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“The World Needs More Canada” - Bono

Martin McKneally
Martin McKneally

This last column gives me the opportunity to say thanks to all I have worked with, interviewed, and written about these last 15 years. I’ll start with Richard Reznick, who asked me to give the Surgery Newsletter a personal, familial rather than archival feel. “What are they doing down there in the Department, and what are these people like?” That’s the style we’ve tried for. I knew we were close when Sylvia Perry described the Spotlight “like a small town newspaper that everybody reads”.

So, here is some family news. After 27 years in Toronto, and now well into my 9th decade, Deborah and I have recently become aware that we need to be closer to our family. We will be the 14th and 15th members of the family circle to move into the Boston area, with 6 more American offspring visiting regularly. We are renovating a century old house on the same street, just 2 blocks from our children and grandchildren. There will be plenty of room to welcome Toronto visitors.

I am planning a seminar in Surgical Ethics with colleagues at Harvard’s Center for Bioethics – further proof that I haven’t yet mastered “the art of retirement” (a title Ron Levine suggested for a final column). My excuse is that the opportunity to meet with younger colleagues, as I have throughout our Department of Surgery, and to learn from them about leading edge thinking, techniques, and controversies, has been a fountain of youthful ideas and experience that prevents hardening of the attitudes, and continually rewires aging synapses.

I encourage maturing surgeons to try it. Volunteer to help the next editor, as a reporter, or associate editor. Enroll in the MHSc in Bioethics and teach - so that each of the divisions can have a Mark Bernstein or a Karen Devon or a Mark Camp, stimulating members and trainees to engage in thoughtful discourse about how the specialty should think about the complex issues we are encountering with increasing frequency.

Martin and Deborah

Martin and Deborah McKneally at Scaramouche with the Spotlight book

New York Times columnist Tom Freidman reminds us in his stimulating recent book “Thank You for Being Late” of the disequilibrating forces of technology, globalism, and climate change that are accelerating the transformation of everything - from the way we hail a taxi to the world economy to the weather in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Similarly, costly technological changes in the OR, waiting lists that deprive patients of timely care, and economic segmentation of society are forces disequilibrating surgery. Time-bankrupted daily schedules pre-empt reflective discussion and planning for thoughtful action. Jim Rutka‘s introduction of the Balfour Lectures in Surgical Ethics and Karen Devon`s establishment of the Humanism in Surgery Lectures at Women’s College Hospital and the Ethics M & M in General Surgery are encouraging signs of our progress. The altruism of the global surgery initiative, including efforts to advance surgical care for indigenous and homeless Canadians, provides an opportunity for reflection as well as action.

I’ll close with thanks to Jim Rutka, John Wedge, Richard Reznick, Bernie Langer, Bryce Taylor, Shaf Keshavjee and all of my colleagues for their guidance. Special thanks to Jim for his friendship and a parting gift illustrated nearby - a 10-pound bound volume of 15 years of Spotlights.

Thanks to Alina, Julie, Nancy, Sylvia, Stephanie, Val, Tess, Joanna, and all of the Surgery Department staff. “A fist bump to all” and to our new editor, soon to be inducted by Jim Rutka. I will send occasional notes from Boston, and return from time to time for thesis meetings and celebrations, to keep me attached to my Toronto roots, refreshed for my mission to “Bring the world more Canada”.


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