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A few years ago during a visit home, my mother interrupted me as I was recounting the details of a transplant operation I’d done a week earlier. For as long as I’ve been a doctor, my mother, who owns a small business, has queried me about my long work hours, usually punctuating her questions with sympathetic clucks and gentle exhortations to eat more of the Taiwanese food she has prepared.

This time, however, there was no softness to her voice. She wanted to know exactly when I had begun the operation. When I finally told her that the start time had been well past midnight after a full day’s work, she pushed away the vegetables she had been chopping and put her hands on her hips.

“Why do you surgeons start operations at those kinds of hours?” she asked. “How can that be good for patients?”

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