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Dr. James Bernstein worked in developing

countries where surgeons needed to fast-

track procedures and improvise to save lives.

40

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Real Leaders

THE DOCTOR

WHO CAN’T WAIT

TO SAVE

MILLIONS OF

LIVES

CONVENTION AND INVENTS A STERILE SURGERY IN A SUITCASE.

SOMETIMES THE WORLD NEEDS TO MOVE A LITTLE FASTER,

ESPECIALLY WHEN LIVES ARE AT STAKE. JAMES BERNSTEIN BRUSHES ASIDE

Great ideas sometimes start with asking uncomfortable questions.

After being

told how to treat pneumonia, perform an appendectomy and conduct a physical, Dr. James

Bernstein had the audacity to ask “Why?” It was less to do with ignorance and more to do

with the urgency he saw around him – the race to treat more than 5 billion people who don’t

have access to basic surgery. One day, during his medical studies at Cornell University

Medical School (now known as Weill Cornell Medicine), Bernstein overheard a professor –

known for his prodigious surgical procedures – replying to a fellow student who had asked

why such long waiting periods were required before they could start saving lives. The answer

he received: “What’s the hurry?”

“In a world where 5 billion people don’t have access to surgery, it’s a big hurry,” says

Bernstein. “I grew up a well-behaved Jewish boy, who went to medical school because that’s

what my parents wanted. At medical school you get taught a single idea – that there’s only

one way to do things. You’ll hear phrases such as: ‘because this is our way’ or ‘best practice’ –

you don’t ask questions; you just do it.”

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