Q. What part of your work gives you most pleasure?
A. A difficult question to answer. I enjoy puzzling over research data and seeing links and clues, but I also have great satisfaction from face-to-face contact with my melanoma patients.
Teaching those who want to learn, whether undergraduates or postgraduates, is also very satisfying.
Q. Which patient has had the most effect on your work, and why?
A. Easy. When I was a surgical intern, I met my first melanoma patient — a Pakistani gentleman who had a massive ulcerated acral melanoma. The poor man had come off a cargo boat in the Glasgow docks; he had no family and spoke no English. The unfortunate combination of senior colleagues not knowing what to do surgically and the poor man having no one with whom to communicate made a very deep impression upon me.
Q. What is the best piece of advice you have received, and from whom?
A. I often think of a saying from an old friend who is now deceased. My friend used to say: “Nothing lasts forever, and alone you cannot change the whole world.” This advice is very useful to keep in mind when you are deeply frustrated by administrative incompetence — but it’s not always easy to remember.
Q. What do you think is the greatest political danger to the field of Dermatology?
A. I find it very sad that we are steering away from the field of medical dermatology. In the United Kingdom, we are all required to obtain our MRCP qualification, which is the equivalent of the internal medicine boards, before we start to train in dermatology.
When I was in training we had dedicated dermatology wards where we cared for patients who had connective tissue diseases, autoimmune diseases and sarcoid, as well as others.
All that seems to have gone by the wayside, and in many areas we are becoming more of an outpatient specialty. Because of this we are losing contact with our general medicine colleagues. I also do not like the cosmeticization of dermatology — it’s not the reason that I went into the field of medicine.