‘Surgery is an art’

A doctor should have compassion, says cardiac surgeon Devi Shetty

Published - October 22, 2017 05:00 pm IST

Dr. Devi Shetty is one of foremost cardiac surgeons in the world. He is the chairman and founder of Narayana Health and has performed over 15,000 heart operations. He has been awarded the Padma Shri and the Padma Bhushan by the Government of India for his contribution to the field of affordable healthcare.

Dr. Shetty talks about his love for the profession and why the healthcare industry will turn upside-down in the next few years.

Love for cardiac surgery

I am essentially an artist, I used to like painting and drawing and I became a doctor because I love the profession. But I was constantly looking at the art side of it. And surgery is an art; it is not pure science.

Do you love your Mondays?

If I go on a holiday, after 24 hours, I start getting jittery. My wife feels the pain I’m going through and after a few days gets fed up and says let’s go back. For me, work is the best way to relax. Every minute of it, I’m interacting with somebody, bringing smiles on to the faces of people who are about to lose someone they love. That’s the best gift you can give to people.


I did my schooling at St. Aloysius, Mangalore. As for studying medicine in India, I’m a product of Kasturba Medical College, and according to me it is the best medical college in the whole world. When I was in medical school it was the best part of my life. What I hated most was the boring theory classes.

I was very much into sports, games and martial arts.

Right attitude

The fundamental requirement for you to become a doctor is you should love people. If you do not have the basic attitude of compassion, caring, empathy and kindness, I would strongly recommend you to opt for another field.


When you look at most doctors, they are all very philanthropic, and they have a bent of mind to care for people and help a lot of them. I’m in a privileged position so I can do a lot more. When someone holds a little baby and sits in front of you, and he has no money, are you really going to say ‘you don’t have any money, so I’m not going to operate on the kid’? You cannot do that. That is not philanthropy; it is my duty.

Indian education system

The entire education system is classroom-based. Education, especially medical education, needs to happen at the bedside of a patient, in the operation theatre, and in the ward; not in the classroom. Whatever knowledge you need is anyway available on the Internet.

Trends in healthcare

The entire health care industry will turn upside-down in the next ten years. This will happen primarily due to technology. The hundreds of patients who are waiting outside my office will disappear. Patients will be in touch with doctors through mobile phones from their homes. The way we treat patients will undergo dramatic change; personal health records will be maintained on their own phones. The doctor, when you call him, can go through your reports and advise you. The way the surgery happens is going to undergo dramatic change too. Today, they are at least in the operating room. In the near future, a doctor might be sitting in their farm house, and doing a major surgery in Africa. Health care will undergo a major change, and kids who are really good at playing video games will become the best surgeons.

The writer is a new-age career expert and business coach.

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