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Can I be a surgeon being HIV+?
Jul 26, 2008

I have been HIV+ for my whole life, and ever since a little girl I've wanted to study surgery. I'm finishing high school soon, and I want to know if it is possible to be a surgeon while being HIV+?

Response from Dr. Sherer

Yes. One of my favorite recent HIV stories comes from James Oleske, who is one of the pediatricians to first see children with HIV in Newark, New Jersey. A young HIV+ child who was his patient in the early 1980s graduated from medical school a few years ago became a pediatrician. You certainly can and should pursue a career in medicine and surgery, if that is where your interest lies.

There are some additional hurdles that you will encounter in order to be an HIV positive surgeon. These are related to the small but real additional risk of an occupational transmission of HIV due to an intra-operative needlestick or laceration, and the need for any surgeon to be able to assure their patient that he or she will safequard their health to the degree possible, without adding the possibility of an accidental exposure to HIV. Though substantial, these obstacles will not be insurmountable.

You have doubtless already encountered many such hurdles as an HIV positive child in elementary and high school, so this will be nothing new.

I suggest that you talk to your doctor about your aspirations, and he or she may be able to introduce you to some surgeons who can offer more information about the issues involved in the practice of an HIV+ surgeon in their hospital. And I wish you well in your endeavors.

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