Re: Professor Geo Fegan, FRCS 11

Having just read Professor Fegan’s Obituary in the recent TCD medical Alumni magazine, I feel inspired to share with you a life changing experience I had with him.  When I first came across Professor Fegan he was in full stride as our Professor of Surgery – he had an international reputation regarding varicose veins and their treatment, and I was in my final year as a medical student at TCD (graduated 1971).

I never was the most diligent of students and apart from passing my Pre-Med exams first time – I was always re-sitting my medical exams in October so I would be accepted into the next medical year – provided I passed!!  I guess I found the student life on the golf course and the cricket pitch (not to mention the card table and the weekend horse racing) just too inviting.  In comparison to my wife Dr. Hilary Whyte 1976 – who always had a burning ambition to be a Doctor, and who was an excellent student who never failed one single exam!  I kind of liked the idea of being a Doctor and as nothing else was on my radar screen, I proceeded as best I could in this manner.

Anyway, I went through my medical student years with this somewhat ambivalent attitude (I am a little ashamed to admit this now!!).  By January 1971 I was in my final year and was up to my armpits and feeling quite overwhelmed at all the courses and projects I still had to complete; unlike my fellow students who were up to date with their “midder” “ENT” “Opthalmology” and “Anesthetics” – they now had the luxury to use this time to study for their finals.  Eventually I decided I would forgo my finals and not sit them that summer – I decided I would complete my various assignments then study and do my finals at the end of 1971 or early 1972.

Somehow Professor Fegan got to hear about this.  I can remember to this day attending a Knights of the Campanile Cocktail Party in April 1971 (all those hours on the cricket pitch and golf course were not in vain!).  Eventually I found myself in front of Professor Fegan – he seemed to draw me into his gaze and I became oblivious of anyone else around me.  He looked at me above his bifocals as only Professor Fegan could – his eyes bright and piercing “What’s this I hear about you not doing finals Lewis?!”

I made some feeble excuse about being “too busy” and being “too far behind” in my studies.  He again looked at me with that piercing gaze and moved a step or two closer to me and said “Lewis – are you a shit?!”  I was stunned – struck dumb – pierced to the very quick of my soul.  “Do your finals” was all he said and that was the end of the conversation!!

The next day I found myself scurrying off to the Toronto Hospital CAP in humble hand – begging for any deliveries to come my way.  The next few weeks and months were spent going to as many clinics as I could fit in and getting my various cards of attendance signed in time – ENT Obs, Gyn., ENT OPTH, Anesthetics; to this day I am short a credit in anesthetics (but don’t worry – since then I have spent many hours in O.R. making up for this deficit). 

My finals started in May 1971 and were finished by June, and for the first time in 5 years I passed everything for the first time – much to my own surprise and some of my colleagues – I was a Doctor!!

Thank you Professor Fegan; thank you for that kindly kick in the butt and for seeing my ambivalence and for not accepting it; thank you for holding me in your eyes as the Doctor you knew I could be.  Something passed between us that day that has made all difference to my life and me.  Years later I came across a statement about healing, “Healing happens when you are fully seen by another!”  Well Professor Fegan you really “saw” me that day – you invited me into the next phase of my life – and I am eternally grateful. 

Since 1974 I have been practicing in Toronto as a G.P., the last 15 years I have been working full time as a G.P. Psychotherapist, all together there are some 400 G.P. in Toronto practicing full time Psychotherapy – and we even have formed our own sub-specialty.

Professor Fegan – your legacy lives on in me every day as I do my best to “see” my patients and their essence with loving eyes – and to provide a gentle butt kick of truth when called for.  In this way, I pass on a little of what you gave me and I am thankful.

With fond memories and much respect.