At first, I felt like whom did this man think he was talking to? He tried his dammnedst to make us scared that very first day. Morning rounds, evening rounds, teachings in between, theatres, clinics, clerking and presentations would be expected of us every day apart from our lectures and our attendance at the A&E department every day. He looked so fierce and unbending when he said it and as if he was ready to torture us but I could tell his bark was worse than his bite. Some of my classmates were alarmed when he mentioned that Sundays were included in our new daily regime and two of them wanted to beg him. I told them not to that he was only too likely to refuse. And that was exactly what he did. Subsequent interaction proved he had a kind and soft nature and was a jovial, amusing person to boot. Before long, he fell in love with our group and we learned to love him too. He had this gallant way of treating ladies and liked to have one of them on his arm asking them questions in the gentlest of tones and being as pleasant to them as possible. But he was a little harder on the guys. It was clear he was versatile and whatever else he was, he was a good surgeon and courteous and polite to every one. A perfectly rounded person such as he I have yet to meet.
There were times when he lambasted us though, especially when we disappointed him or someone said something extremely rude or thoughtless but he usually got over it quickly and we carried on as before. His mischievous nature was evident in the way he talked with us. Apart from being members of the same group we were also part of an extracurricular group of classical singers called the Sinfonia and during the period we were in PSU we staged an opera in which two classmates acted as husband and wife. One day after a very long day in the theatre, Dr. Richard asked us which of us was married. The guy T was quick to say that he had just gotten married and the girl C was happy enough to agree. When he asked us if we were at the wedding, some of us raised our hands and even told him the date. A number of us participated in the opera and of course we were there to see them get married. Dr. Richard smiled and did not question us further. One day we were supposed to have clinic and C & T arrived together quite late. They both had different reasons for being late. C said she couldn’t find her room key and T said he woke up late.
Dr. Richard looked thoughtful and said:
“Haven’t you people had enough? Weren’t you satisfied with what you did last night? You T, you slept over in C’s room last night after doing it and then this morning you did it again and then left C’s room with her key when you were letting yourself out and went back to your own room to sleep again. Now, both of you are coming very late. Anyway, it’s none of my concern what you people do at night but you don’t need to do it in the morning, especially on the day we have clinic!”
We all howled with laughter at his speech including C & T.
Dr. Richard was one of the most unpretentious people we met in surgery and still is. Despite the fact that he’s quite good on his own, he was very respectful to the consultants and instilled in us that same kind of respect. When he became a consultant, all of us thought he really deserved it.