Q&A with C.B. Brooks, MD

The surgeon/firefighter/police officer/scuba divemaster/golfer/amateur comedian explains why we should trust our personal brain radars

A physician and orthopedic surgeon for 30 years, specializing in hand and microsurgery, C.B. Brooks, MD, has also had a 19-year firefighting career, as well as 5 years as a police officer, 26 years as a scuba diver—the last 11 as divemaster—and 10 years as a parent. And that’s just getting started for the first-time author, who also notes his other “careers” as bagpipe band drummer, standup comedian, greenskeeper and golfer.

It’s through the lens of these varied experiences that Brooks wrote Trust Your Radar: Honest Advice for Teens and Young Adults from a Surgeon, Firefighter, Police Officer, Scuba Divemaster, Golfer, and Amateur Comedian.

In an exclusive interview with EMS World, Brooks talks about the importance of developing personal brain radars, and how we can use them avoid making the same mistakes over and over. Read more at www.TrustYourRadar.com.

How long have you been writing, and how did you come to publish Trust Your Radar?

This is my first book and it started in an unusual way. I was playing golf with another surgeon and we were talking about the problems people—including other doctors—manage to get themselves into. Since we were on a golf course, we called these problems “the sand traps of life.” I remember saying, “Someone should write a book showing people how to avoid them!”

That was before I added my EMS, fire and police careers. It was during these that I saw people continually making the same mistakes over and over, hitting into the same big sand traps of life. I never expected to be an author, but the perspective I gained from these careers put me in a position to write this book, and hopefully help upcoming generations.

You’ve had a unique career—surgeon, firefighter, police officer, scuba divemaster; what are some of the situations you’ve experienced or seen where people should have trusted their radar and didn’t that you describe in the book? What lessons can teens—and adults—take from those experiences?

Before you can trust your radar, you have to do a few things. First is to identify it—it’s your brain functioning optimally, not some vague intuition or sixth sense people like to babble about.

Second, train your radar in key areas. The book stocks your memory bank with information on health, personal finance, safety, getting organized, relationships and how to evaluate people—with clues on identifying toxic personality disorders.

And lastly, meet the Radar Jammers—they have the power to turn down or turn off our brain radars. Some are well known, like alcohol, drugs, peer pressure, infatuation, anger or multitasking. Others are surprising!

Here’s an example where people haven’t learned our simple strategy for alcohol use.

SURGERY STORY—I’ve cared for many people who had a bad experience with a power tool. This usually happened during their work with drills, routers or circular saws. But I began to notice a second subset of patients who seemed to sustain these devastating injuries in the early evening. After some questioning, it became apparent that a common after dinner (and thus after drinking) activity, would be to go into the garage and fire up the table saw. The table saw is a ruthless predator that does not differentiate between wood and fingers. Operating one with your radar turned down is like announcing, “Pookie, I’ll be in the garage playing with the Tasmanian Devil.”

What kind of advice would you offer EMS professionals on how to reach out to teens in their community to help make a difference?

The EMS profession sees the tragic results of some major brain Radar Jammers—alcohol abuse, drugs, excessive speed and multitasking while driving. If EMS workers could tell young people about these before the tragedies occur, we’d be way ahead.

Instead of thinking about formal school presentations, just start talking to teens where you see them—while covering school football games, at the fast food places, at community events, etc.

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