Interview with Chris
What led you to pursue a career in surgery?
Well, I realised soon after getting to medical school that I wanted to pursue a medical career where I could use my hands and have some ‘artistic’ outlet. Involvement in surgical procedures proved I felt very comfortable in operating theatres and with stressful situations.
So what specifically led you to Obstetrics and Gynaecology?
I initially thought that maybe a career in cardiac surgery or trauma was for me but soon realised that there was insufficient direct patient contact. I wanted a specialty where I could talk to real people, discuss their needs and be able to offer real practical help. A specialty where there was a mix of medical and surgical needs and where I could also use my communication skills. During my training in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, I realised that here was a specialty which could offer me all these aspects, along with highly emotionally charged scenarios. I realised that performing under pressure was where I could make a real difference.
“I see it as a real privilege to look after pregnant women and to ensure that they feel confident, safe and informed throughout their pregnancy.”
Do you feel that as a man you may have less of a physical identification with a woman than a female practitioner, and that this may affect your medical decisions?
I have always found people easy to talk to and they in turn seem to find it easy to talk to me and I listen. Despite being a man I always endeavour to empathize with every individual’s concerns. Although I don’t have personal experience of womens’ problems I do have lots of experience in supporting and caring for women.
Is this the approach you take when delivering pregnancy and birth care?
Absolutely. I see it as a real privilege to look after pregnant women and to ensure that they feel confident, safe and informed throughout their pregnancy. Patient-centred care, where treatment is individualised to each pregnant woman and her partner, is an important part of this. Primarily I want the mother and baby to be safe but I also want to deliver a good experience for the woman and her partner. Individual women and their partners may have views on how they wish this outcome to be achieved and wherever possible these choices are taken into account, to offer women the birth experience they desire. I am happy to support all birth choices as long as they do not lead to increased risk for the mother or baby.
You are often called in personally for Obstetric emergencies. How do you find working under the pressure of emergency situations?
It’s something I feel very confident and comfortable doing, I am also fortunate that I am a calm person and remain calm under pressure. All the units I have worked in have had large numbers of deliveries and multi-ethnic inner city populations. As a result I have special skills in that I can deliver not only low risk antenatal care but also high risk specialised care and am trained to deal with all Obstetric emergencies. This means that I can really offer real choice for women, from active birth through to elective caesarean section.
You are also one of the few key-hole surgeons in the UK that can perform even the more complex procedures to an exceptional standard. What advantage does this have in Gynaecology?
Amongst doctors, gynaecologists have not always been considered to be particularly good surgeons so I have worked particularly hard to develop my surgical skills to the highest level. The more complex Laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery procedures I do are for advanced endometriosis, prolapse, fibroids and hysterectomy but laparoscopic techniques can be used for simpler procedures. The great advantages of this type of surgery are less pain, a shorter hospital stay, a quicker recovery and minimal scars. This combination is particularly important to women who are keen to get on with their lives and resume normal activity.
How do you keep your skill level consistent in the surgery?
Well, firstly my surgical and consultant work is consistent. I perform around 300 major and 400 minor operations a year. I continue to practice in the NHS and take part in a continuing medical education programme (CME) from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG). I run the Tertiary Referral Service for Endometriosis at the Homerton and we have to submit audited results each year to the British Society for Endoscopy. I also lecture and teach surgical skills both in the UK and abroad in Scandinavia and South Africa. I also attend and present at national and international meetings to ensure that I am up to date in my opinions and practice.