A pioneer in awake cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Vivek Jawali is a surgeon par excellence. MTTN had a chance to interview him during this IGCLA.
How would you describe the first ever awake cardiothoracic surgery way back in 1999?
A lot of planning had undergone before the surgery, so when it actually took place it was like any other surgery due to the meticulous planning to the very last detail. But after the surgery, we realized that it opened a new vista and that was a really good feeling. A couple of years later we performed surgery under heartland machine which was exciting. [Interviewer: Did you have this idea of performing an awake heart surgery from your MBBS days?] Well, to be honest, there was this guy in Turkey who performed something similar on minimal invasiveness and that gave us the idea for doing something similar.
For undergrad students, do you think something so specific as cardiac thoracic surgery should be a goal or does the thought of what you want to finally specialize in only comes gradually as one progresses in the program?
We are at a serious inflection point where there is some serious thinking that cardiac surgery and neuro surgery can be direct courses after MBBS. They used to be at one point of time. Today, unlike in the past there was a very beaten path. The options were limited and one could become a General Physician which was a glorious career or you could be a surgeon or pursue a career in ophthalmology or specialize in ENT or Public health. Today isn’t like that. Your menu is truly wide. You have a hundred options to choose from. You could do something completely different like biotechnology or go into law or something else. So, basically, when you are studying MBBS you shouldn’t be a nerd. Looking at your result to see whether you’ll get a seat or not. That is not what you should strive for. Have an open mind. By the time your internship is done, a majority of you will know what you don’t like but not many will know what you like. There are high chances of you ending up in a field you think of a burden. So my advice is, don’t listen to anyone. They’ll always give you a cynical view of everything and that isn’t what the real world is. The real world is exciting and you are lucky to be born in this generation. Also, you’ve got nothing to lose, you already made it to MBBS. Just listen to your inner voice which is always right. That is how you will discover your passion and thunderbolts. When you end up doing things you like, that is when you will want to put effort and toil hard. You won’t succeed until you work hard and cannot perceive excellence until you love it. When you do both, a combination of the two is fortune and fame. “jisse laksh milega na zindagi mein, voh kahi pe bhi pohacnh jaa sakta hai zindagi mei”(the one who has a goal can reach anywhere)
How have things changed since the past few years especially in your line of work?
See nowadays nobody wants to enter the field of cardiac surgery. And there are many reasons. Mostly because there has been an advancement in technology and doctors will vanish into the technological part of cardiac surgery rather than the surgery itself. Though, that is untrue. Because India being such a vast country, there are always patients with complications due to improper implants and they are again brought back to the cardiac surgeons for treatment. Thus, the thought that the number of heart patients will reduce is a myth. Cardiac surgery isn’t for those who want a 9-5 job, it is for the madly passionate ones. Life can only be exciting if you do something you love. Choosing the right career basically has the same analogy as that of finding the right partner.
How did you know that cardiac surgery was your destiny?
I still remember the adrenaline rush when I first saw a cardiac surgery being performed for the first time. I never found so much happiness in anything else. For me, I didn’t have one role model. Role models come in pieces. Put together it makes it a change in one’s life.
What are your thoughts on artificial intelligence and robotics in cardiac surgery?
Technology is like a tsunami which dates back to the wheel and invention of fire. Initially, new inventions came once in a hundred years, then it came by once in fifty years and during my time it started happening once in every twenty-five years. Science is developing fast. I’m sure it will have an impact in the field of medical care. It has already started, like for example 3D printing of organs. So, one can never say what turning points science will bring to us.
Last but not the least, sir what do you think about students opting for more specialties rather than going for a more holistic approach?
Choosing to be a General Physician is like Devanand-evergreen! Look at Canada, the United States and Europe, there the real heroes are general physicians. So if you want to be GP, just go for it. Don’t worry about the society judging you. If you do want to choose a specialty, then make sure you fall in love with it. And it is so important for the interns and the to-be-doctors to get hands-on experience in emergency medicine. When you work in an ICU that is when you know real problems when you start applying all that you have studied into practice. It builds you as a person, as a doctor and that is the best feeling.
Interviewer- R. Suhita