Several weeks ago at the Senior Members Breakfast at the American Society for Surgery of the Hand Annual Meeting, I had a chat with Dr David Green that turned out to be rather thought provoking. The Senior Members Breakfast offers the opportunity for members to present aspects of their life as they slow down or retire from clinical practice. David Green mentioned to me on 1 occasion that he was the chair of an instructional course on planning for retirement. Panelists gave their observations, plans, and advice. I was particularly struck by the singular observation put forth by Dr Shaw Wilgis, who reflected upon the fact that much of what we consider so important in our professional lives will one way or another end up “in the Dumpster.”
Those of us old enough to recall how we cataloged so diligently our slides, lectures, and other teaching materials will recognize that they were and perhaps still are relevant only to each of us and will definitely end up “in the Dumpster.”
How about the certificates, plaques, awards, and other paraphernalia we collect in our professional activities—“to the Dumpster.”
The scientific journals we bound every year with our initials on the binding are now even hard to engender interest on eBay and are only collecting dust—“to the Dumpster.”
Lastly, the relative value of all the text books I have acquired over the years was brought home to me by one of our fellows, while admiring the covers of the books, stated that now they all read everything on line so too—“the Dumpster.”
So what is left to reflect upon our professional lives? Dr Peter Stern, years ago, suggested that we should all keep the small notes, letters, and now e-mails from grateful patients. These will be our true legacies and will remain meaningful to our families, friends, and professional colleagues.