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The Real Poop

A sphincter says what. What? Exactly.

Let's be honest…going to the doctor is a pain in the butt. Sometimes more literally than others. A proctologist, or colorectal surgeon, specializes in medical issues concerning the colon, rectum, and anus. You rectum, they'll fix 'em.

Just the thought of having to visit one of these badonkadonk specialists is enough to send a shiver right down your spine and into your coccyx. Most of us don't really love the idea of someone else poking around down there. You've heard of Doctors Without Borders? Well, these are Doctors Without Boundaries.

Unfortunately, our derrieres can fall apart just like the rest of us, so we need these courageous men and women to be there for us when we have to make the occasional booty call.

Now, suppose you want to be one of those courageous men or women. Excellent. We applaud your heroism, your devotion to medical health, and your commitment to not making butt jokes in front of your patients. (We openly admit we would not quite be able to contain ourselves. We're a little too tongue-in-cheek for our own good. Sometimes a little too tongue-in-both-cheeks….)

To be a proctologist, you’ll have to get comfortable. No, we don't mean that you should throw on a pair of baggy pants and plop down on the couch with a jar of peanut butter and a spoon. Although that does sound good. Rather, you're going to have to get comfortable with certain things that make most of us squeamish. You're going to see it all. Aside from the usual, which will include hemorrhoids, anal fissures, constipation problems and the diagnosing and removal of malignant bodies, you're going to encounter some not-so-ordinary problems as well. You might have to remove a hamster. Better not to ask questions.

He still looks a little shell-shocked.

Also, you don't just have to be comfortable with it yourself—you also need to make your patients feel comfortable. It won't do for them to be lying back on the table with you making comments like, "You up for a game of poop chutes and ladders?" or "Well, at least you’ve got more tushie for the pushie" or "What do you call this thing—your gluteus minimus?" While you may be cracking yourself up with your childish humor (we certainly are), your prostrate (or prostate) victim may not be as amused. So please—be professional. Don't be an arse.

Okay, what's it take for you to go where most men have not gone before?

First off, you're a surgeon. Which means you need to attend as much school and training as other surgeons. So you're looking at four years of undergrad, followed by a four-year medical graduate program, followed by your MCAT (a medical exam you’ll have to pass before you can help others…pass things), followed by a two-to-three-year general surgery residency and a colorectal surgery fellowship. Once you’ve checked all those boxes, you can become certified by the American Board of Colon and Rectal Surgery, or by the American Osteopathic Board of Proctology. At long last, you can now get to the bottom of things.

Caption unnecessary.

Once you're a full-fledged butt doctor, your options are to have your own practice or to be hired as a specialist at a hospital, urgent care center, or other medical facility. Most people won't come to you directly—you’re more of a "last resort" kind of doctor. In most cases, a patient will be referred to you by a general physician who has determined that the situation is outside their realm of expertise. It may mean that a patient suffers from an especially advanced or extreme case of hemorrhoids, or that there is the possibility of a malignant tumor (which could mean cancer of the colon or rectum, neither of which are fun), or any number of a host of other reasons. Basically, they are passing them off so that the onus of their anus is on you.

Sure, the profession lends itself to a buttload of opportunities for jokes, but it can entail some serious business. As is true for any surgeon, you're going to have to deal with some unpleasantness of the emotional kind as well as of the physical kind. Telling a patient she has Crohn’s disease (a severe inflammatory bowel condition that can mess up your whole system) or failing to operate successfully on a growth can bring you—and those who are relying on your abilities—way down. Will you be able to look someone in the eye (no, no—the other ones) and deliver the bad news?

Being a procto is a definite mixed bag. On one hand, you're making doctor money, which is nice, and you're helping people. On the other hand (which hopefully has a latex glove over it), the nature of your field isn't all that rosy, and you have to struggle with the same lows that other surgeons face. To be a great proctologist you have to be willing to take the good with the bad—the whole kit and caboose.