When two tribes go to war

Francis J Bowden
Med J Aust 2009; 191 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2009.tb03383.x
Published online: 7 December 2009

Surgeons v physicians: when push comes to shove, there’s “us” and there’s “them”

Physicians and surgeons are natural enemies. It is nothing personal: just as the lion circling for the kill affords its wildebeest prey no malice, the mutual antagonism between surgeon and physician is simply a law of the medical jungle. The antipathy that each group holds for the other is submerged in the shallow waters of professional courtesy, but when, on occasion, the true feelings of either tribe breaches the surface, the medical student initiate may be in for quite a shock. On the outside, relations might appear quite amicable — matey even — but try this experiment: ask your student whose next rotation is with a surgeon to casually drop the term “evidence-based medicine” into the conversation in the operating theatre.

  • Francis J Bowden

  • Academic Unit of Internal Medicine, Australian National University, Canberra, ACT.


Competing interests:

The author has received hospitality, friendship and gifts of wine from a number of surgeons and is keen to point out that the content of this article in no way refers to them. He is, however, not planning to have any elective surgery in the foreseeable future.


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