To give our readers the chance to get to know more about the people involved in the day-to-day life of our hospital, here is an interview in our series "3 questions to".

1. What is the first thing you do when you get to work ?

Since I live in the hills of Nyon, I arrive at the hospital early to avoid the traffic. That means I have an hour to myself when I can do some exercise, read the newspapers or have a cup of tea. It gives me the chance to relax and then I am raring to go when it comes to putting on my white coat and getting down to my job as a surgeon! I usually finalise my operating and consultation schedules and check my emails.

2. What would you say to a student who wanted to follow the same career path as you ?

What an extraordinary life and career choice! Hand surgery, which is a specialty in its own right in Switzerland, covers many areas. The training and the surgical procedures are part of orthopaedics and plastic and reconstructive surgery. You therefore need to know how to stabilise the bone securely, then, sometimes during the same operation, or often the same day, perform microsurgery. As well as the surgical and orthopaedic precision, you sometimes also need a degree of flexibility... It is an excellent lesson about medicine but also about life! It is a specialty in which you never stop learning. In addition, as in all branches of medicine and surgery, you need to be extremely disciplined and committed. When you start a career as a surgeon, you don't necessarily end up in the specialty that you initially chose. By means of a placement that takes you down a different track or under the wings of a kindly mentor (a species that is fast dying out ;-)), sometimes career paths can take unexpected turns! Sometimes disappointments in life can prove be gifts in disguise...

3. How does your work affect your day-to-day life in specific ways ?

I need to be very organised, especially when I'm working in theatre. Also, as before a match or a piano concerto, I like to visualise the operation in my head. Why these two things ? This habit enables me to ensure that I work to a high standard, but it also simplifies things. In life, a minimum of organisation enables me to lighten the load and combine work and family as well as I can. However, I still work long hours ! But when I'm not at work, my wife and family know I am there for them.

Dr Alexander De Smet
Medical specialist in hand surgery, orthopaedic surgery and traumatology
Dr Alexander De Smet