American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Stopping Is Not an Option

Read the inspiring story of how Prasad S. Adusumilli, MD, FACS, is harnessing the COVID-19 outbreak, like other difficulties in life as an aspiring health care professional, as a motive to study, learn, provide care, and develop a cure.

In medical school, I was once bullied by a group of guys, and I wouldn’t budge. When they were about to beat me, feeling helpless, I said, “This would never happen in America.” Somehow that statement, seemingly incoherent, resonated with a few of the people watching, and they came to my rescue. That evening, a senior medical student who was a friend of mine approached me as I was standing in front of the library and asked me what was going on. Thinking that he would come to my support, I told him.

When he responded, “What do you want to do about it?” I asked him to help me to go beat up the guys. He said, “No, let us go do what we can do the best. Let us go to the library and study more. Let us study as if it is life and death. When we score very high, those guys can do nothing except feel low.” At first, it sounded stupid, as all I wanted was to go beat up the guys. But I listened to him.

That statement that saved me never left me. Even when I was selling lotto tickets on the NYC subway with my brother, we never felt low or lost hope. We believed strongly that in America, if you dream it, you can make it happen.

Fast-forward . . . Here I am. Here we are.

One thing is sure in my mind: When the storm settles down, I will work very hard, much harder than I have ever worked in my life—in the OR and clinic, in grant writing, publications, experiments—I believe that this is my moment to serve the country and collective culture that gave me more than I ever dreamt. This is what I know, and this is what I can do best. I hope that you feel the same way. Our hard work and productivity have the potential to save jobs and perhaps support a few families that now need a gentle push to stand on their own feet.

I can assure you that you don’t have to worry about your employment, supplies, mice, or anything else. It is my job to provide them. And it is our job to do what we do best. No country was spared from the reach of the virus, and unfortunately, this has indeed happened here. But we are not helpless, and our actions, focus, and continued commitment to our work can have a real and lasting effect in the future, even if it may be difficult to see now. I can assure you that with time, someone in the remote corner of the world, at the lowest moment of their life, will be saying “This would never happen in America.”

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

–Winston Churchill

Prasad S. Adusumilli, MD, FACS
Deputy Chief and Attending, Thoracic Surgery
Vice-Chair, Translational Research, Department of Surgery
Head, Solid Tumors Cell Therapy, Cellular Therapeutics Center (CTC)
Director, Mesothelioma Program, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Professor, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Weill Cornell Medical Center, NY