Dr Ranjit Rao in scrubs

Love in surgery – is it possible?

In Health and Nutrition by Ranjit RaoLeave a Comment

Something that is impossible to measure is the ability of the surgeon to be a conduit for higher or universal love. When patients are under an anaesthetic, their consciousness is wide open.


It has been a fascinating journey through medicine, general practice and subsequently into surgery. I grew up in a medical family with my father a busy general surgeon. He worked long hours and was frequently called out for emergencies. As a result of his busyness, his temper was often fairly short. On his operating days, our mother would warn us, “Be good, it is Dad’s operating day!” Despite that I set my sights on becoming a doctor from the young age of 10.

During medical training, I was exposed to the meditation teachings and practices of visionary Dr Craig Hassed, who subsequently became a dear friend and advisor. This was a refreshing subject amidst the hard slog of anatomy, physiology and clinical subjects. It gave me a reference point for my self. When one of my best mates was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the fibula bone it threw us all into disarray. He was treated with disfiguring surgery and chemotherapy, and during his treatments learned meditation via the Ian Gawler Foundation. After seeing the benefits he experienced from meditation, I also decided to make meditation a regular habit.

Apart from the personal benefits that meditation gave me, it also affected my thinking towards a career path. In fact it created a major dilemma for me. On the one hand I was interested in helping people through surgery and on the other I was now interested in the healing sciences of yoga, meditation and Ayurveda. They seemed like opposite poles of the compass. Additionally, I noticed that many surgeons weren’t the nicest of people! They were grumpy, tired, impatient, and simply rude. My mates said it was part of the toughening process and to grow a thick skin!

One day when sitting in the lecture hall preparing for the surgical first part exams, I had this moment of crisis. “What am I doing here? I am not one of those types!” The very next day I had pulled out of the training program, and embarked on a two-year stint as a holistic general practitioner, utilising meditation, yoga and Ayurveda. But, after two years, I was not fully satisfied. There was a restless unfulfilled part of me that still yearned to be a surgeon. Back I went again like a dog with his tail between his legs, and gained acceptance back onto the program. After completing four years of general surgery and another four years of urology, I finally graduated in 2006.

Over the last eight years I have had the great privilege of working as a surgeon. At times the type of work is tough and gritty, such as in a difficult kidney or bladder surgery, and about as far away from holistic medicine as I could imagine. However, it dawned on me that holistic surgery was actually an every moment reality by acting from a space of love. From that space comes the ability to listen, to listen fully, deeply, and attentively, like the person sitting in front of you is the most important person in the world. Being a surgeon is a great privilege as we are dealing with people at their most vulnerable and weakest moments. A loving heart, and a caring disposition can mean the difference between recovery or deterioration.

Something that is impossible to measure is the ability of the surgeon to be a conduit for higher or universal love. When patients are under an anaesthetic, their consciousness is wide open. In my opinion, everything is important when the patient is asleep – the conversation, the background music, and the intentions of all the staff. First and foremost, we as surgeons have to be trained and equipped to be technically outstanding. There is no point being a loving surgeon if you can’t work out which end is the pointy part of the scalpel! But having developed your surgical skills to a level of excellence, the ability is there to transform your patient’s unpleasant experiences into something remarkable.

Perhaps it is the idealist within me talking, but I do feel, and believe, that the consciousness and intention of the therapist forms a component of the recovery process, and in fact the Ayurvedic text Caraka Samhita says that the doctor, the nurse, the medicine and the patient all need to be ‘aligned’ for a full recovery.

It is my belief that the best surgeons and practitioners actually do this instinctively without even calling it a holistic practice or style, because they are in touch with the humanity that exists within themselves and their patients. From this space, it is possible for surgery and its craft to be a spiritual and loving process.


Apart from his profession as a surgeon, Mr Ranjit Rao is a keen golfer, practices yoga, competes in marathons and is a wine lover. He is passionate about good health and well-being. He is married with two children aged 13 and 11.

Share this post

Leave a Comment