According to Teo, who has acquired celebrity status as a spokesman and whistleblower for the surgical profession, it’s important to keep one’s feet planted firmly on the ground.
“As the head of a surgical team and with the reputation and celebrity status I’ve got, it’s very easy to think of oneself as an unequal,” Teo told news.com.au.
“One of the worst things about my status is that everyone thinks that because I’m a fantastic nuerosurgeon, I’m also a fantastic person with no flaws; a great husband, person and father.
“But I’m not perfect, we all have our flaws.
“I have road rage and swear at people.
“So every now and then I need to be brought down to earth and put flatly on the ground.”
It’s a goal Teo is prepared to go to extraordinary lengths to achieve.
Even if that means swallowing his pride and singing on stage to his staff or standing stark naked on a crowded beach with them in broad daylight.
“I take my surgical team to karaoke once a week,” he said.
His favourite tracks to belt out at the staff sing-a-longs include Chris de Burgh’s ‘Lady in Red’ and Elvis’ ‘The Wonder of You’.
“I’ve got a terrible voice and that makes it very hard to think you’re better than anyone else when you’re singing infront of them like that,” he said.
“The other way of doing it (proving equality) is being naked infront people.”
Teo is referring to the Sydney Skinny event which he completely stripped off for, along with his surgical team, two of his children and about 1250 other swimmers, on Sunday.
The skinny dipping event, which raises money for the McGrath Foundation and the Foundation of National Parks and Wildlife, is in its fourth consecutive year.
Teo said he decideded to take part in the 900m course after Sydney Skinny event organiser Nigel Marsh put the offer on the table over dinner.
“He’s a motivational speaker so he’s very persuasive,” Teo said.
“I thought ‘if I’m going to do it then so is my surgical team and my kids’.
“It’s a team building spirit and it’s important to get out of your comfort zone.”
It’s quite the sobering leap to move a staff bonding exercise from a dimly lit karaoke bar in the city to a busy Sydney beach where the mandatory dress code reads ‘naked’ and the sun shines bright.
But Teo said he didn’t have any trouble convincing others to join him and his ‘Brain Cancer Warriors’ team.
“Two of my four daughters and their boyfriends, medical students and visiting international nuerosurgeons – one from the US and one from Spain – all did it with me,” he said.
Teo said he was confident in his body but admitted he felt a bit anxious about being naked around his relatives, colleagues and strangers, prior to the swim.
“I thought it would be confronting,” he said.
“We all had a level of anxiety where we thought people would be looking at us but the organiser Nigel Marsh made an amazing comment before we got in the water and said ‘this is not about you, don’t flatter yourself, no one wants to look at you’.”
The event was non-competitve and un-timed but Teo has never been one to shy away from a self-imposed challenge – afterall he’s built his professional reputation on it.
“I’m a bit competitive so I brought my swimming goggles,” he said.
It was only last week Teo made headlines when he called for a royal commission into the
apparent culture of bullying and harassment in Australia’s surgical profession. But Teo’s explosive claims were far from his thoughts as he swam stark naked, with a sea of strangers and a handful of staff at Cobblers Beach, Middle Head yesterday.
Teo said the event was all about fun and raising money for charity.
“Everyone was laughing and smiling and saying hello to complete strangers in the nude,” he said.
He described the experience as “contagious and exhilarating” but said it has not inspired him to become a nudist in his spare time.
“What it’s done is convinced me to be more coercive and persusasive with my team (members who didn’t come) next year,” Teo said.
“It was a great team bonding experience.”
But it might take a while for the surgical members of the Brain Cancer Warriors to re-establish eye contact back in the operating theatre on Monday.
“One of the visiting nuerosurgeons from overseas, where I’m revered, used to treat me like a God and called me ‘sir’,” Teo said.
“But now that he’s seen my willy I’m not quite sure he’ll treat me with the same respect.
“If I get more respect then he thinks I’m better endowed than him.
“But if there’s less respect then it must be the other way around.”