Recipe for a Good Transplant Surgeon: Guts, Compassion and a “Dash of Insanity”

By ABC News

Jul 24, 2012 7:05pm

Arundi Mahendran, MBBS, is a transplant surgeon having completed a 2 year fellowship in abdominal transplant surgery at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. She is currently completing her PhD thesis at Goldsmiths College/Imperial College London.  She trained at University College London, UK. Mahendran was born in London and now currently lives in New York City. Between surgeries, she can be found singing in the hospital’s chapel. Mahendran now appears on ABC News, “NY Med.”

I’m a transplant surgeon and a Londoner, from Blighty, as we say over there! If I hear one more joke about “alright guv’nor” or “tea and crumpets,” I will have to beat myself with Mary Poppins’ umbrella.

I arrived in NYC two years ago and embarked on an incredible odyssey – both a surgical voyage of discovery and a transformative personal journey. Coming from a thriving place like London, I wanted to train in an equally vibrant city with a dynamic clinical environment, and be exposed to high-volume, challenging surgeries on patients with complicated medical problems. Luckily for me, I landed at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital. It was like a pilgrimage because I got to work with the great and the good in transplantation.

The making of a transplant surgeon is a special recipe.  It needs a half cup of guts and stamina, a table spoon of compassion, a generous sprinkling of optimism and just a dash of insanity!  Being a female transplant surgeon is to go against the grain because Transplantation is a male-dominated field.  Transplantation is not just a job, its a way of life.  You have to balance the long hours and sleepless nights by reconnecting with other things in your life like music, literature and  time with family and friends.  I think this makes you a good human being and a much better surgeon.

Filming “NY Med” was another extraordinary adventure.  When the ABC crew arrived at NewYork-Presbyterian’s Columbia campus, I was reluctant and actually politely declined to participate. One day, along came Andy Genovese (broadcast producer “NY Med”), a charming little lad with a cheeky grin. He explained what the show was about and intoxicated me with gallons of bubble tea. Working with Andy and Brandon Terrell, an expert cameraman, we were able to tell the inspiring stories of the courageous patients who walk through our doors.

Brandon filmed the chapel scene. He had finished shooting a kidney transplant with me and as we said goodbye, he asked me where I was going. He then decided to accompany me.  Once we got into the chapel, I proceeded to do a bunch of scales and warm-up exercises and he just kept the camera rolling.

As far as I was concerned, I was jamming in the chapel with my buddy! There was just one take, from the moment he switched the camera on to when he switched it off as I finished singing, left the chapel and got onto a bus to go home.

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