Charlie Teo is brash, brave, and will try his hardest for his patients no matter what the odds. He has faced criticism from his peers for offering “false hope” to people seemingly robbed of any hope by the curse of incurable cancer. But Australians admire these qualities – he flies in the face of his critics.
Survey respondents described Teo as inspirational, a great role model and, above all, devoted to his patients.
We asked Teo what trust means to him and how it has shaped his life:
“Trust is the most important thing. I have to trust my patients as much as they trust me. A patient has to understand that a doctor cares for them. Not that he’s the smartest guy, but there is this trust that he will do the right thing by them.
“If I can’t trust the patient to understand that, I will reject the patient. It’s got to be a two-way street. Every time I operate I have to remind myself that this patient is a member of my family. That’s why I have great results and the reputation I’ve got. It’s so easy to ignore the family who wants to speak to you at 10pm and you want to go home and see your kids. I have to consciously say to myself, ‘Charlie, wait, you’re a member of that family. What if that was your child on the table?’
“For every nurse I work with there are ten I’ve rejected. I’m surrounded by a very small, select group of people I can trust. I’m not the most popular person in the operating room and I make absolutely no excuses for that.
“The person I trust the most is my wife. She’s my greatest ally and I can trust her to tell me the truth. I know she would never do anything to hurt me or my reputation. One other person I trust is my personal assistant, Laine. I would trust her with my life.
“I’m not the best judge of character. I have a failing where I initially trust people until they hurt me. I’ve been burnt a few times. A teacher once said, ‘You expect so much of the people around you, you trust people implicitly and make huge demands of yourself. You cannot expect that of everyone. You need to back off.’ But I didn’t listen.
“I expect the same amount of trust, loyalty and commitment from the people around me as I give to them.”