Sunday Surgical Scrub: 3 July 2016

eye tree

“Practice makes permanent; practice – with purpose and passion – transforms.”


TASK AT HAND: This week I’m thinking about practice. We practice golf swings, practice speeches, practice free throws, practice how to be a better person. We practice work, tasks, and actions. We practice, practice, and practice. I’m a vitreoretinal surgeon and I work in a medical practice; I practice surgery, medicine, and how to restore vision.


But what does all this practice get us?

Entrenched in practice is the idea that repetition will allow you to achieve perfection, and therein lies the goal. This is incorrect! Practice does not make perfect, but rather only establishes permanence. This is the most common error I see in people who earnestly practice in the hope of trying to improve. Let’s disrupt this myth – practice only makes permanent – hard stop. Practicing something over and over only leads to the likelihood that you will repeat the action or reaction in that context. This is not erroneous, and is sometimes useful, but it lacks full realization. Permanency is static and not what you are trying to achieve – the whole point of practice is to transform the action in question. So, what is the first thing to do to improve how you practice? Break away from the desire to reach perfection and avoid the trap of permanence.
So, then, how do you practice?

Practice with purpose! Establish the purpose of your action. You must find the purpose in what you’re trying to achieve. That is, you must decode the objective of your achievement. Be mindful of the task you are practicing. Engrossed in it, from all aspects of yourself, allows you to find the core purpose and unlocks your ability to transform.
Practice with passion. As I said above, I work in a medical practice. I take care of patients and I practice my craft. If I pursue this with mindless application, I may become very good at satisfying procedures and protocols by repeating them over and over in an efficient manner. But when I find purpose, and couple this with passion to achieve my goal, I begin to evolve and transform my skills to achieve better results – to innovate and renew my skills for the betterment of my patients and myself.


Aristotle stated, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit.” So, next time you are refining what you do, remember practice only makes permanent – so practice with purpose and practice with passion – and transform to reach your peak.


MEDICINE & MACULA: In line with our discussion on practice, a recent study entitled, Feasibility of Human Factors Immersive Simulation Training in Ophthalmology, looked at how human factors training can enhance team working and reduce error. This is used regularly in certain medical disciplines, but its use has not been established for ophthalmology. The study found that human factors simulation in ophthalmology offers a new method of teaching team members, with the potential to reduce serious ophthalmic patient safety events. In this I see another example of practicing with purpose, driven by passion, as a means to find innovative methods and improve outcomes.

Check out the study here.


GRATIS: Tomorrow is Independence Day and I hope you have a wonderful celebration. I was born in Portugal, grew up in Canada, lived in Europe, and now I am privileged and grateful to call the United States home. Happy 4th of July!

usa flag

My best to you,

David Almeida

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