Did you ever meet a surgeon who had asked you: Do you think there is anything beyond truth? We introduce you to Bogdan Trandafir, a young surgeon, preoccupied with the fabric of the Romanian society, an amateur cook specialised in brownies with a great appetite for theatre and books.
Work by Dan Perjovschi, one of Bogdan's favourite artists
You have previously declared, in our conversations that you feel old, although you are just 30 years old. When do you consider people become mature? What is maturity? I believe, as Dostoyevsky points out, one should ask himself at any age whether one’s about to finish or to begin his life. However, when it comes to maturity, I babble. But I prefer this confusion to speaking unequivocally, as talented intellectuals do. They talk as if they have leased a piece of maturity’s land. I refuse to define maturity, but I believe we become mature the moment we understand what death is.
Tell us how an usual day of your life unfolds. I didn’t have one usual day in the last six years. Every morning, when I wake up, I stare at myself and try to act as if we don’t know each other well enough. I do the same gestures just to convince myself I’m the same person, but I am never sure I am right/ it is true.
Do you think your profession has any impact on your social status? I would be hypocrite to say it doesn’t. The human brain reacts differently depending on the way people perceive the social status of those surrounding them. I was many times asked why I chose medicine and then, surgery. I wasn’t able to find the answer yet/ in 12 years. Nevertheless, whenever I peel potatoes that are beautiful on the outside and discover some rotten parts on the inside, I remember why, almost instinctively, I choose to watch the interior of the human body, to discover its depths. I knew that there, on this unseen side, something can get broken, that from there lurks the illness. And we cannot access the interior of our bodies. Medicine breaks the seal.
Over the years, the medical educational system approached with indifference the communication skills of the students. Do you believe the efficiency of the patient-doctor communication can influence the diagnostic? Definitely.
I know you’ve recently developed an interest for the relationship between DNA and free will. Tell me a little bit about this subject and the possibilities this connection could open up. I’m always thirsty for something new, for a discovery that could a provoke a change of paradigm. Currently, in the world of neuroscience and philosophical language, there has appeared an elephant in the room : “What if there is no free will and all our personal decisions are genetically codified?” That would mean that our decisions are the result of a mathematical account. And then I’d dare to ask: what is emotion? A chemical reaction, the result of gene X548 or a sum of our own experiences? All these can be reduced to one single question: Who am I? Am I my brain? Simplifying, mankind has known 3 developing stages: the hunters and pickers era (the longest one, 300000 years), the agricultural society (which started 10-20.000 years ago and ended in the 19th century), and the industrial/ postindustrial era. We are currently preparing to enter a new era- one of a life based on genetical knowledge. because this new type of world is only in its incipient stages and is difficult to understand, it is natural that the opposition is enormous and comes from various directions. Any new truth is unbearable. Any truth is eventually destructive. You could say its mission is to hurt you. But the truth of the future is the answer to this question: Who am I? Am I my brain?
Since we touched on this matter of research, what’s your opinion on the fact that patents for certain medicines are held by pharmaceutical giants, slowing down or even blocking the advance of the research? There’s this quote from Jean Sevilla’s Intellectual Terrorism: ” Our current society stops us from living our utopias”. This idea of pharmaceutical giants portrayed as monsters who hinder the evolution of medicine, which lately has been intensely disseminated in the media, is also an utopia. I strongly disagree with it.
How much emphasis is there on research in the local medical system? As early as my student years, I had the chance to work at I.C. Fundeni, a very special institution in the Romanian medical system, an institution that has always laid emphasis on research. Later, Catalin Vasilescu, my mentor and my superior, increased my appetite for research in surgery. But all these are just isolated cases in a field that unfortunately is dying.
Which are your most pressing discontents in your field? I answered the first seven questions on a Saturday evening. Now it’s Monday, 5 P.M. I haven’t slept in 34 hours. After a 24 hour call, I remained in the hospital for my usual shift. Everybody says I am young and I am able to do it, but sometimes I just wonder how do I manage to finish all these marathons, all these fights, to take all these prompt decisions and squeeze some fine tuning for presentations of imaginary diseases in between real emergencies. I said this before, as long as I have coffee and neurones, everything will be alright. It will be even better when people will understand what an ER is and that at the end of a shift, the medical staff is more exhausted physically and psychically than others are after five months of intense work. My biggest discontent? The lack of respect for my colleagues who work really hard. The lack of respect showed by the government. I’ve just found out that they will cut our already miserable salaries. They will cut the salaries to those people convinced that the life of a person is worth a sleepless night, to those with the darkest rings around their eyes, but with clear sight, a sharp hand and a lucid mind. And what do they do? They punish certainly these people.
We’ve been talking about your professional life. Do you draw a clear line between your professional interests and you creative endeavours? I have to. There is no place for creativity in surgery. Everything requires action, courage, curiosity, perseverance, learning, continuity. But this doesn’t happen overnight, it takes assiduous work.
What are you reading these days? Currently I have the following books on my desk: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara ( a wonderful novel about friendship), The Autobiography of Charles Darwin (a very necessary book in order to understand his theory) and Infinitesimal, (a book about the way in which a dangerous mathematical theory contributed to the making of the modern world, which proves the power of diffusion of mathematical ideas).
I know you have an interest in contemporary art. What artists do you admire? I just adore Ghenie, Ilfoveanu and also Dan and Lia Perjovschi.
Adrian Ghenie, Pie Fight Study 2
If you hadn’t been a doctor, what would have you become? A fiddle.
Can you sketch or pick a word to describe Rosumovi? Oh, if only I could say something magnificent, unheard about Rosumovi! Nothing is more honest than a dream.