January 1998

Workplace Labor Update - Heredity v. Environment - C's Cupboard - ASC – January 1998

2 min

Many surgeons I have met (both on and off the operating table) believe they are god-like and conduct themselves accordingly. That’s why I couldn’t resist sharing with our loyal readers the following sound human relations advice from a prominent Baltimore medicine man -- Dr. William H. B. Howard -- who is an exception to this rule and whose skill with a pen is exceeded only by his dexterity with a scalpel.

Bill’s pertinent philosophical observation is that there is a substantial risk in adopting a role in life other than that which nature or training has intended. Here is the irrefutable anecdote, in his own words, lifted from his notorious healthcare newsletter called "The Cutting Edge":

I once owned a turkey who thought he was a dog. He was a wild turkey, just a couple of weeks out of his shell, who arrived as a gift in a cardboard whiskey box with pictures of his ancestors on the sides. I took him home and introduced him to my pups, who fortunately were not on a poultry diet at the time. The bird, on the other hand, quickly developed a taste for dog food and waxed fat and strong on that menu. And since there were no other turkeys in the neighborhood, he figured he must be a dog and adopted the canine life-style of snoozing in the sun, chasing cats and going on runs with me and the rest of the pack. He had a pretty good stride, although he frequently cheated by flying when his drumsticks grew weary of running.

All went well for several months until the day my turkey joined the dogs in tormenting some new steers who, it turned out, were not easily cowed. These emasculated bovines couldn’t catch the pups, but they stomped the turkey unmercifully -- leaving him with a tattered ego and no tailfeathers. He recovered from his mental bruises, but the feathers never re-sprouted. Deprived of a stabilizer, his flying deteriorated. When he aimed for a tree limb, he would usually auger into the trunk -- and the side of the barn proved to be an irresistible target.

These aeronautical misadventures took their toll. My turkey developed such arthritis that he could barely walk in a straight line, let alone run with the hounds. When it became apparent that he was neither improving nor growing any more tender, he made a final appearance as the guest of honor at our Thanksgiving dinner.

Thus endeth the lesson!