The night that many had been working so hard towards had finally arrived and had brought with it a nervous energy so palpable that you could taste it; for this, ‘The Great Debate’, was to be one of our biggest events of the year.

The concept was simple: Six Surgeons. Six Specialties. And only one winner.

Representing Plastic Surgery, we had the charming Dr van den Bergh; for Orthopaedics stood the compassionate Dr van Greunen; the designated spokesperson for OB/GYN was the amusing Dr Retief; the “zen” Dr van Heerden and the level-headed Dr Alfaqawi were on the sides of Paediatric and Cardiothoracic Surgeries respectively whilst the witty Dr Manyangadze argued for Trauma.

Each surgeon had only three chances to not only win our votes, but win the title of the “Ultimate Brain” in what was, essentially, the ‘Battle of the Brains’. First, they would present their most interesting cases, then they would succumb to a “Question and Answer” session and, lastly, each professional would talk about the latest advancements within their respective specialties. We, the audience, were to listen and soak in the information given to us with the goal of learning and making an informed decision with regards to our vote.

As each expert took to the quasi-podium – one after the other – their personalities shone through and a previous association of arrogance with surgeons immediately melted away. Their words were laced with the passion that they felt for their respective surgical specialties as well as laced with the excitement at having willing students (who were greedy for knowledge) in front of them. Furthermore, all the afore-mentioned surgeons contributed to the fun with teasing and laughter. Ultimately, it was ‘Team Trauma’ that took home the prize, but all speakers managed to touch our hearts and our minds and may have, to some extent, influenced students’ career choices by the end of the night.

Despite the (many) moments of ‘cheeky banter’ or thought-provoking words, the greatest part of the night was the exposure. In a few hours, we gained a more intimate insight of different surgical specialties – an opportunity not many medical students are granted. Moreover, sometimes the world of medicine can seem daunting in terms of the bountiful fields and the ever-advancing surgical specialties within it. This is why events such as ‘The Great Debate’ are so important.

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