Dr. James ‘Ted’ Edward Massey Young
Our Heroes wear Scrubs while saving Lives!
with Dr. James ‘Ted’ Edward Massey Young by: Maria Lee Fook
I had the pleasure of sitting with a super hero today. He wasn’t your typical super hero, draped in a fancy costume with a bright coloured cape, nor did he possess super natural powers that can take down the bad guys and save the damsel in distress. I had the opportunity to sit with a real life hero an ‘Every Day Hero’, that you may see walking through our hospital halls, dressed in simple scrubs, a cap and stethoscope. As we began our interview, it struck me! The magnitude of the work performed by our Surgeons, the diligence, the motivation and numerous years of perfecting the craft of saving lives and giving their patients a better quality of life in the face of disease, injury and trauma. We shine a light on Dr. James Edward (Ted) Massey Young, who has tirelessly dedicated himself to Head & Neck Oncology and Thoracic Oncology over the past 44 years. What I thought was going to be the average interview with a pioneer in surgical education actually led to the discovery of a compassionate surgeon, or as he would say, ‘an internist who happens to also operate, an individual who does his or her best to look after all aspects of the patient under his care’. You’ve been given the Every Day Heroes honour for your lifetime dedication to surgical education. What is it about your job that has allowed you to stay so dedicated over the years? I am in a profession that I love. Looking after patients, teaching students of all levels makes me happy to wake up in the morning to work. I still enjoy learning from colleagues and my students. I believe that if you stop learning it is time to stop working. While Dr. Young plans to retire this coming January, he stated that for him it is never a chore to come to work. You’ve been with McMaster since the mid-70s. How have things changed since then, and how have you been able to adapt so well? In over 43 years of doing surgery in Hamilton, I have seen changes in the management and investigation of disease processes that have been life changing, not only for the patients but for me. When I started my surgical practice
at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1975 surgeons were required to make a clinical diagnosis and plan their management of the patient without the availability of CAT scans, MRIs and even ultrasounds, which were in its infancy and primarily only used for obstetrics. It was rare to operate on someone with a major malignancy over the age of 75, and now we routinely do it in people over 90. The surgeons who mentored me were superb clinicians at diagnosing disease on the basis of a directed history and a careful physical examination. Although they were not always correct in their diagnosis, their care of the patient and their ability to manage their patient’s disease was exemplary. Happily, I have seen a new generation of surgeons, in all specialities, use the new investigative techniques available, and the tremendously valuable new surgical techniques, to improve their ability to look after patients and at the same time not loose sight of the importance of thinking of and caring for the patient.
I have been honoured to help train some of these individuals, many now practising in Hamilton, a few who have already retired and others that have spread across the continent and beyond in the Middle East, Italy and even China. I have had a career long interest in surgical oncology and have been delighted in the expansion of medical and radiation oncology as well as surgical oncology over the past decades. When I came to Hamilton there were 6 radiation oncologists and there are now 24; there were 3 medical oncologists and there are now 22. There are surgeons with expertise in oncology, in virtually all the sub-surgical specialities. I am happy to see and be a part of the continued progress that I have seen in surgery. As a surgeon and surgical educator, do you ever stop to acknowledge the heroism in your work? Helping the sick and injured and empowering others to also help them? Or has it become routine over the years? The support in looking after ill patients provided by our colleagues in other specialities has been impressive. However, I still believe that the best definition of a true surgeon is “an internist who happens to also operate”, that is an individual who does her or his best to look after all aspects of the patient under our care. I believe in Hamilton we have maintained this and I have been happy to be part of the process in the Department of Surgery.
I consider myself a patient advocate, providing the best care for my patients whether it is surgical or non-surgical, following through on all cases.
Do any moments from your career stand out to you as a time you were able to fully recognise the magnitude of being a healthcare professional? Perhaps it was a gracious family, a patient whose life you saved, a practicechanging discovery, or a trainee of yours who went on to do great things in the industry. Everyday I feel gratitude to be able to do what I do. Every time a patient or family member says thank you, I feel gratitude. Every trainee makes it worthwhile. When it comes to surgical education and training I believe that, the best way to teach is by example. If the residents see the teacher caring for the patient, they learn better than any formal teaching. I try to show respect for the trainees and remember that sometimes they know more that I do and inevitably some will become better than me in some of the things that they do.” Everyday Heroes is an department initiative that strives to ensure our faculty’s daily heroics don’t go unnoticed... who were your Everyday Heroes when you were an aspiring healthcare professional and who are the heroes that you work with nowadays? What makes them heroes, in your eyes? The medical professionals that I think were pivotal to my development were all professionals that I believe truly cared for their patients. Dr. Robert Tuttle was a great radiologist; Dr. Alan Lane, who we called ‘the perfect gentleman surgeon’ and a surgeon mentor to others and myself; Dr. Bill Goldberg, an Internist; and Dr. Stan Schatz, a Neurosurgeon. These and many others mentored and shaped the Surgeon that I am today.
One of my favourite quotes was delivered by Dr. Frances Peabody, MD. “... for the secret of the care of the patient is in caring for the patient.” Dr. Peabody was coined the ‘ Caring Physician’ of his time for his published work in patient care.
Acknowledgements: Special Thanks to Dr. Young for taking the time to share his story with us! Design & Editoral: Maria Lee Fook Communications Coordinator Department of Surgery
We invite you read about Dr. Young's surgical journey over the last 44 years.