Biography: Hovanesian is a faculty member at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and in private practice at Harvard Eye Associates in Laguna Hills, California.
Disclosures: Hovanesian reports having a financial interest in continuing his career for many years to come.
January 14, 2022
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BLOG: How to have a long career as a surgeon

Biography: Hovanesian is a faculty member at the UCLA Jules Stein Eye Institute and in private practice at Harvard Eye Associates in Laguna Hills, California.
Disclosures: Hovanesian reports having a financial interest in continuing his career for many years to come.
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We who have the privilege to operate on patients took many years to acquire and hone these skills. Giving them up — by force or by choice — is a shame.

It’s been about 30 years since I performed my first surgical procedures, and the following principles have kept me excited. I hope they are helpful to you.

John A. Hovanesian

Get your Z’s. Sleep scientists say 97% of us need at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night, yet only about a third of us get it, leading to an increased risk for depression, obesity, anxiety and vascular disease, according to the Sleep Foundation. One study showed that chronically getting less than 4 hours of sleep was like adding 8 years to your cognitive age. Doctor, make a point of getting to bed on time. Practice good sleep hygiene every night, not just before surgery.

Strengthen your core. Regular core exercise, including yoga or stretching for flexibility, helps you resist injury from repetitive movement and poor posture. It makes you more alert and your attitude more positive and gives you energy to cope with stressful cases. If you’re older than 40, exercise is the fountain of youth.

Prioritize posture. Whether you stand or sit looking through a microscope to operate, ask a staff member periodically to sneak a photo of you from different angles while you operate, unaware of the photos being taken. Ask yourself if you can improve your body’s positioning, and ask others to suggest ways to alter the setup for better ergonomics. You don’t do good work when your back hurts.

Review your surgical videos. As I have blogged before, reviewing regularly recorded videos is an extremely valuable, if humbling, exercise. Strive to learn a new procedure, or at least a new technique, each year, and you will retain excitement about practicing your craft.

Work like you don’t have to. Whether you have enormous debt or are fully financially independent, walk into your office or OR each day like there’s no place you’d rather be. Find a way to laugh with every patient you see and every staff member you encounter. Humor melts stress and builds bridges between people. It helps everyone cope. Like strawberry jelly, happiness can’t be spread without getting it all over yourself.

We who operate have been gifted with enormous responsibility but equally enormous good fortune. We are surgical athletes who owe it to ourselves and our patients to preserve our abilities — and our motivation — so that we may serve a little longer.