Category: Alumni at Work, Alumni Stories, Health Magazine, Winter 2024

Title:Surgeon’s memoirs offer an inside look

Author: Gabrielle Barone
Date Published: January 18, 2024
a man in a black shirt
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Ruggieri

Sometimes doctors find themselves in situations they didn’t learn about in medical school. For Paul Ruggieri (M’87), this included going to a patient’s apartment after surgery and taking the patients’ beloved dog to a boarding kennel while he recovered.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Ruggieri says of the opening scene in his latest book, Confessions of a Surgeon: A Deeper Cut. “Things just happen. The situation compels you to do something you would’ve never thought you would do.”

Ruggieri calls his latest work a “pseudo-sequel” to his original Confessions of a Surgeon in 2012. Over the last 10–15 years, Ruggieri says, the landscape of medical practice and surgery has rapidly changed—from robotic surgeries to the business models—and it all affects patient care.

a surgeon in a medical gown bends over the words "confessions of a surgeon: a deeper cut"
Photo: Courtesy of Paul Ruggieri

Though he didn’t have formal training, Ruggieri likes to write and first published multiple patient-centered informational books, ranging from The Surgery Handbook to Thyroid Disorders. “The memoirs are harder because you have to weave interesting stories together. You don’t want it to be boring.”

The Georgetown value of cura personalis means care for the whole person, and Ruggieri took that into his medical career after graduating.

“Our role doesn’t end when you operate on the patient,” Ruggieri says. “Sometimes you have to go beyond the hospital walls, beyond what your training taught you. And I think most surgeons do that. They don’t talk or boast about it; they just do what they have to do.”

He used one of his most memorable medical school experiences— eagerly going from classroom learning to facing the reality of physical exams with live patients—for the opening scene of his original Confessions.

“I chose Georgetown because they had you work with patients right away. They emphasized that your career would be about treating human beings.”

“Our role doesn’t end when you operate on the patient. Sometimes you have to go beyond the hospital walls, beyond what your training taught you.”

—Paul Ruggieri (M’87)

While Ruggieri encourages doctors and students to keep a journal, he didn’t have trouble recalling certain scenarios for his memoirs. He notes that while it is easy to move on from good circumstances, the bad results often linger.

“Nobody teaches you how to process a bad outcome,” Ruggieri says, “or how to explain a surgical complication to the family. There’s no way to teach that in training or medical school.”

Ruggeri says the largest response to his memoirs has actually come from medical students. “I think it’s a realistic look, very blunt at times,” he shares. “But I went into medicine because it’s what I wanted to do with my life. There was nothing else, and most people who become doctors say it’s the same for them. This is what’s in their soul.”

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