Peter Choong
One Surgeon Giving Meaning to Life with Infinite Passion

Written by Erica Musgrove


I am a surgeon first. Patients are the centre of my medical universe. I wanted to do was surgery because it satisfied my character. I love tinkering, detail, getting it right. It’s like a puzzle. I love using my hands to do that. It was luck. I actually thought I was going to do head and neck surgery, and one day I was offered a position in orthopaedics. I said “Sure” and the rest is history. You’ll recognise an opportunity if it is an opportunity for you.


It starts with just being really passionate about what you do. Research is like that for me - it’s a total ball! There’s no question that good clinical practice comes from great research, because research is where people take the time to understand.


I love riding horses. It gets me to interact with this big thing that doesn’t know English, but you have to learn how to communicate. I’ve become a better teacher because of my horse riding. You stop them, you show them what you want, and then help them do it. It’s about asking, not telling.


I’m a bit of an existentialist, which is that life is essentially meaningless. We give our own lives meaning in this meaningless world; what we do gives us meaning. All of us are the CEOs of our own lives. You’re responsible for your own happiness.


I am proudest of the fact that a lot of people who where my PhD students, those I’ve mentored, have gone on to do the most fabulous things. I have four daughters, I’m proud because they know what is right. That means I’ve been successful in passing on values that are commensurate with what I think is a noble life.


I love helping people unravel their own mystery. I spend my whole life watching people. I know what’s going through their minds before they do. I like inspiring people to be better. I like seeing them succeed. I thrive on the vicarious nature of my relationships.


I am learning Swedish. There is this phrase - lagom - which means “just right”. It doesn’t mean good, it doesn’t mean perfect, it means just right. Just right is where I want to be.

Professor Peter Choong is the Sir Hugh Devine Professor and Chair of Surgery at St. Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne. He is currently leading the team behind BioPen - a handheld device which uses 3D-printing to allow surgeons to ‘draw’ live cells and growth factors directly onto an injury site.

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