Dr. Eedy has lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, for most of his life. He trained at Queen’s University, Belfast, before working for a short period at St John’s Dermatology Centre, London, and later returned to his native Northern Ireland. He is currently a Consultant Dermatologist at Craigavon Area Hospital in Northern Ireland. He has written a textbook on surgical dermatology and is editor of the British Journal of Dermatology, as well as contributing to the Rook Textbook of Dermatology.
Q. What part of your work gives you the most pleasure?
A. While working in London I almost fell into, by accident, the subspecialty of dermatological surgery. The therapeutic benefit of removing a large tumor and reconstructing the defect is now the bit of dermatology that I enjoy the most. Like most dermatologists, I also enjoy making the rare diagnosis, although this seems to be happening less with the passage of time!!
Q. Are an understanding and appreciation for the humanities important in dermatology?
A. Medicine is not practiced in a vacuum. It is important that we understand the forces that have shaped our society and times, both in terms of the history of ideas and culture. I wonder how future generations will judge dermatologists’ preoccupation with the siren voices of cosmetic surgery. Dermatologists who heed the Delphic injunction to “know thyself” will be venerated.
Q. What is your favorite non-medical Web site?
A. I’d say that the BBC Web site because at this site I can catch up with the daily news that I have usually missed and also learn all manner of things that are happening around the world. I enjoy its “day in pictures” feature and often electronically save the pictures for later use. I am also quite keen on the quotations page www.quotationspage.com where I will browse the motivational quotations for the day.
Q. Which patient has had the most effect on your work, and why?
A. I remember when working in a general-surgical ward as an intern, and we had two patients with exactly the same diagnosis, namely, terminal pancreatic carcinoma. Both patients were told of their diagnosis in a compassionate and caring way. One turned around and virtually did not speak or eat from the time of the diagnosis. This patient died quickly. However, the other patient went on a world cruise. This taught me a lot about life in general — and medicine in particular. It’s more our attitude to the condition that can make us survive or destroy us rather than the condition itself.
Q. What do you think is the greatest political danger to the field of dermatology?
A. I do have serious concerns that we are losing our way, certainly in the United Kingdom, with regard to promoting and training our younger dermatologists in basic scientific research. While most dermatologists are unlikely to remain in basic research for the rest of their lives, it does leave them with so many opportunities, which they will not be able to experience if they have not undertaken this type of work.
We also seriously run the risk of diluting our influence in medicine in general if we continue to follow the cosmetic route, which many other physicians quite rightly perceive is for financial gain rather than for the reasons why we all entered medicine in the first place. I believe that by not taking our careers in medicine seriously enough we will feel short-changed in the long term and less satisfied with the potential fullness of a career in dermatology.