Aspire to achieve!
Prof. Thamara Perera was a keynote speaker at ICMS 2019. Since 2010 he is a Consultant Liver Transplant Surgeon, Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham, United Kingdom. He is the first to bring in the use of in-situ extra-corporeal membrane oxygenation with autologous blood to revive the donation after cardiac death liver grafts from donor warm ischaemia.
Why did you choose transplantation surgery?
Good question, I was inspired first to become a surgeon whilst being a 3rd year medical student. I used to have a role model who reshaped everything I am today. He was my former professor of surgery in my university. Everything he did – the bedside manner, patient care, operative techniques, documentation, research and presentations, I wanted to do myself the way he does. He was a colorectal surgeon and initially I thought I would follow the same specialty. However he was the one towards the end of my training who guided me through a career path in liver transplantation. When I started my training in liver transplantation I knew there was no going back, and this was it. The transformation of life through organ donation and transplantation, the challenges excite me more than anything.
How do you see the future of surgery?
Sometimes I fear about the future of surgery. I am fortunate to have learnt in an environment just before the modernization of medical teaching. This included traditional learning and teaching techniques. What I most treasure are the very basics of surgery that I have learnt from a generation of surgeons prior to me. These do not include surgical techniques alone, but also what is called surgical wisdom or “surgical pearls”. When I see some of the trainees nowadays I see that the basics have not been instilled in them which makes me fear about the future generations. It is always best to learn from the beginning, with the help of correct guidance the aspiring surgeons have a lot to learn, not only about the operating techniques alone but much more about the patient care, management. The focus of training should not only be on “learning how to cut”.
What are the challenges in the field today?
In my field of liver transplantation there are huge challenges. These are related to widening indications for transplantation and the demand. On the other hand, the inadequate supply of good quality organs is the major obstacle for expansion. Risk mitigation, improvement of quality of the donor/grafts and appropriate matching to ensure best outcomes are major challenges.
What is your advice for students who want to do research work?
Research should be a passion of everyone – as qualified doctors all of us are scientifically inclined; we are in a far better starting position than anyone in any other specialty. I take research as my opportunity to leave something for the future generations. Be it clinical research or basic science, you could contribute to the evidence base for future generations in many way. I do research out of my own interest because I feel that I have contributed to something that may be helpful to treat or cure someone in the future. Research teaches you other qualities too, for example working in a team and collaborative work in order to achieve a common goal which are great attributes for anyone to possess.
What is the role of students in shaping the scientific world?
In my view medical students should understand that what they learn in the lecture theatres, classroom, hospital set up etc., have all come from research that had been carried out by people in the earlier generations. As medical students everyone’s ambition should be to reshape the future scientific work, being inquisitive, being innovative thinkers and generating ideas for research which will come to fruition only through perseverance. The key message I would like to give is to look for that role model who you would like to follow, aspire to achieve whatever you want to achieve through dedication, hard work and perseverance. Every student should believe in themselves that there is deep power within you, if nurtured and allowed to grow you will be able to achieve whatever you want to achieve and your ambition should be to make a change or difference.