was not something he could do.
The one reassuring thing about Malcolm Gladwell’s attitude, though, is that apparently he believes anyone, with a little practice, could replace Malcolm Gladwell. I strongly urge someone to do so.