In the many decades since television sets came into our homes, medical dramas have remained popular. Viewers made ER a huge success. Grey’s Anatomy gives you a glimpse of a fictitious Seattle hospital, plenty of romance included. I’m old enough to remember Dr. Kildare from the 1960s and Marcus Welby from the 70s. But do these shows give you an accurate reading of what an actual surgeon’s life is like?

Probably not, according to a general and vascular surgeon, who practices in the Houston, Texas area.

Dr. David Gelber has written Behind The Mask: The Mystique of Surgeons and the Surgeons Who Perform Them (Ruffian Press, August 2011).  In an interview with Men and Health: It’s a Guy Thing, Gelber says he started writing health care and surgery articles when the health care debate was in the news. He has also written a couple of science fiction novels.

According to Gelber, “A lot of the things in the book (Behind The Mask) are recollections of experiences I’ve had as a surgeon.” He adds,  “The textbook part gets into some of the technical aspects of being a surgeon, how we approach patients, how we do surgery, what are the things we think about, what are the problems we deal with.”

Gelber says readers will get an insight into what goes on in a surgeon’s mind during an operation and after surgery. Gelber says one chapter describes his step by step (stream of consciousness) approach to an operation in which the patient had some problems right after surgery. “It gives my thoughts, as well as what we did, almost every step of the way, until we were sure the patient was OK,” says Gelber.

The book is a look inside a part of medicine that most people never see. You’ll “get a look inside at what an operating room is like, from a perspective of the sights and the sounds and the smells, things that you certainly can’t get on television,” points out Gelber.

Gelber says while a bit of humor can sometimes surface in an operating room, death is a fact of life at a hospital. “The toughest situation is when someone comes in for an elective operation…and the patient doesn’t survive, which is actually extremely rare, but it happens,” says Gelber.

The book helps connect you to patients. Gelber says, “There are a lot of different patient case studies in the book that help to shed light on different things I’m trying to talk about.” He says part of his book highlights memorable patients, how their medical problems were approached, and how he learned from each one.

Behind The Mask highlights the importance of nurses in surgical procedures. “During surgery, they help the operation go more smoothly. After surgery, they are the eyes and ears of a doctor and a surgeon. They’re with the patient all the time,” says Gelber.

Gelber admits he almost never watches doctor shows on television. “I never found one that actually comes close to what it’s like in real life.”

You may purchase Dr. Gelber’s book at or at his website:

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