Dr. Guillermo Garcia-Guerrero, 55, is a specialist in general surgery and head and neck surgery at Kaiser Permanente's Reston Medical Center, and an assistant professor of surgery at the Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences School of Medicine in Bethesda.

I grew up in Colombia, South America, and in the middle of my secondary school I applied to be an air force pilot. It was the study of anatomy, biology and histology that made me speculate and consider if I could heal the pain of the human being. I was almost 16 years old at the time when I decided I think I can be one of the members of the great profession to heal people, to practice medicine and to cure certain diseases. Medicine is an art, and then it becomes a science. We cure problems and we help people. There is no other profession to equal it.

After receiving a medicine and surgery degree from the Universidad Nacional del Colombia, I continued training in the United States to finish my residency program.

I have two specializations: general surgery and head and neck surgery. Surgery is an interesting profession. With surgeons, we make a diagnosis, we operate and we see the diagnosis that we made. Especially in the field of oncology and cancerology. You see, with surgery, if we detect a cancer at an early stage, we cure certain diseases. That is surgery. That is art.

I think with myself, in my early career, there was some ability with my hands so I chose surgery. As a challenge. Surgery is a challenge. Every day.

I'm satisfied with my job. I'm satisfied with what I see. I like surgery.

I don't like to do paperwork. One of the advantages we doctors in this type of organization have is we don't do too much paper work. I dedicate my time to patient care totally.

There has been a tremendous improvement in the progress of medicine, especially in surgery. I don't think any other profession is as beautiful as medicine. I still continue studying. You can see every year something new coming out. Techniques, new drugs and more new equipment. There is an advantage for the patient with these new medicines. Continued education in medicine is one of the more important parts of the profession to keep it going. If you don't continue, you are going to be in the rear.

People respect doctors and doctors continue to be respectable persons. We are more open today and communicate more with patients. I think the patients like doctors to explain things in more detail. Many years ago, we didn't have that interrelationship between patients and physicians. It is more intimate today and I think the patients are happy for that.

Too much malpractice litigation is the biggest health problem today. I personally dislike malpractice. I think if the doctor has a good relationship with the patient -- we are human beings, remember that -- and if some kind of incidental problem approaches, the patient should be told and I think the patient will accept. Physicians over-order laboratory tests and other unnecessary things just to protect themselves and not because the patient needs it.