Brendan Soo Beneath The Surface Interview

Mr Brendan Soo: Beneath the Surface

"A 2nd generation Malaysian/Chinese Australian – it was always going to be either a doctor or a lawyer [laughter]. Growing up I briefly had aspirations of joining the airforce and being a fighter pilot."

When are you most happy?

At the moment I am most happy when I can spend time with my family.
The life of an orthopaedic surgeon can be very busy and achieving the right balance in and out of work can be challenging. I have a young family which “doubled” in size recently. We welcomed twin girls in addition to our boys aged 9 and 7 years. At the moment I am deriving a great deal of contentment being present and watching my family grow together.

From a work perspective (like most orthopaedic surgeons) I enjoy being in the operating room. It’s the time that we can implement and act on the treatment plan. I am fortunate to be able to work with a great team in and outside of the operating room.

What is your biggest regret?

I can’t say that I have any regrets. I like to be present and look forward to what’s ahead and not behind. I would however have liked to have stared my orthopaedic career earlier. The field of shoulder surgery is evolving so rapidly that there does not seem to be enough time to explore all of the new tools, techniques and technologies in development. We can now manage shoulder conditions like never before and it continues to evolve. It’s an incredible field to be in at this current time.

we are at the dawn of a new age with what is at our disposal to treat shoulder conditions

What is your greatest achievement?

To be able to provide for my family and to provide for my patients. I have a supportive partner that understands me as much as I understand her. I have four children that are healthy and happy and a network of close friends. I am proud that I have formed and I am continuing to foster strong relationships within and around my family. From a personal point of view I’d have to say that’s my proudest achievement.

From a professional point of view it is the ability to make a difference in my patients lives. We [surgeon collective] choose our vocations because we want to make a difference in other people’s lives, and we can definitely do that in orthopaedics, and certainly with shoulder and elbow surgery.

There’s a focus in hip and knee orthopaedic surgery to relieve pain and improve a person’s mobility. As a shoulder surgeon, we are able to make a difference and impact someone’s quality of life by restoring arm function and restoring the ability to use and place their hand where they need it and without pain. Reaching out. Reaching overhead. Lifting and carrying. We have the ability through shoulder and elbow surgery to have quite an impact on our patient ’s independence. Being able to help our patients achieve that is immensely satisfying.

What do you think the best thing about shoulder & elbow surgery is?

A lot of advancements have occurred in the last 15 years. There are many arthroscopic (keyhole) techniques that have been developed for problems that have not previously had a solution. Shoulder arthroplasty (replacement) designs and planning have evolved which I believe are already improving outcomes. The tools at our disposal are progressing at a rapid rate.

I think the best thing about shoulder and elbow surgery is that we are at the dawn of a new age with what is at our disposal to treat shoulder conditions and soon we will have even more. From navigation to robotics to artificial intelligence to biologics. It’s an exciting time when you look ahead.

What are disappointed we haven’t been able to achieve in shoulder and elbow surgery?
A means to reliably speed up recovery after tendon repair. Tendon healing takes time and thus recovery from shoulder surgery requires patience. Improvements in biologics are evolving, but it would be nice to have a reliable way of speeding up soft tissue healing to enable faster recovery for our patients.

In another life what do you think you would have ended up doing?

I am a 2nd generation Malaysian/Chinese Australian – it was always going to be either a doctor or a lawyer [laughter]. Growing up I briefly had aspirations of joining the airforce and being a fighter pilot. Something I imagine would require skill and precision and trust in your own capabilities and training.

In reality, when one enjoys what they ‘re doing as much as I do, it’s hard to contemplate an alternative.

What do you need to do to live a full and satisfactory life?

For me family always comes first. I’d need to find a way to spend time with my wife and all of my kids. Especially as the children start growing up. I feel that having a family and children is an incredible blessing because we are able to be present and observe them as they grow. I get fulfilment in my life being able to spend time with them as they’re learning, as they ’re discovering and as they ’re living their own lives. From a professional perspective. Making sure that we are making a difference for our patients lives. Achieving the best possible outcomes from either surgical or non surgical treatments. That extends into finding new ways we can do that. Being able to push those boundaries. It’s incredibly fulfilling when you know you’re making a difference. Not only to your patients but to patients worldwide.

“We’re flooded with information. Flooded with algorithms on how to treat patients. Flooded with research telling us what we should do.”

Who has had the greatest influence on you?

My wife, Leanne, gives me perspective and keeps me grounded. She has a very practical and logical approach to life. She has made many sacrifices in her life for the benefit of her family and friends. She’s certainly had a profound effect on me.

From a professional perspective, I’ve been fortunate enough to have many mentors, not only in my sub specialty interest of shoulder and elbow but in the broader orthopaedic community.

My senior mentors Simon Bell and Warwick Wright. I’ve learnt many things from them. A couple of shoulder surgeons that often take different perspectives to shoulder management. Other senior mentors like the late Jonathon Owen and John Harris. Their approach to treating their patients and colleagues has left a lasting effect on me in regards to how I conduct myself as a surgeon.

What is inside that keeps the fire burning to succeed?

It really is all about patient care for me. Being able to make a difference in our patients lives through good outcomes I’ve touched on previously, but also treating our patients as people.

Determining the right treatment to match what that patient needs for their lifestyle, for their goals and aspirations. It is most rewarding in orthopaedics and shoulder surgery when a patient says thankyou at the conclusion of their treatment when the desired outcome has been achieved. It’s certainly a big driver for me; being able to make that difference in their lives.

If you had one chance to impart some wisdom what would it be?

Treat the person in front of you rather than treating the condition. The most suitable treatment can’t always be determined from an x- ray or research and has to take into account the specific needs of that patient in regards to their lifestyle and social settings. It’s such an important one for orthopaedics. We’re flooded with information. Flooded with algorithms on how to treat patients. Flooded with research telling us what we should do. I feel the role of a surgeon is to be there to give the patient guidance, the options and give them our advice on what we feel is the best option for them based on the available clinical evidence and experience. At the end of the day, the patient should be making a decision based on that advice and what’s best for their situation.

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