Neurosurgeon’s Perspective: Interview with Professor Philippe Schucht

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Authors: Dr. Bilal Zafar, Maria Rosa Ferreira, Inês Serra, Kashmala Khan

Neurosurgery is about passion and hard work, every day. Check out the inspiring story of Prof. Philippe Schucht’s journey where his every decision inside the operation theatre calculates life and death of his patients.

Becoming a doctor was not always the idea

Prof. Schucht is a very successful neurosurgeon for children and adults at the University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland. Somewhat surprising, becoming a doctor was not his childhood ambition. In his early life, he was fascinated by famous world explorers, inspiring him to become an explorer himself; to go out into the wild and travel across the world captivated his ambitious mind. He started his studies in humanities and philosophy until two key encounters with a heart surgeon and a neuroscientist changed the course of his life. 

 We often believe that our life follows a clear plan of ours. At least for me, being open to personal encounters was as important.

Prof. Philippe Schucht

Meet people smarter than yourself

Prof. Schucht is passionate about neurosurgery.Without passion and dedication, hard work is futile and progress unlikely. He prefers meeting better and smarter people than himself. Professionally, it is important for him to work and live with people who inevitably teach something exemplary. He frequently travels to colleagues in the USA, Europe and Asia, which contributes to his knowledge for the upcoming ever-evolving and ever-challenging world. 

If you look around in your room and you realize that you are the smartest one, you are in the wrong room. You need to get out and go somewhere else [to find smarter people].

Prof. Philippe Schucht

Profession and Leisure

Apart from managing a successful professional life Prof. Schucht equally enjoys his leisure. He enjoys various sports and mountain climbing for the adrenaline rush after the triumph of reaching the top. The sense of achievement grows with the difficulty of the challenge. The philosophical mind of Prof. Schucht beautifully connects his hobby with professional achievements. The movement of achievement after tirelessly focusing inside the operation theatre for up to 12 hours thinking you can’t make it until you actually achieve your goal is synonymous to reaching the top of a mountain after a pretty steep climb. 

You may find yourself in a challenging case, for 8 hours or 10 hours or 12 hours, of a young kid in which you are not sure whether it is going to work out. You struggle. You continue. You suffer. And then, when you have finally successfully completed the surgery you go to the parents to tell them it worked, in this moment you feel impossibly tired and impossibly happy

Prof. Philippe Schucht

Project in Myanmar: Helping hands for humanity in Africa

Prof. Schucht believes that anyone can make a difference, using his or her own specific skills. Specialized in neurosurgery, he himself has been actively contributing to improve neurosurgical care in Asia, especially Myanmar, a country of 50 million inhabitants with only a handful of neurosurgeons a decade ago. Together with friends he created a non-profit organization (www.swiss-neurosurgeons-international.gov) with the aim of building neurosurgical capacity in Myanmar. They decided to focus on providing the most sustainable help: education. They trained dozens of local doctors, both in Myanmar and through sponsored fellowships in Switzerland. Today, each one of them provides medical care on their own, some becoming teachers themselves. The leverage provided by this succession of an increasing number of surgeons allows thousands of patients to be treated every year thanks to the program, many more than he and his team would have been able to operate themselves directly. Prof. Schucht invested his time, effort and experience to create a difference for humanity.

Source: Prof. Philippe Schucht

I am proud of my colleagues in Myanmar who day after day treat patients to a degree we could never do by just going there.This was one of the most satisfying experiences I have had in my professional life to not only care for my circle but to look out and reach out to people who are in need and meet colleagues who are very similar to us. Working with them and seeing what they do with much simpler means, less resources, less doctors, less nurses, less everything and seeing how brilliant they are and how passionate they are. This is a thrilling moment every time I visit Myanmar.

Prof. Philippe Schucht

Prof. Schucht made his project a success because of meeting the right colleagues. He suggests young doctors to create their own projects in foreign places. 

I can recommend this to any young doctor to think early and look for these projects and to act. Don’t wait till you reach 64 and when you are actually tired. Have the guts to do it young because then you can really think big.

Prof. Philippe Schucht

Neglect money when making a decision

When it comes to life choices Prof. Schucht encourages medical enthusiasts to make themwithout considering money in the equation. He does not deny the significance of money butbelieves that passion is a better guide. Whatever you feel passionate about, whatever you really love doing you will have a higher chance of exceling at. And if you’re great at doing something you will have a great chance of making a great living from it. Being excellent ultimately leads you to a healthy and happy living. 

I don’t say money is not important but I strongly suggest you make a decision as if money didn’t matter. Passion will lead to success, and success to a great life.

Prof. Philippe Schucht

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