As a first-year clinical student at St George's Hospital, Hyde Park Corner, two experiences have stuck in my memory, one favourable and the other not.
A senior consultant took my patient to theatre for an amputation after a failed vascular operation. In the anaesthetic room the frightened patient asked the consultant to 'promise that you will do this operation yourself'. And the promise was made.
As soon as the anaesthetist had put the patient to sleep, the consultant turned to his registrar and said: 'Just get on with this, will you. I am going to the office where I have a lot of paperwork to attend to.' He then left.
This happened some 42 years ago and I promised myself that if I ever became a consultant I would never do such a thing. To the best of my belief I have kept this promise.
The favourable memory is of doing an ECG on a sick patient at 2am as duty medical clerk for Bob Rubens, then a house physician and now Professor Robert Rubens of Guys Hospital.
He asked me if I 'understood it', and when it became very plain that I did not, he sat down with me for a whole hour, one-to-one, to explain it. I thought then, and still think now, what a wonderful thing to do for a mere student at 2am, when every sensible person would want to get off to bed.
During all of my subsequent career when faced with a trainee in the early hours of the morning who was in need of teaching and all I wanted to do was to go to bed, the image of Professor Rubens came up before my eyes and I felt that it was my duty to continue to bear the torch that he had handed to me that night.
My record is not, I fear, 100 per cent, but I have done my best. Years later, meeting Bob at a social gathering, I reminded him of this incident, and of course he could not remember it at all.
The moral is that, for better or worse, senior doctors of every grade have an enormous continuing effect on those who are junior to them, and most of the time they will never know this.
Leicester consultant surgeon (colorectal & general) and president of the Royal Society of Medicine coloproctology section