Fifth-Year Resident Publishes Perspective Essay in New England Journal of Medicine

February 4, 2020

Dr. Alessandra Colaianni portraitLast week, Harvard Otolaryngology Chief Resident Alessandra Colaianni, MD, published a perspective essay in the New England Journal of Medicine. This piece, titled Fun, shares Dr. Colaianni’s experience in the operating room throughout her years of training. She explores a question — and answer — posed to her during medical school about why a particular surgeon does what he does.

"He turned to me and asked, 'Why am I doing this?'

Having prepared the night before, I started to explain that the patient had previously been diagnosed with gastric cancer and had undergone curative surgery, but was now suffering from the most common cause of bowel obstruction — “adhesions,” internal scars left by her prior surgery around which loops of her intestine had twisted, causing unremitting vomiting of bright-green bile. This routine surgery would relieve the twisting, and her symptoms.

But the surgeon stopped me midway through my explanation: 'No,' he said, smiling behind his mask and drawing the knife through her skin, 'we’re doing this because it’s fun.'”

Read on.